Yesterday I wrote about bad coffee, and blamed it on the people who made the coffee machine. I had an encounter with the inventor of that machine about 25 years ago.
It’s a really good invention. It’s the machine where you put water in a reservoir and coffee in a basket. The machine pumps the water up from the reservoir and runs it through the coffee and it drips down into the pot, provided the pot is centered correctly. It even has a hold mechanism so if you need coffee really bad and pull the pot out to pour yourself an early cup, it won’t let the coffee drip out until you put the pot back in place, if you do it quickly enough. Makes really good coffee.
I was on the Board of Ministry of our conference. Candidates for ministry came before us, and it was our responsibility to decide if their call to ministry was genuine. The inventor of the machine came before us. We wondered why. He was sixty years old and looked tired. Why start working at a new job when you had made millions by inventing a coffee machine that was universally used?
Well, it turned out that he had made nothing off that invention. He worked for the company. They owned all his inventions and innovations. All he made was his salary. Except the company had decided it was making enough money it no longer needed him and so they praised him for his past work but said they had to “let him go.”
That’s such a nice euphemism, isn’t it, letting someone go. It sounds like you’re just giving them freedom… the freedom to starve.
So he now wanted to be a preacher, so he and his family would have a place to live-parsonage-and a way to buy food, even though a pastoral salary would be minimal, and not have to work very hard, since he really was old and worn out.
That’s not the reason he gave us, of course. He tried to create a story of “call,” but his heart wasn’t really in it.
After all the questions and answers and discussion, we sat there in awkward silence. We all felt sorry for him. No one wanted to turn him down. But it was clear that he did not have “the gifts and graces” for ministry, nor did he have the right motivation. He was a good coffee machine inventor; he would not be a good pastor.
As usual, or at least often, it fell to me to be the one with bad news. I started by thanking him for his work on behalf of all of us, pointing out that even the coffee we were drinking at that meeting came through his invention. Before I had gotten very far, with a sigh, he stood, heavily, and, without a word, walked out. He knew what praise for past work meant.
I tweet occasionally as yooper1721. A “yooper” is a citizen of the upper peninsula of MI, where we lived for 8 years, and where I started this blog, as reflections on faith not only for the years of winter but “from a place of winter,” because the UP is north of WI and quite a bit of Canada, and winter is 13 months long every year. This morning, in southern Indiana, it is 16 degrees. I feel like a yooper again.