Kippers for Breakfast and the New Exodus in the Gospel of Mark

At last evening’s “New Testament Overview“, Ro Mody gave us a brief tour of the four Gospels. It was far too brief, I thought, to be absolutely coherent. Always a tough job to summarise without being simplistic.

So the four Gospels give us a full portrait of Jesus, and in Gospel of Mark, Jesus is a man always on the move, he is a man “on the way” – the way that was prepared by John the Baptist, that leads him from Nazareth to his baptism in the wilderness to his journey to Jerusalem to die.

Good observation, but what does that tell us about Jesus the man though?

Kippers and peas + Exodus = breakfast
Kippers fried in a good knob of butter + some peas

This morning’s reading at brekkie was from the Book of Exodus (in line with our church’s progress through the RML Bible Overview series).

Exodus was certainly the major redemption event in the Old Testament. It was also a major step in God’s revelation of himself to Israel as a unique God who is:

  • covenant-keeping (“abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness”);
  • utterly and absolutely sovereign and powerful, who can control everything in creation (including the heart of the Pharaoh);
  • scarily holy;
  • yet somehow also, merciful and gracious and compassionate.

In RML Bible Overview terms, the “God’s Relationship with Man” box gets a little tick. Things seem to be improving before the people of Israel are booted from Egypt, but you as you read through the rest of Exodus, you start to despair of such a stiff-necked people ever possibly having a relationship with the aforementioned God!

But back to the Gospel of Mark.

In Mark 6:31-52, there are clear allusions to Exodus (for working, see Sach and Hiorns’ “Dig Deeper into the Gospels” (not “Dig Even Deeper Still” as many cheekily suggested)). But Rikki Watts suggests that the link is far deeper: in Isaiah’s New Exodus in Mark, he says that even though there is a plethora of direct quotations from Isaiah, Mark is deliberately structuring his Gospel to point out that Jesus’ work is to bring about a (greater and more portentous) new exodus.

If this is true, then Jesus isn’t just going on his way, but the schema of deliverance, journey, and arrival at YHWH’s dwelling suggest strongly that he is, in fact, the God of the Exodus (and all that entails) redeeming his people, in a greater and even more powerful way, for relationship with him.

Placeholder till I can do enough work to confirm this!

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A burial, on a normal sunny afternoon, just like any other

late breakfast of fried eggs and bacon, with smashed avocado on wholewheat toastI crawled out from under the bedcovers late today, aching, peering out at the hazy Singapore sky (thanks to forest fires in Indonesia), wondering what time it was. As I made breakfast/lunch/tea, the previous day came back to me.

**************

It was a normal sunny afternoon in Malacca, Malaysia. Just like any other. Along Jonker Street, tourists would have been queuing up for chicken rice balls or cooling off with a sweet chendol dribbled with gula melaka.

burial in Malacca, on a normal sunny afternoonBut we were here in the Malaccan countryside, by a narrow hole, in a graveyard.

The local Methodist pastor, who’d forgotten the deceased’s name twice already (it wasn’t really his fault – the deceased only turned up in church twice a year, at Christmas and Easter), was throwing white flowers into the grave.

As he threw the first white chrysanthemum he said, “You were made from the earth, and to the earth you shall return.”

Then,”Ashes to ashes.”

And finally,”Dust to dust.”

Family and friends threw flowers into the hole. When they were done, the workers who had been idling nearby, sipping water from plastic cups, moved concrete slabs over the hole and laid several wheelbarrows of cement over it.

His widow, who had become blind over the last few years, could only hear the scrape-scrape-scrape of the cement sealing in the decaying body of her husband in the tropical heat. She asked to be helped away.

Then the many wreaths were piled on.

Some of the younger mourners, who hadn’t known the deceased, were teasing each other by the grave (“hey, your boyfriend says he wants to break-up with you!”), and laughing, and talking about hatching eggs in Pokemon Go.

When all the wreaths had been piled on, we all left to go to lunch.

**************

Four days ago, life had been going on as usual. The deceased’s wife was holidaying with their daughter in the UK. And the deceased had gone for a golf game with some friends (“never said no to a round of golf”, nodded one of the mourners). On the way home from a trip like any other, the driver of the car lost control of the SUV. They smashed into a lorry, flipped over, and crashed roof-first onto the hard ground. Three people were “killed instantly”, the fourth was critically injured and didn’t know what’d happened as he’d fallen asleep in the back seat.

