Everyone loves coffee…well, almost everyone loves coffee…and if you don’t love coffee, you probably love the idea of coffee. The aroma of freshly brewing coffee, the earthy, crisp taste of the coffee itself, the hot cup that warms your hands in contrast to the cold weather outside, the deep conversations that spark between friends over coffee, or even just the quiet solitude of a hot cup of liquid as you contemplate life and pray in thanksgiving to God, there is something for everyone to enjoy in a good cup of coffee.
As I continue to deepen in my human identity and my priestly identity here at St. Stephens, I keep praying about that very identity I am living, I keep asking the very question every human person perpetually asks himself/herself: “Who am I?” and more specifically, “Who am I, as both Andrew Kinstetter and a Priest of Jesus Christ?” Being ordained did not destroy my humanity and replace it with the priesthood; rather, ordination elevated my own humanity in the priest Jesus calls me to be, with all the gifts and traits that were already part of the man, Andrew Kinstetter, prior to ordination. I have had many great priestly experiences here in the various ministries that, as a priest, I live out (sacramental ministry especially). I have also had many great human experiences with my close friend, Deacon Bryce, as we have rode horses and lived the human identity of cowboy here at the Mission and are working in his small garage-stall shop to restore a sleigh to ride on the Feast of St. Stephen (December 26). I have noticed, however, that as fun and enjoyable it is cultivating the cowboy in me with Deacon Bryce (and I do love it!), I will never be quite the cowboy that Deacon Bryce is, and that is perfectly okay! I am called to be fully me in my own unique way as God created me. Saint Irenaeus famously said, “The glory of God is man fully alive, and the life of man is the vision of God.” What glorifies God the most is man being fully himself, being fully alive as the man God created him to be, always with a view centered on God. As I continue to integrate my humanity with the priest Jesus calls me to be, I have discovered a way to do just that. In fact, I’m almost embarrassed that I didn’t think of it sooner!
In seminary one of the things that always brought me joy was brewing freshly roasted/ground coffee for my friends and neighbors in the house. The experience was always more than simply drinking coffee, even though that was good in itself! The experience was always an encounter with whomever I shared a cup of coffee. Coffee became the excuse to have a conversation, and it was often a deeper dialogue than simply talking about the weather. Coffee was the avenue to encounter the heart of my friends, and vice versa. Coffee became “my thing” in seminary, part of what everyone knew about me, and I loved it.
In the 4th chapter of John’s Gospel we read about a similar experience of Jesus at Jacob’s well. This is the famous encounter between Jesus and the Samaritan woman. Wells in the Old Testament were always places of encounter. They were necessary for getting water for those living in the area so people would gather there. Since wells were a source of water necessary for life, wells became symbolic for life. They were also places of covenant making (Genesis 21:25-32) and they were places where Isaac, Jacob, and Moses secured their wives (Gensis 24, Genesis 29, Exodus 2:15-22). Jesus’ encounter with the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well elevated the symbolism from natural life to eternal life; Jesus, himself, revealed in this encounter that He is the well that springs of living water gush forth from. The whole encounter is crucially important. Jesus encounters the Samaritan woman as a human person created in the image and likeness of God. He knows her sin but doesn’t begin there; in fact he points her sin out to her only after he first talks about God and the living water He will provide. Jesus then gently points out to her her sinfulness and reveals to her that He is the Christ. The whole encounter prompts her to change her life and she goes off to tell the people in the nearby city.
One of the experiences I treasure the most is encountering people, and not just a surface level encounter with someone, but a deep encounter with a human being whom God created wholly unique. One of the gifts that God gave me is the ability to do this well. I love meeting people on this deep level, on a level where God’s grace is at work and joy is found and shared. This is why I decided to use this gift in a way that encourages the same kind of encounter that I experienced in seminary and that the Samaritan woman experienced in Jesus. To that end, I have built a coffee bar (named “Jacob’s Well”) in my office at St. Stephens and I am offering a free cup of freshly brewed novelty coffee to anyone who wants to drop in and give me 10 plus minutes of their time. Since my office is huge, this was not a problem at all, and now the front half of my office is my coffee bar/sitting area. Jacob’s Well will, hopefully, be a place where I can encounter the wonderful people that stop through and for them to encounter me. Ultimately, I hope that my little coffee bar, Jacob’s Well, will be a similar place of encounter like that of the Samaritan woman with Jesus Christ, since that relationship with Christ, that encounter with our Lord and Savior, is truly the one that matters most for all of us.