When Coffee Mugs Are Sacred

When Coffee Mugs Are Sacred June 14, 2019

On any given morning in my house, you’ll find one of the mugs pictured here brimming with dark liquid life. They are sacred treasures.

The white mug with the red sculpture is from the Rockford Art Deli, a reminder of our time living and serving at a church in Rockford, IL.

The middle mug is one that my daughter painted for me years ago. The joke in our family is that the word “Dad” is gently painted above the rear-end of a monkey who appears to bisect the mug.

Last but not least, the mug on the far right is one that I bought on my first trip to Sonoma, CA with my wife. We visited wineries, felt the gracious NorCal air, and wondered how people could afford to live in such a place.

These mugs are sacred.

Of course, you could contest that idea. Sacred implies something divine; something holy and beyond reproach. Certainly these mugs are within reproach. The “Dad” mug has several chips taken out of the rim and the bottom shows the tell-tale stain of coffee. The California mug has chips around the bottom and a small hairline crack just below the handle.

They are liminal, temporary, and material built to disintegrate over time. I will not drink coffee out of these mugs forever.

But isn’t sacredness more than that?

For something to be sacred, and for it to retain it’s thingness, means that it isn’t the thing itself. In other words, the mugs are sacred not because they’re mugs but because of what they represent. 

I consider my mugs sacred because they point to something larger; something beyond me.

The “Dad” mug points to the love of a daughter whom I have both delighted and disappointed. Our friend California bear represents the fact that my wife and I are still deeply in love and ready to explore the world together. The Rockford mug reminds me of the beautiful folks in the Stateline area, as well as a narrative about who I am and what I am becoming.

Each of these realizations are far beyond the scope of ceramic, paint, and liquid. They are grander narratives woven by the God who dreamt up ceramics in the first place.

We all need sacred things in our lives.

In fact, we all have sacred things but we rarely recognize them for their sacredness. Look around you right now. Wherever you are, there is a good chance something with arm’s reach is sacred. By that I mean there is something near you that points to some greater reality.

An object that points to the people who love you deeply and unconditionally.

The picture that reminds you that God is one who blesses regardless of whether we have fulfilled our own holy criteria.

Even the scars on your body, dotting the image in the mirror, tell you that resurrection is indeed a thing.

When we reserve the term “sacred” for only that which takes on a religious or ceremonial quality, we miss something. There is a key moment in our formation that rises from our ability to see things in their thingness as referring to something divine.

I do believe things of a religious or ceremonial nature are sacred, of course. Communion or Eucharist, when taken slowly and thoughtfully, gives us a glimpse of things beyond ourselves.

Ancient songs sung with excellence and voices given over to the magic are belly-laughs of the Divine. Or they reveal God’s woeful weeping, if they are laments.

But the everyday sacredness is key. Why?

Because none of us live in chapels and sanctuaries.

Sacredness has to exist beyond our houses of worship, symbols, and sacraments or else we lose perspective entirely. We are formed more by what happens in the 24/6 of our workaday worlds than in the one hour on Sunday we give to “formal” or “corporate” sacredness. The hour prepares us, that’s true. But the coffee mugs keep our eyes moving upward, upward, upward.

In the meantime our hands move out and around, working in sacredness as we see it gleam in everything around us.

So I wake in the near darkness of morning. The electric kettle, recently purchased because our standard kettle bit the dust, bubbles away. I grab for scoop and spoon; the grounds go in, and the stirring storms the surface of the liquid.

Then I wait.

What mug will I choose today?

Will it be the Rockford mug – the one that reminds me of who I am, and who I am not?

How about the “dad-monkey mug”? The sacred memory of being loved by my daughter and also knowing that my recognition of that love is sacred to her.

Should today be a day for “California bear,” recalling the white-cool winds of Sonoma and the viscous Cabernets that charmed Holley and I?

Whatever I choose, the point is the same.

I live in a world haunted by sacred signposts, signals, and semaphores that say “This is not all. There is indeed more.”

What sacredness are you missing today? Perhaps this weekend is an opportunity for you to reconnect with your coffee mugs and assorted signs of the Divine?

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