On hearing the tragic news, the rest of the family rushed back to the empty house, in utter shock and massive grief.

One day ago, my friend, the only son of the deceased, had given a eulogy. A very bold witness, he’d told those gathered that his father’s death was a warning that they must heed:

  • none of us knows when we will die
  • are we prepared for death and what will come after death?
  • if the Christian claim is true that we all live once and then face judgement, then we must all repent and trust in Jesus’ death to save us from that judgement, before it is too late!

The black-and-white photos before the casket had shown a dashing young man, with a bright smile and a full head of dark hair, in a sharp suit, with his arm proudly around his new wife (now widow), an equally fashionable young lady. Other photos recorded the births of a succession of children, then grandchildren. My friend’s father went on to lead a respectable life amongst the local people. A successful medical career behind him, he retired and was enjoying life without any major health complaints. “A nice man”, agreed the mourners. “Director of 6 companies, you know, to keep his mind active”. “Oh yes, and also director of a bank. It’s been in his family for ages!”

But he was unprepared for death. And then it was too late.

How inappropriate to warn people to repent at a funeral, my friend’s sister had berated him. But because death can come at anytime, there will never be a more appropriate time than now, than today.

Keng Wah Sung, and the City Harvest Verdict

I am at my usual breakfast place – Keng Wah Sung (783 Geylang Road, at the junction with Lorong 41) – refereeing between an empty stomach and a sensitive nose. The rumbler wins. And the mask comes off as a coffeeshop uncle swiftly sets down teh c kosong ping (iced unsweetened milk tea), kaya toast, and soft-boiled eggs with a clatter.

There is Zechariah on a beat-up old iPhone 4S, but I can’t help casting back to conversations with Uncle S about See Kee Oon’s recent judgement on the City Harvest case.

(See oral grounds of decision in PP v (1) Lam Leng Hung, (2) Kong Hee, (3) Tan Shao Yuen Sharon, (4) Chew Eng Han, (5) Tan Ye Peng, (6) Serina Wee Gek Yin.)

traditional kopi tiam breakfast of teh and kaya toast and soft-boiled eggs, at Keng Wah Sung, Geylang Road, Singapore

Much has been written on the subject, including:

We need to not be hazy (as the Singapore skyline) about what exactly the CHC leaders have been found guilty of. The verdict isn’t anti-Christian, nor anti-megachurch, nor is it preventing anyone from evangelising. It concerns a law that protects people against the flagrant and deliberate dishonesty of those they entrusted with property – that is, criminal breach of trust (Section 405, Penal Code (Chapter 224 of Singapore)).
hazy Singapore skyline (23 October 2015)Now, of course much has been said by supporters about how “pure” and “godly” the motives of the CHC leaders were in (mis)using funds for their Crossover Project (or as some might allege: propping up Sun Ho’s, the pastor’s wife’s, attempt to make the big time in the music business). And questions have been raised as to whether these sanctimonious reasons are true given Kong Hee and Sun Ho’s lavish lifestyle that included a Sentosa Cove apartment (currently allegedly selling for S$10 million (£5 million)) and a Beverly Hills US$20,000/month rental.

Regardless, and in fact, giving them the benefit of the doubt, substantial error remains. While they have been found to have acted dishonestly with regard to their congregation (Judge See: discreet…”was merely a euphemism for a culture of insecurity mired in secrecy and opaqueness where asking difficult or awkward questions was taboo”), what is also incontrovertibly wrong is their intention to act deceitfully vis-à-vis the rest of the world – hoping to hide the gospel somewhere in Sun Ho’s music career.

Low view of truthfulness and trustworthiness

Gospel workers are to be as truthful and trustworthy as the God they worship and the message they bear. “Sure, sin is alright if you can get more people into the kingdom of God!” said no true messenger of God, ever. And so the apostle Paul says to the Corinthians:

Therefore, having this ministry by the mercy of God, we do not lose heart. But we have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways. We refuse to practise cunning or to tamper with God’s word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God. (2 Corinthians 4:1-2)

And again he says to the Thessalonians:

For our appeal does not spring from error or impurity or any attempt to deceive, but just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not to please man, but to please God who tests our hearts. For we never came with words of flattery, as you know, nor with a pretext for greed—God is witness. Nor did we seek glory from people, whether from you or from others, though we could have made demands as apostles of Christ. But we were gentle among you, like a nursing mother taking care of her own children. So, being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us. (1 Thessalonians 2:3-8)

The openness and transparency, and solid integrity of God’s workers demonstrate, in a somewhat McLuhan manner, the characteristics of the God being proclaimed.

