All you need is Love
Preacher: Captain Philip Johanson CA
22 April 2007, 10:30 (Easter 3)
St John 21 v 1-19
Several years ago the six-year-old daughter of a former secretary of mine came home from school one day and said “Mummy do you love me?” “Of course I love you” said mum “why do you ask?” “Well” - came the sheepish reply - “I’ve been naughty at school.”
There is a significant lesson for us in that short conversation. The little daughter needed the assurance of her mother’s love before the truth could come out. The thought must have been there in the young child’s mind that love would solve the problem. Love would forgive. Love would understand. Love would accept despite the circumstances.
‘All you need is love’ sang the Beetles many years ago. How true and how profound that statement is. Yet how slow we are to learn it and to take it to heart. We know it and yet so often we don’t live it.
The assurance of love before the truth could come out; - love that is accepting and is unconditional.
In part of our Gospel reading today we listened in on a conversation Jesus had with Simon Peter on the subject of love. The scene is the Sea of Galilee. The time is several days after the resurrection. The circumstances are that the disciples are still in a state of bewilderment, shock and confusion so they do the only thing they know, they return to fishing. Seven of them in all – Simon Peter, Thomas, James & John and two others who are not named. Unfortunately after being out all night they caught nothing.
Jesus is on the sea shore but they did not know it was him. He told them to go out again - let down the nets on the right side of the boat and surprise, surprise the catch was enormous. Then follows breakfast by which time the disciples knew it was Jesus. A conversation then follows between Jesus and Simon Peter about love.
Jesus asked Peter what was on the face of it a fairly straightforward question – “Peter do you love me?” What is love – we might well ask ourselves or on the other hand perhaps we think we know.
We sometimes use the expression ‘I love you with all my heart’. What do we mean by that expression – I love you with the pump that sends the blood round my body – I think not. We mean I love you with the very centre of my being. Love expressed, that is as vital as the heart is to the body.
A friend of mine tells the story of a man he knew who said to his wife on their wedding day ‘Darling I really do love you and if anything changes I’ll let you know’. Not the best way to begin a marriage and not the way to express or demonstrate real love. Love is two sides of a coin – it might be talked about but it must be demonstrated in daily living.
What does the Gospel reading teach us about real love?
1. Love is Recognizing
The disciples had listened to this man by the sea shore, but they did not recognize him, however in response to his words they cast their nets on the right side of the boat and caught a net full of fish. Then the Gospel tells us, “The disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter ‘It is the Lord” John 21 v.7 It is an interesting expression ‘The disciple whom Jesus loved’.
What did John recognize? - Was it through the unusual event of catching the large amount of fish having been out all night and having empty nets? Was it through the words spoken by Jesus – John recognized his voice?, Well it was probably both and more.
You have probably been in situations yourself and you have recognized who has been involved. For instance, perhaps you are viewing a painting and instantly you know who painted it. You read an article and you recognize the author. There is something about the situation or the person.
Clynt is one such person I met a couple of years ago. He comes from parents of a broken marriage, he has experienced unemployment, he has been involved in the drug scene and he has slept around as the expression goes. One day he came into contact with some Christians who were involved in cleaning up the neighborhood by picking up litter and washing graffiti off walls, and who to quote Clynt ‘seemed different, they appeared to enjoy life in a way that I didn’t – not that everything in life was plain sailing for them.’
Eventually they invited him to join them at a discussion group run by their church during which as Clynt now says his ‘search for life was over’. He discovered the author, the giver and the sustainer of life.
The old Clynt, if I can put it like that, unfortunately, is not an isolated individual; there are many variations of him around searching for the meaning of life in one way or another. Clynt has recently commenced training to become a Church Army Evangelist. He recognized the love of Christ in others – not primarily through words, rather though action. Now his desire is to share that same love with others.
Love is recognizing
2. Love is putting others First
Following breakfast Jesus begins his conversation with Peter by asking him ‘Simon son of John do you truly love me more than these?’ John 21 v. 15
It is a strange question in some respects. What exactly is Jesus asking? Is he asking Peter if he loves Jesus more than the other disciples love Jesus? Is he asking Peter if he loves Jesus more than Peter loves the other disciples – is Jesus his really his best friend as children might say or is Jesus just one among others?
Is he asking Peter if he loves Jesus more than he loves his fishing boat and his fishing? Well it could be all these and more, and it probably is.
Jesus was asking Peter about his priorities in life – who and what comes first? What might our response be to that question?
Last year during a visit to Church Army in Kenya I spent a day with colleagues in Kabira on the edge of Nairobi. Kabira is about twenty-four square miles and is home to around 3⁄4 million people – it is one of the largest slums in the world. You may have seen Kabira on the television last year when Gordon Brown visited the area on his African tour. African Church Army colleagues are at work there, living in the community, living out the Christian message of hope in a very difficult and challenging situation. They are providing education facilities; teaching basic life skills and giving small amounts of money to enable people to start small projects to help them to earn money. It is a small work in a large situation. However it is growing and what is being done is helping to make a real difference in the lives of others.
It is all about putting others first and demonstrating real and genuine love.
Love is recognizing and love is putting others first
3. Love is Sharing Secrets
During the course of the conversation, Jesus asked Peter three times ‘Simon son of John do you love me?’
Peter would doubtless be a little concerned that the question should be asked three times. Equally no doubt in his mind he would be remembering that three times he had previous denied any knowledge of Jesus. In response to the question being asked a third time Peter said: ‘Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.’ John 21 v.17
Come with me for a moment to inner city Liverpool and meet Phil and Monika Clark. The area in which they live is one of high unemployment, poverty and crime with much of it drug related. A massive 70% of primary children are in receipt of free school meals. The church building is surrounded by a ten foot high steel fence to protect it.
Phil and Monika started Kidz Klub eight years ago soon after arriving in the area and discovering that traditional approaches to working with children made no impact. It has become an exciting project for children and young people on a socially deprived estate in Liverpool. Each week now around 350 children and young people come together in various age groups to learn life skills through exploring the challenge and implications of the Christian faith in an exciting and dynamic way. It is very different from your traditional Sunday school and more akin to the fast moving high tech Saturday morning children’s television. One of the key elements of the project is a team of trained local visitors. On a weekly basis, they contact the homes of all those who come to Kidz Klub, thereby building relationships with families of the children.
Phil now has a team of 25 volunteers, ten of whom have grown up through Kidz Klub themselves and come to faith in Christ. Asked about his medium to long term hopes arising out of the project, Phil says:
‘Through working out the practical implications of the Christian message, we want to see more sixteen year olds in the area entering further education or finding employment; more young people having ambitions and goals in life; a lower school truancy rate, and a lower rate of teenage pregnancy; and more people growing up in the area with a different set of values in life.’ That surely is the outworking of the Gospel – the good news of Jesus Christ.
Relationships have been built and trust has been established not only with the young people but also with the parents. It hasn’t happened overnight – it has taken eight years of hard work and determination. Issues of the past on the part of local people have come to the surface and been dealt with. Trust has been established and the community is slowly changing for the better.
These and other projects with which Church Army is involved, in partnership with local churches, is only possible through the committed prayer support and practical giving on the part of so many individuals and churches up and down the country. This year Church Army celebrates its 125th anniversary and in so doing thanks God for his faithfulness in demonstrating his great love to us.
Remember where I began – my former secretary’s little girl. ‘Mummy do you love me?’ The assurance of love before the truth could come out – love that is accepting and is unconditional. Jesus said to Simon Peter as he says to us ‘Do you love me?’ What is our response and how will we demonstrate that in our daily living?