Renewing the passion

Sally Oakes's picture

A little over a week ago, all Starbucks stores everywhere closed for three hours, from 5:30 to 8:30 at night.

Why did they close down? In the words of CEO Howard Schultz, Starbucks shut down to open up and own up to its “first love.” Starbucks shut down to rediscover and rededicate the company to the “love, passion, and commitment” of the coffee experience.

Here’s what a late company memo said: “Tomorrow evening, we will come together in an unprecedented event in our company’s storied history. We will close all our U.S. company-operated stores to teach, educate, and share our love of coffee, and the art of espresso. An in doing so, we will begin to elevate the Starbucks Experience for our customers. We are passionate about our coffee. And we will revisit our standards of quality that are the foundation for the trust that our customers have in our coffee and in all of us.”

The New York times reported: “This is not about training,” Howard Schultz insisted to his employees, looking somewhat somber. “This is about the love and compassion and commitment that we all need to have for the customer.” (“Starbucks Takes a 3-Hour Coffee Break,” The New York Times, 27 Feb. 2008)

This Lenten season, it’s time to “shut down” some things we hang on to. Usually we think of giving up a bad habit – like giving up desserts, or giving up TV, in order to re-connect with our first love, our passion for Christ.

Only time will tell how well this worked for Starbucks as a corporation, but there’s something to be said for a time of “shutting down,” taking time away from things that keep us so busy.

Leonard Sweet suggests that it may be time for the church to shut down its operations, its programs, its Bible studies, its choir, and to just spend some time re-capturing our first love, our passion. While I am not ready to completely suspend our church’s daily operations, Sweet makes a good point. Our busy-ness in our churches, however well-intentioned, can paradoxically distract us from our love for God and, worse yet, his love for us.

John 11 tells the tale of Jesus raising Lazarus from the tomb. When I read it recently, I was struck by how much time John spends telling about the famiy’s and friends’ grief, while saying nothing (other than the Jews saw this and believed) about what happened after Lazarus was raised.

Were Mary and Martha happy? Was Lazarus even better than before, or would he always be sickly until he died again? Maybe John leaves this deliberately ambiguous.

Twice in the passage Jesus says that Lazarus’ illness and death are to show the glory of God: verse 4 “11:4 But when Jesus heard it, he said, “This illness does not lead to death; rather it is for God’s glory, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.”

And again in verse 40, “11:40 Jesus said to her, ‘Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?’”

We get to know that all this is to demonstrate God’s glory but we don’t get to know much more about what happened. The way John tells this story, it’s as if Jesus is offering us a choice – it’s up to us what we do with God’s glory.

There are things we have to do to in order to see God’s glory. We have to shut down our coffee shops, so to speak, so that we can re-focus and re-gain the very passion that made us love Christ in the first place.

But then we have to re-open our coffee shops. We have to unwrap our bindings and come on out of the tomb! The degree that we do that is up to us. We have choices to make.

It would seem that those choices would be easy to make. Like the kids say, “Duh! Choose Jesus and live a victorious life!” On the other hand, I don’t want to make out like this is simple to do! There may be easy answers, but living life in increasing trust of our Savior is a step-by-step process. There are times when pat answers just don’t cut it.

When you’ve known true grief (look how long it takes John to describe the family’s grief over Lazarus), victory can be hard to trust in. You might believe it because you see it, but trusting in it is another thing.

We tend to stay back in that tomb, in that shut-down state, just a little bit. Jesus says “I am the resurrection and I am life” (not “I perform resurrections”), and we put our foot out in faith to walk in that. What about the other foot?

As we draw nearer to Easter, let us bring that other foot out of the tomb and step out with both feet into resurrection victory and not only re-capture our zeal for God, but to pray to trust him more.

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