Low view of the goodness of the good news (the gospel)

How do you sell a treasure of infinite worth? You state its value plainly – because anything else would detract from its excellent qualities.

How do you tell people about an awesome God? You state his mind-blowing characteristics plainly, as set out clearly in the Bible – because anything else would be a blasphemy and an insult.

When would you hide your product under thick layers of packaging or make-up? Only if you thought it somewhat inferior, and were ashamed to be selling it.

But there is nothing shameful about the gospel. It tells us of our sin (which is obvious to any one who bothers to think about their day and read the news), of our being under the fearful wrath of God, and then holds out a free gift of salvation, that can be taken hold of by trusting that God’s promise is true – that Jesus’ death on the cross has paid for our sins, and that we can now escape his coming judgement. (See Two Ways To Live.)

And so,

And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled only to those who are perishing. In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. (2 Corinthians 4:3-4)

diluted mee siam, Killiney Kopitiam, 30 Purvis Street, Singaporea good-looking mee siam at Killiney Kopitiam franchise (30 Purvis Street), that, on closer inspection and tasting, proved to be a diluted insipid plate

Low view of God’s glory

What demonstrates the praiseworthiness of a thing more? That people have been deceived into purchasing it? That it has been marketed half-to-death on sell-a-vision so bored office drones hand over their credit card details while working the graveyard shift? No.

What gives God more glory is that he draws people to himself improbably according to the wisdom of this world: despite the ignoble death of his Son on a cross, and the sad not-Hollywood-worthy state of his messengers. It shows that he is the one at work and he is the one that is attractive, and not us puny humans.

Says Paul to the Corinthians again:

But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; 10 always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. 11 For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. 12 So death is at work in us, but life in you.

13 Since we have the same spirit of faith according to what has been written, “I believed, and so I spoke”, we also believe, and so we also speak, 14 knowing that he who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and bring us with you into his presence. 15 For it is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God.

16 So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. 17 For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, 18 as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. (2 Corinthians 4:7-18)

The Sharing Economy, Collaborative Economy, “Gig” Employment

Paddy Hills, 38 South Buona Vista Road
Cafe-hopping, I was told, by various people and oft, when I arrived in Singapore, was totally the thing right now. It leveraged on synergies:

  • people wanting some content for Instagram
  • cafes ensuring their food was instagrammable, but at a cost
  • people banding together and pooling resources to ensure a much lower overhead cost for each enviable instagram-shot

The sharing economy or collaborative economy goes further than the mere cobbling together of resources. And the companies that have made the greatest gains don’t even start with much:

Uber – the world’s largest taxi company, yet owns no vehicles

Airbnb – the world’s largest accommodation-provider, yet owns no property

Alibaba – the world’s most valuable retailer, yet owns no inventory

Facebook – the world’s most popular media owner, yet creates no content

These sharing platforms have been hailed by many as representative of the new dawn of socialism. The idea isn’t new of course – Napster was nabbed for that a few years ago. And before that, the people in Acts “held everything in common”.

So this is libraries and hitchhikers, on steroids, built on the necessary foundation of “the internets”.

flat white coffee, Paddy Hills, 38 South Buona Vista RoadWhat are the benefits of such peer-to-peer transactions?

  • transparent utility
  • transparent allocation of benefits
  • lowers inefficiencies in the market – through capital-sharing (Airbnb, Relayrides, Zilok), labour-matchmaking (Uber, Lyft, DogVacay, Taskrabbit,) person-to-person marketplace platforms (Alibaba)
  • better for community? more emphasis on social capital – the return to pre-industrial relationship (albeit in a very artificial superficial way) and the creation of trust relationships
  • more personal interest in behaving well, providing good service?
  • participation x choice x social justice? because the cost of use falls
  • if “sharing is the new buying“, there will be less demand for new products, and less strain on the world’s resources (as the environmentalist spiel goes)

Paddy Hills, 38 South Buona Vista Road
What are some concerns?

