Friday, 13 May 2016

The Best Breakfast: never out of a microwave

I want to tell you a secret about what English men dream about on Friday night. You see all the week these men have been rushing of to work. They have not had time for a proper breakfast. Just some cereal, maybe a bit of toast, some coffee as they run out of the door. But now it is Friday. Tomorrow is Saturday. There will be time. So – they are dreaming of a full English breakfast.

Look at it – fried eggs, fried bacon, fried mushrooms, fried everything.

It will only take about ten minutes for them to cook. It's not healthy, in fact it might kill them, but they will enjoy it.

Now I am sure you Iranians are thinking...hmmm, we've got a much better breakfast than that.

Yes, you've guessed. Kale Parche. That's a much better breakfast than the English one.

As you all know you can't get kale parch ready in ten minutes like the full English breakfast. Kale Parche is a big job. There is all the preparation – and then the cooking goes on all night. It takes time – it is a work of love.
If someone invites you for kale parche they are not just giving you food; they are giving you something of themselves.

And so, even though I am English, and I like the full English breakfast, I have to say that the Iranian breakfast has more in common with the subject of this morning's sermon: the best breakfast.

We read about this best breakfast in John 21.


There is a lot of food in our story. The disciples go fishing for food; they don't catch any; then they catch a lot of food when Jesus gets involved; but then Jesus has already cooked some food; and then Peter gets some more fish to be cooked; and then the story ends with Jesus telling Peter to feed his sheep.

The story is saying that the church must give food...but what sort of food...and how should this food be cooked? Like the full English, or like the kale parche?

Here is the answer – and this is the truth I want to underline.

Real spiritual food never comes out of the micro wave; but it is cooked in a life that burns with love for Jesus

Real spiritual food is cooked in an oven of love.

What are the qualities of this love?

In Jesus' conversation with Peter we see there are three. Jesus wants to know if Peter loves him; he wants him to obey; and he wants him to be ready to die.

1. Love that flows from Jesus' love for us.

Three times Peter tells Jesus that he loves him. And he does. He really loves Jesus. It's not manufactured; and it's not a love that comes out of hear.

Peter really loves Jesus – because he knows deep in his heart that Jesus really loves him – however much he has failed, however broken he is.

Peter especially knows that Jesus loves him that morning, because that morning he was at his lowest. The day before Peter was crippled by the memory of how he had betrayed Jesus. So he had decided to go back to his old job – fishing. But he couldn't catch any fish.

At about four o'clock that morning Peter was staring at the sea. Not a bite. Nothing. For him – written all over the sky and the sea was just one word – FAILURE. Peter failed as a follower of Jesus; now he has failed as a fisherman. He is a big zero. A big nothing.

Peter does not stay in this depresion. Because Jesus loves Peter  even when he is at rock bottom. The love of Jesus for Peter in this story is very tangible. First of all He is there. Then he does not rebuke Peter for going back to his old job. Jesus could have got really upset with him. Instead Jesus makes breakfast for Peter – and the others. But then there is more. Jesus knows that Peter needs to be healed from the memory of that terrible night when three times Peter betrayed Jesus. The easiest sort of fire to make on a beach is a wood fire. But Jesus doesn't cook the breakfast on a wood fire. It is a charcoal fire.

So when Peter comes rushing up the beach to say hello to Jesus, after the hugs and the sallams, his eye goes to the fire. The memory comes back. He looks to the fire. He looks to the eyes of Jesus. And he sees kindness in his eyes. There is confession; there is forgiveness. The sting of the memory dies. It is healed.

And there is still more. Jesus then tells Peter to go and get some of the fish. Peter is again Jesus' servant. He is again being trusted.

Peter knew he was loved. So he loved. We love because he loves us – however dark our past, however big our failure.

Peter says yes to Jesus, because Jesus said yes to him.

Don't start trying to feed others if the anchor in your heart is not the absolute certainty that Jesus Christ loves you whatever the weather, whatever your mood, whatever your failure, whatever your sin.

The food we give to others must be cooked in this love.

One of the greatest stories of all time is Les Miserables.

It is the story of Jean Valjean, who started out life as a thief. He failed.
But then he was loved.

And so he loved...let's watch that scene.

Les Mis as example.

Real spiritual food never comes out of the micro wave; but it is cooked in a life that burns with love for Jesus.

Real spiritual food must be cooked in love, and the first quality of that love is that it flows from Jesus. We love, because He loves us.

What is the second?

2. It is a love that will obey. A love that is ready to listen to commands and do exactly what is said.

Jesus doesn't make a suggestion to Peter in this conversation. Three times there is a command.  Feed my lambs; tend my sheep; feed my sheep.

Jesus gives a command because he wants obedience. The love and the obedience belong together. Peter loves because Jesus loves him, and because Peter loves, he is ready to obey, because he knows that by obeying he is pleasing the one he loves.

