Today I went to a coffee shop to do homework, check my email, be warm, etc. It’s snowing outside. Apparently, it has been snowing since last night. I woke up to a frosty blanket all over the parking lot and a creeping fog on the windows spotted with crisp frost.
First I went to see Molls at work. She’s fabulous. I’ll talk about her some other day.
Then I ended up at a coffee shop. I sat down beside a friend from school who had just finished his shift. We started talking about classes. I announced that i was reading for homework–even though my JTerm class doesn’t begin until next week, and the regular semester doesn’t begin until the week after that. Someone looked over to us, asked where we went to school and I knew from the look in his eye that we weren’t likely to have a quick conversation with this man. He wore his wedding ring on the wrong hand, his glasses were from two decades ago in style and shape. His face bristled with the scraggly growth of three days and no shave. He asked, did we know the Master’s name?
My first thoughts went like this:
What? Master? As in the Grand Master from the Templars?
The Templars ended in the Middle Ages, thanks to a weakened pope and a heavily indebted Philip the… seventh? In France. Good lord I’m a nerd for knowing that.
But seriously. Are we talking about the Templars?
Does he mean Lord? Does he mean God?
Master? Who just asks that across a coffee shop full of people? Who just says that: “Do you know the Master’s name?” What do I look like? Someone who’s going to be comfortable with such a question?
Is he crazy? Is this a trick question?
I picked the wrong day to come to a coffee shop.
Curse the way Rusty’s voice carries. We could have avoided this question if you didn’t talk about Seminary so loudly.
My friend, Rusty, had no idea how to answer. And in the interest of not having a staring contest added to our already uncomfortable situation I asked if the man meant Jesus. Turns out Jesus was the wrong answer. Because what he really wanted me to say was YHWH or Yeshua. Oh. My bad. I didn’t know you spoke Hebrew and wanted the original of Jesus’ name. I thought translations were ok. Especially since we’re in America. Speaking in English. But sure. Hebrew’s great too. I like dead or revived languages as much as the next person.
So for an hour…I don’t even know what we talked about. We sort of argued. Rusty was a bit heated at times. I wanted to reach out and touch his knee, whisper “shhhhh. He’s crazy. Just let it go.” But the man was also saying things that were somewhat heretical. So, in a sense, he had to be challenged. Rusty is good at trying to listen to people and he really tried to hear what the man was saying before responding. But we went on so many tangents…by the end of the conversation, when our new friend left, I turned to my fellow seminarian and was like “what did we just talk about?” We covered, in an hour, everything from the Nicene Council(s) to the Vulgate to Warlockery (which, if you’re wondering, is not a word) to the “spirit of death” hanging over today’s churches. And that’s all I can give you. Because I was still reeling from that conversation when a second individual sat down in our little corner of the coffee shop.
He heard us processing, heard something that sounded “Jesus-y” or “church-y” and sat down. He quoted John 1 and said we were brothers in Christ. Interestingly, he said sons of God, not sons and daughters. Just sons. No political correctness here. Good thing I’m only flirting with the line of Egalitarianism.* Then he began to say that Scripture was true. He called it the Dynamic Word. He talked about the KJV and how it was close then. But it’s even closer today with the NIV or the NASB. That was kind of awesome because the first guy had been pretty strongly against scripture. He kept talking about re-instituting the use of the Hebrew name for God…Except…we don’t really know how the tetragramaton is actually pronounced because the Jews stopped saying it and they didn’t write with vowels. He was so sure that Scripture has been corrupted. The second man was like a breath of fresh air with his certainty on scripture.
But we didn’t just talk about Scripture. In about 30 minutes, that man crammed in more information than I’ve heard crammed into a three hour class. I shouldn’t even say we talked. My friend compared it to drinking from a fire hose. And we couldn’t back away. The fireman had us held in place, while another forced that thing into my mouth and a third turned it on full force. I once prayed and asked God for a prophecy. I had a friend who had prophecy spoken over him and I thought it would be a good experience.
It’s actually incredibly overwhelming. I was uncomfortable. I wanted to stand and leave. But I couldn’t. I could hardly move, I was so riveted by even the stare that this man had as he leaned forward, gesturing fervently with his hands as he made his points. There were things to be sifted through, to be sure. The verse that kept coming to mind was to test the spirits, test the spirits. So I know that perhaps he wasn’t entirely right on absolutely everything.
But he said good, true things. Some things that I needed to hear. And things that my friend needed to hear. Things like…
We don’t control our thought lives. We could, if we submitted. If we obeyed and we allowed God to do it for us. But you don’t hear sermons preached on taking every thought captive. But we are what our thoughts are, and we are our thoughts before the throne of God. Yikes. Seriously. Yikes.
We need to submit. We need to obey.
He’s coming. I don’t know what he meant by that, but the man said several times–He’s coming. Like a thief in the night. What does that mean? About how I’m living? About how I’m not living?
We aren’t condemned. There is no condemnation.
We might fail and do things of the flesh, true enough. But it’s what we’re after. It’s what we are going for. So we aren’t condemned, because though we may fall, God knows we aren’t after the things of the flesh, ultimately.
He said some far out stuff about the Holy Spirit too. Something about the indwelling of the Spirit changing the molecular structure of humans so that they in turn change things around them (with out even meaning too). Like the Apostle’s shadows healing people. Like knowing that the person you’re sitting next to is a fellow Christian without even speaking to them. Far out, man.
I think there was more. I’m still sort of reeling.
I love coffee shops. I love watching people. I like getting to know regulars. I enjoy the quiet ambience, the chance for mild distraction while I read thick philosophical books. But that, that was a little much. I’m a bit overwhelmed. I keep glancing at my text book on the Seven Ecumenical Councils. I kept trying to make myself read it. But I can’t bring myself to do it. I’m still processing. I’m almost numb after everything the just happened. Warlockery? It’s not a word. Condemnation? The flesh? I needed to be reminded of unconditional love. That he chose to die. Yet, all of that, in barely two hours, when I was hoping to enjoy my last lazy day of break? I love coffee shops. After all, this couldn’t have happened anywhere else.
Maybe once every three hundred sixty five days,
God will do that, have two random prophets speak to us.
Egalitarianism: I’m cautiously flirting with the idea. Don’t worry too much.