  • easy for these large corporates to flout laws much like the traditional big companies of old, except this time, they bypass the usual democratic process by appealing to their consumer-following to pressurise regulators into capitulating on laws, effectively nullifying the electoral/legislative process.
  • making business out of not being responsible – the companies running these platforms don’t bother with legislation meant to protect employees (from overwork, from discrimination, from exploitation, to ensure they are properly insured, etc); they don’t bother with consumer rights;
  • while marketing solidarity and saving liberal consumers a few pennies, what allegedly happens is that the rich get richer by shirking taxes (that are a mechanism, amongst other things, for the re-distribution of wealth).

Paddy Hills, 38 South Buona Vista RoadIt is with some amusement that one realises how similar the dangers of a (neo)liberals’ dream economy is to criticisms of liberalism in the political arena. This fetishised dream of freedom from “burdensome” laws! and “oppressive” authorities! and “overbearing” commitments! forgets that laws and authorities are meant to protect the weak, and commitments ensure job security (hence the protests against zero-hours contracts).

And if so for human laws and authorities which are inevitably flawed on many levels, what about God’s laws and the lordship of Christ?

Paddy Hills, 38 South Buona Vista RoadBut…I myself work for a gig employment type company that enables me to earn some bread to feed myself, while also part-time unpaid full-time ministry. It distinguishes itself by actually employing people and then seconding them, and it accords them with the usual benefits of healthcare and insurance.

This is a mere thought-in-gestation…I wonder about the efficacy of a collaborative economy or gig employment for Bible teachers. In a city where there are many churches and few good teachers of the Word, would it be possible to have some sort of platform for desperate churches or parachurch organisations to get the services of (be served by) someone well-trained but, as is usual in any monopoly, hasn’t been given the opportunity to make use of that training (because, eg. the pastors-in-power are wary of their better skills in bible-handling, because they don’t show enough loyalty to the pastor to be given a higher profile)? Most preaching/teaching gigs happen now along the lines of old boys’ networks, strengthening existing monopolies, widening inefficiencies that could be used better for the kingdom.

Of course, sovereignty of God…to which one says, ah but human responsibility.

Still, this might be useful in a limited sense: one-off talks or a short training season; it can’t quite replace a long-term pastor/teacher who is committed to loving and caring for his flock, and who is responsible under God for them.

Paddy Hills, 38 South Buona Vista Road

*the cafe in this post is Paddy Hills (38 South Buona Vista Road). They use Tiong Hoe coffee. This flat white was very dark – it tasted like ash on the roof of my mouth. Perhaps an off-day? The berry hotcakes idea was decent (crispy on the edges, fluffy inside), though the original Kettle Black one in Melbourne had the advantage of cream, which, everyone knows, makes everything better.

**update: see also Robert J. Shiller’s article, Faith in an Unregulated Free Market? Don’t Fall For It.

Avocado Toast, the Members of the Body, and How Avocado is Not Bacon

JST had been nagging me to stop being such a fruitist and to give the avocado another chance. As a child, I’d detested the texture of the thing – tasteless, fatty, mashable. When compared with the exciting crisp sweet tartness of the apples that I adored or the rich umami sunshine of the tomatoes I ate by the basketful, the avo was a dud.

Flat White Coffee and Brunch in Melbourne - Dr. Jekyll Cafe (107-113 Grey Street, St. Kilda) - avocado and Meredith feta mash, with mint and lemon on rye toast, with a poached eggMy first taste of the thing again in adulthood was in Melbourne just last month, where avocado toast was a hipster cafe menu staple. At the Dr. Jekyll Cafe (107-113 Grey Street, St. Kilda, Melbourne) with HM, I tried their rendition – an avocado and Meredith feta mash, with mint and lemon on rye toast, with a poached egg. Delicious.

avocado toast with bacon
Regent's CanalThen in London, LH kindly had me round for breakfast, and there, gloriously, was avocado toast with crisp bacon. Arguably, anything tastes better with bacon, but this demonstrated an important fact of life that fools like me keep forgetting: we measure everyone by some arbitrary standard (eg. must have tartness) and dismiss those who don’t conform as failures. But it would be silly of us not to consider how to use the unique characteristics of different things to fulfil other purposes (eg. avocado as foil to dry toast, as a neutral base for other flavours).

avocado toast with cherry tomatoes and prosciuttoI guess that’s very useful wisdom for all of life: when managing colleagues at work, when bringing up the children, when comparing ourselves to others, etc.

