WORSHIP SERVICE May 1 2022 – One Worship Sunday with Music Led by Rachel Kurtz

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Redemption Breakfast                    John 21:1-19

One thing my kids appreciate about their Grandpa Nelius is that he likes to cook breakfast.  He likes being an early riser and getting a meal going for the family.  As the kids were growing up, my father and mother-in-law would come up from their home in Pasadena almost every week for a day or two to help out around the house.  If they stayed the night, Grandpa would ask the kids what they wanted for breakfast.  He would make them anything as long as we had the ingredients.  Pancakes, waffles, scrambled eggs, poached eggs, bacon, it was their choice.  As this became a tradition, they would excitedly put in their orders the night before then come downstairs with smiles as the tasty aromas of Grandpa’s cooking filled the kitchen.  They would come to table and their plates would be ready.  Their enjoyment of the breakfast wasn’t just about the food, however.  It was because they knew the food came with some love from Grandpa. They knew he was cooking for them because he cared about them.


Jesus does some cooking to show he cares about his disciples in the story we heard from the Book of John. I love the scene in the story of Jesus making breakfast.  Maybe it is because I’m a breakfast lover myself.  Whether its eggs, oatmeal or cold cereal, I love to start the day out with a good meal.  I appreciate feeling energized by good food and being strengthened for a fresh start for a new day.  Maybe this is what Jesus is up to as he appears to seven of his disciples after he has risen from the dead.  It could be that he knows they are still reeling from all the events surrounding the crucifixion and they need a little strength to keep going.  They need fresh eyes to see what it means that he has been resurrected from the dead.  They might also need a little more assurance that Jesus still wanted them to be his disciples.


The reason the disciples may have needed some assurance was because they had not been exactly the most faithful of friends.  When Jesus needed them the most, they had abandoned him.  They had scattered, out of fear and to save themselves.  Most of them had not shown up when he was on trial and had not been there for him when he died.  Even after Jesus was buried they still were hiding and trying to avoid being associated with him.  They had been traumatized by the violence of what had happened to Jesus and confused about whether or not he really was alive again.


One might have thought, then, that Jesus would have showed up with shock and awe as he looked to appear to them after the resurrection.  We could understand if Jesus would have come down from some cloud with lightning to shock the disciples as a way of punishing them for abandoning him.  We could understand if Jesus would have wanted to strike a little fear into the disciples to get their attention and then dazzle them with some otherworldly scene to prove that he really was alive and chosen by God.


But Jesus doesn’t do that.  Instead we see him crouched over a small charcoal fire cooking some fish and preparing some bread.  We see him in the simple act of making breakfast for his friends as the sun begins to rise over the lake and the disciples come ashore exhausted from working all night long, out on the boat.  There is no lecture, no scolding or guilt trip for the disciples, just an invitation to “Come, eat some breakfast”—just an invitation to come sit down, rest for a moment and warm themselves by the fire.  Jesus seems to know what his disciples need is not some big display of his divinity.  What they need is for him to meet them in their humanity—in their confusion, sorrow and apprehension about the future.  What they need is an assurance, a little human touch, to show them that things are okay between them and Jesus.  Before any conversation, before any explanation, before any new charge to his disciples, Jesus makes them breakfast.  He cooks for them as a sign of his caring for them.


There was one disciple who may have especially needed some reassurance from Jesus.  That disciple was Peter.  Although he was so excited to see Jesus, he jumps in the water to go greet him, I can imagine that when he saw that small fire on the shore in the dim light of the early morning, he may have paused for a moment.  He may have remembered another small fire that burned just outside the building on the night when Jesus was on trial.  Peter may have recalled that he was warming himself beside that small fire when some people thought they recognized him as one of the followers of Jesus.  In response, he had denied that he was a disciple not just once, but three different times.  That denial could have been running through his mind as he approached the charcoal fire by the Sea of Galilee.


I think Jesus knows that Peter might be feeling a little nervous and unsure and that is why he offers Peter a three-fold chance at redemption.  He asks Peter  three times if Peter loves him.  By the third time Peter is exasperated, but the point has been made.  Jesus has heard him re-up his commitment and given him a new command.  If Peter loves him, then Jesus says he is to feed his sheep.  To be clear, Jesus is not talk about feeding animals, he is talking about feeding people.  Early in the book of John, Jesus said he is the Good Shepherd and his people are the sheep.  Now Peter is being given the charge to be a good shepherd as well and part of being a good shepherd is feeding the sheep. At the last supper before he died, Jesus gave the disciples the command to love one another.  Here at this breakfast he gives them another command—that love is to lead to feeding people both spiritually and physically.


Father Gregory Boyle is someone who has taken Jesus’ command to “feed my sheep” seriously.  He is a Catholic priest who started a rehabilitation program called Homeboy Industries. The program began as a job skills training school, and a way to help felons find work once they left prison as well as nurture them into the people they could have always been. After realizing that work was hard to come by for the recently freed, Father Boyle decided to cut out the middleman and open a bakery, staffed with his “Homies.” It was for men and women that, even if they wanted to turn their lives around, wouldn’t have even been able to find work at McDonalds.


“They’re not natural-born criminals,” says Father Boyle, “They’re just out of options — no jobs in sight, dysfunctional schools and families, no sense of belonging in society.” He talks of a reality that the majority of the United States can’t even fathom—young men and women born into gangs and crime riddled neighborhoods that witness violence and death as a daily rule, which breeds a lethal absence of hope. He not only seeks to install that missing hope, with something as simple as kneading loafs of sourdough dough bread, he wants every soul to know they matter. “No life is disposable,” he says.

As Erica, the kitchen manager for The Homegirl Café, talks about the journey her entire crew has taken from incarcerated gang members to culinary professionals she says, “Food is redemption. When you eat the pesto, it’s not just sauce. It’s basil we grow (in Urban Gardens) that taught a girl she had skills to offer the world, that there was more to life that she could be a part of. It’s not just pesto, but someone who has learned a skill, a new path. The stories are intertwined with the food. Anyone who eats here can see that.”


Erica says the healing effects of the urban gardening can’t be overstated.  She describes how she was at one of gardening spots with one of the new girls not too long ago, who used to live in that area. The young woman was so transformed by what was happening, she said, “This is a neighborhood where my friends used to take life, now it’s where we plant life.”


As Jesus invites his friends to join him for breakfast he is using a gathering around food to comfort them and to remind them about their redemption.  He is planting new life within them as he looks to reassure them after his resurrection and to renew their commitment to his cause of sharing God’s love.


From Peter to Father Boyle to us, the call of Jesus still reverberates within, reminding us that as people of the resurrection, we have been given the charge to feed God’s sheep.  So how could you do that this week? Could you bring a meal to a friend?  Could you make a lunch for Harbor House?  Could you bring canned goods for Manna Food Bank?   Could you donate to an organization helping to feed refugees fleeing from war?  There are many ways we can respond to this call of Jesus so that when he asks, “Do you love me?” our actions will say, “Yes, Lord, you know that we love you.”


-Pastor Erik Goehner




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