There was an article recently saying that the famous donut chain had no intention of reviving the famous ad campaign with the tagline “Time to make the donuts.” According to the spokesperson, the reasoning had to do with the shift in social expectations and that the product now being pushed was no longer the donuts that gave the company its name, but the coffee and other beverages that were the real money makers these days. And the new slogan is “American runs on ...”
Me, I suspect that the sentimental reason why the commercial won’t be resurrected is that the actor who made the “time to make the donuts” line famous died in 2005. Probably worked himself to death. Actually, he retired and then didn’t last much longer. I’ve heard that happens to some folks. Their work was all they lived for. And once that ends there doesn’t seem to be any reason for living. Work defined them. We are what we do.
Except that sometimes what we do wears us out. Like the donut maker, you meet yourself coming and going. You feel stretched, you feel used up. You feel as though you can’t do anything right, even though you have lots of things to do. Work defeats us. We are what we don’t do well.
Which is it? Or does it shift from one to the other depending on circumstances or our moods. Do we measure ourselves by our essence or our ability to produce? Is there some intrinsic value to our lives or is it only in our doing, in our work that we find meaning? And most importantly, how did we get so deep so quickly? One minute we were talking a fictitious donut maker and the next we are hip deep in philosophy. How do these things happen?
I blame Jesus. Well, Jesus and Peter to be precise. Our “I Am a Follower” series continues with a seaside, breakfast conversation. And as with most conversations with Jesus, it gets deeper than you realize before we are ready.
John 21:15-25 When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, "Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?" He said to him, "Yes, Lord; you know that I love you." Jesus said to him, "Feed my lambs." 16 A second time he said to him, "Simon son of John, do you love me?" He said to him, "Yes, Lord; you know that I love you." Jesus said to him, "Tend my sheep." 17 He said to him the third time, "Simon son of John, do you love me?" Peter felt hurt because he said to him the third time, "Do you love me?" And he said to him, "Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you." Jesus said to him, "Feed my sheep. 18 Very truly, I tell you, when you were younger, you used to fasten your own belt and to go wherever you wished. But when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will fasten a belt around you and take you where you do not wish to go." 19 (He said this to indicate the kind of death by which he would glorify God.) After this he said to him, "Follow me." 20 Peter turned and saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following them; he was the one who had reclined next to Jesus at the supper and had said, "Lord, who is it that is going to betray you?" 21 When Peter saw him, he said to Jesus, "Lord, what about him?" 22 Jesus said to him, "If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? Follow me!" 23 So the rumor spread in the community that this disciple would not die. Yet Jesus did not say to him that he would not die, but, "If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you?" 24 This is the disciple who is testifying to these things and has written them, and we know that his testimony is true. 25 But there are also many other things that Jesus did; if every one of them were written down, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written.
I left in the little bit at the end of the Gospel, even though it isn’t what we are talking about here. I just like that little tangent that doesn’t really tell us anything, except perhaps trying to point fingers at John the Apostle. But I especially like the final verse which says there is always more, more to say, more to do, more that we don’t know about how all this works, about who he is and was. We, because of John 21:25 are never allowed to say we know everything there is to know about Jesus.
“There are many other things that Jesus did.” So, what do we do? He was always working, so are we to be always working? It seems beyond our meager capabilities to work as he worked. Maybe we aren’t the workers in the vineyard that he was seeking after all. Maybe we are onlookers at best, bystanders, not workers in the end.
Or maybe we just don’t understand the work required. Maybe we just don’t know what it is that we are supposed to do or to be.
That seemed to be Peter’s problem. He knew, or thought he did, but now he’s not so sure. He’d been through a rough patch to say the least. He tried to follow, at a distance, but what he saw he knew he didn’t want anything to do with. When all seemed lost, he went fishing. Oh, he had a moment when he ran to the empty tomb, but he didn’t have a clue what it meant, and was just as afraid that it would be bad news as he was that it would be good. So, he went fishing. Seemed like a good idea.
Well, you’ll have to read the first part of the story to see what happened next. It was another fish miracle that didn’t have anything to do with fish. He had a moment of certainty and jumped out of yet another boat to walk through water to get to his Lord. He sat in the chill light of dawn to eat breakfast, and he was still gulping down a bit of grilled fish that somehow got stuck in his throat as our scene begins.
“Do you love me more than these?” These what? These fish? These other disciples? These failures too many to count? These what? Simon, son of John, not Peter, not the name that he bore like a gold star from one of the few moments when Peter did something right. But Simon, son of John. Like it was a legal transaction. Like he was being asked to sign on the dotted line, like he was being hired.
Feed my sheep. That’s the job he was signing up for. That was the work to which he was called. Time to make the donuts, Peter. Feed my lambs. Tend my sheep. OK, fine, sure, no problem. Um, how?
It’s not that we don’t want to work. We just don’t know how, or what to do, or when to step in and get involved and when to keep away and stay pure and unstained from the world. We are given so many different instructions that we are almost inert in our indecision. And like Peter we hear Jesus’ relentless question “Do you love me?”
We want to, I’m confident of that. We want to love him, because we know that he has the words of life, because we know that he has the key, he has the life. We want to love him ... and we do, as best we can. The tending thing is difficult work, though, and get weary in well doing. And sometimes we work almost against our will. We work because it is within us to work. We stretch out our hands and we are taken where we do not wish to go.
Feeding sheep is hard work. It seems like they are always hungry, always needy. But we go, we feed, we tend, we love because that is what all this means, we love as we tend the sheep, we love as we see the neighbor bruised and bleeding along the side of the road, we love even when faced with the ones who let us down, who deny us and betray us, we love even when we encounter the ones we don’t think we would ever be able to love. Because in the end it isn’t our love that drives us, it is His. He doesn’t say to Peter, do you love them? He says do you love me?
Because he knows that unless we are filled up with love - heart and soul and mind and strength - for Christ our Savior, we will never be able to love those we call neighbor ... or better, the ones He calls our neighbor. He knows that without being driven by an all consuming love for the Lord of life, we will never be able to drag our selves out of our beds in order to get to work. And there is work to be done.
Time to make the donuts.