Real love obeys. In the church you can have lots of hallelujahs, and I love you, I love you...but then the pastor asks a member to do something quite simple and the excuses come out faster than the cars roaring away from an Istanbul set of traffic lights.

Sometimes we might be asked to do things we don't agree with, or don't understand, and we have our own ideas and opinions and oh dear, how important they are...they must be heard for the world to be saved.

But Christ isn't interested in your opinions; he is interested in your obedience. He wants to see if he can give you a command and trust you to fulfil it. That is what proves love.

Women identify a lot with this. You know we blokes love to be romantic. When we were courting in Karachi, I used to love buying these scented flowers for Mojdeh at the traffic lights and hanging them round her neck. Nothing wrong with that – but actually that is not Mojdeh's language of love. Mojdeh doesn't believe I love her when I pick her a random flower from the road; she believes I love her when the dishwasher finishes and I empty it. Her command in the kitchen is – empty dishwasher.

In the early days of Elam the staff was quite small. All of us were doing two or three jobs. One important job was writing to our supporters and this meant that somebody had to put a lot of letters into their envelopes. A boring job. This is a picture of the man who faithfully did that job, sometimes all through the night. His name is Kevin O'Callaghan. He is sadly no longer with us. He loved Jesus – and he showed his loved by doing what you asked him to do. He obeyed.

Real spiritual food never comes out of the micro wave; but it is cooked in a life that burns with love for Jesus.

We need to feed our sheep with food that is cooked in a love that flows from Jesus; and that is proved in obedience.

And there is one more quality of this love Jesus points to here.

3. It's a love that is ready to die for Christ and others.

If we want to feed other Christians, first we must know that we are loved by Christ; then we must be ready to obey – but there's more.

We must be ready to die.

Look at verses 18 and 19. Peter – you love me, yes; you are ready to feed my sheep, yes – and this will eventually cost you your life.

This is not a sudden grand gesture, a dramatic death on the spur of the moment. No – this is the default button on our life. Every morning we get up and we start to deny self. And so it goes on...through our days, months, years. So, if the times comes when we have to actually die physically for somebody, or for our faith, it is almost natural.

This is how it was for this man, Maximilliam Kolbe. His life was one of self denial. As a teenager he had an overwhelming experience of God. He became a monk. That is self denial, taking vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience. Then he went to India and worked among the poor. India is not an easy country. In 1936 he came back to his country, Poland. When the Nazis invaded he opened his monastery to refugees. Many Jews came there. So in 1941 he was taken to Auschwitz to do hard labour. One morning the Nazis thought someone had escaped from the hut where Kolbe slept. So they condemned every tenth man to starve to death. They counted, and the tenth man was sent to the death cell. Standing next to Kolbe that terrible morning was Franciszek Gajownicek. He was a tenth man. He started stammering – my wife, my children. Kolbe stepped forward.  and said to the Nazi guards – can I take his place. They laughed and said yes. Maximillian Kolbe died for Franciszek Gajownicek.

When Kolbe started following Jesus Christ, he started denying himself. And so he was ready that morning to give his life for another.

Real spiritual food never comes out of the micro wave; but it is cooked in a life that burns with love for Jesus.

What sort of love? A love that flows from Christ's love for us; a love that obeys; and a love that is ready to die.

This is how God's food must be cooked.


You say – but what is the actual food? You've just talked about the cooking.

Well, Jesus here doesn't directly say what the food is. He only tells us that Peter must love him, obey him, and be ready to die for him.

That tells us that the cooking is as important as the food.

Christianity is not a clever theory we package up and give to people. That's not spiritual food. Spiritual food comes out of the warm oven of human lives; indeed spiritual food is in us. I am not sure if you can separate the food from the cooking, the food from the living. In fact when you do separate the food from the living, it becomes more poisonous than a full English breakfast.

But I think there is a strong hint in the story as to what the food is, what the best breakfast is.

We see Jesus with some fish and some bread. Where does that take us – to John 6 and the feeding of the 5,000.

And what does Jesus say there. He says He is the bread of life, he says the bread that he gives for the world is his own flesh; he says that his flesh is the true food, and his blood is the true drink.

Jesus tells us that the true food is his death and resurrection.

And in Holy Communion this is our physical experience. As we take the bread so we hear – the body of Jesus, broken for you; as we drink the wine we hear, the blood of Christ, shed for you.

And then something else is often said.

Feed on him by faith in your heart – with thanksgiving.

If we are feeding on him by faith in our hearts – then we are loving, because he loved us; we are obeying, because he loved us, and we are ready to die, because He died for us.

So you see we can't really separate the food from the cooking. It is one. As we feed on him by faith in our hearts, so we are cooking, and the food is given to others, and they start cooking, and the whole church is fed.

Often that food will come wrapped up in Bible stories and messages...but they will always lead to the true food, the bread from heaven, the best breakfast

The crucified and risen Jesus Christ in our hearts.

Feed on him by faith in your hearts, with thanksgiving. 

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