Have you ever noticed the increasing amount of “in-group” language, lingo and buzz words that not everyone understands?

Sometimes we use such language to set us apart from others. My profession is no exception; after all, theologians are people who go down deeper and come up drier than anybody else. I believe it was Paul Tillich who reframed the biblical account of Jesus’ question to Peter, “Who do you say that I am?” so that Peter answers, “You are the apocalyptic and eschatological revelation of the ground of our being.”

Theologians have their own language, but so do physicians, lawyers, computer programmers and musicians. We know we belong to the guild if we speak the language.

One of the most interesting languages around is the one spoken in Starbucks. I listen to other customers order, and I wonder where you go to learn the Starbucks language. Is there a Starbucks University where you learn the difference between a Tall, a Grande and a Venti?

I decided to do a little research. After ordering a rather simple “Venti House Blend with room for a little cream” (Are you impressed?), I interviewed a nice young man named Jonathan who works behind the counter at the Starbucks at Preston and Royal.

I asked him: What is the most involved order you have ever heard? He smiled and wrote it down for me:

“A half-caff triple venti, two pump, sugar-free vanilla, two pump almond blended, one-fourth Sweet and Low, one Equal, extra hot, extra foam, no-whip mocha.”

Talk about the apocalyptic grounds of our being!

So this set me to thinking about our places of worship. I grew up in the church. My mother was the church secretary, for heaven’s sake. They let me in on the lingo of church when I was still being bounced on my parents’ knees.

But what about all those folks who didn’t grow up in church, and one day, maybe for no apparent reason, decide to wander in as I wandered into Starbucks. I can imagine them hearing our language, replete with apocalypticisms, eschatologisms and the accompanying hermeneutic, and saying, “Where do you learn this stuff?”

That’s a good question, one that I intend to think about. Maybe over a Venti House Blend, with a little room for the cream.


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