Of course, in last decade, the world has tried to correct this by damning any sort of standard as hegemonic and as causing the victimisation of anyone who doesn’t/can’t conform. But the worldview that undergirds this is fundamentally rusty – a sort of postmodernism that insists (when convenient) that every view is right, every trait is good, and that the self-affirmative happiness of the individual is paramount.

avocado toast with salamiIn many evangelical circles, perhaps in a wholesale stand against postmodernity, the opposite is the norm. Not only do we concern ourselves with a ranking of churches with good doctrine and teachers with good Bible handling skills, we categorise the rest of the congregation too so that on the top-most layer are the people we consider “sorted”, or “blokes/birds worth watching”.

Certain Standard, Erroneous Observation/Communication

Certainly godliness and Christ-likeness is the standard we must, as God’s saved people and adopted children, all conform to. But we will all fail at this time and again, either publicly or in the privacy of our hearts.

Further, how godliness is expressed in the minutiae in everyday life might differ. In this fallen world, there is probably wisdom in allowing for the misinterpretation of the speech and actions because of our own fallenness and/or the inadvertent miscommunication by others.

Erroneous Standard/Attribution

Evangelical circles also highly prize those with teaching and preaching gifts. Those gifts are certainly very important for the life of the church and individual Christians, because we grow by feeding on the word of God  teaching.

Perhaps our first error is to conflate godliness with good Bible-handling skills. Ability to teach is merely one of the many characteristics required of an overseer in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1, and is not expected of all Christians.

Perhaps our second error is to assume that only one sort of gift is valuable. What about the almost enviable gifts of encouragement or administration?

And perhaps our third error is to esteem the gift and the gifted, rather than the gifter.

And perhaps our fourth error is to forget that the gift is not for the individual (and his/her ego) but for the good of the church.

1 Corinthians 12:

Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. For to one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, 10 to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the ability to distinguish between spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. 11 All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills.

12 For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.

14 For the body does not consist of one member but of many. 15 If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body”, that would not make it any less a part of the body. 16 And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body”, that would not make it any less a part of the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? 18 But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. 19 If all were a single member, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many parts, yet one body.

21 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you”, nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” 22 On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23 and on those parts of the body that we think less honourable we bestow the greater honour, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, 24 which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honour to the part that lacked it, 25 that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. 26 If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honoured, all rejoice together.

27 Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. 28 And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, helping, administrating, and various kinds of tongues. 29 Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? 30 Do all possess gifts of healing? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret? 31 But earnestly desire the higher gifts.

And I will show you a still more excellent way. (and on to 1 Corinthians 13…)

Loads of wisdom needed. One thing is sure: avocado is not bacon.

Royal York Crescent, Clifton, Bristol

Anyway, just a mind-dump before heading out into the Bristol sunshine. JB suspects my week of working inside on Proverbs at his dining table (while the beautiful symmetry of the Royal York Crescent beckoned outside) means I don’t like Bristol much!

Coffee and Late Breakfast and Brunch in Melbourne

Brunch and coffee spots, said several Melburnians, were all the attractions we needed to pay attention to in this city. To aid our quest,

Broadsheet – Melbourne

The Urban List – Melbourne

Concrete Playground – Melbourne

City of Melbourne – Winter Guide 2015

Hidden Secrets Tours Melbourne

Smudge Eats

In Love With Brunch

Thus informed, our mornings became a week-long pilgrimage. This isn’t a buzzfeed list of Melbourne’s “top ten cafes you must visit before you die!”, but some favourites that we managed to get to. Of course, any casual review is profoundly subjective, affected by the weather that day, my mood, the interaction with the people I was with etc:

The Kettle Black

Instagram-worthy? Tick.

Design-savvy? Tick. Flat White Coffee and Brunch in Melbourne: The Kettle Black Flat White Coffee and Brunch in Melbourne: The Kettle Black (50 Albert Road) Flat White Coffee and Brunch in Melbourne: The Kettle Black (50 Albert Road) Flat White Coffee and Brunch in Melbourne: The Kettle Black (50 Albert Road)

Flat White Coffee and Brunch in Melbourne The Kettle Black (50 Albert Road, facebook)’s classic but fresh interior design was courtesy of Studio You Me (Kestie Lane, Hana Hakim). A real delight to the eyes after all the faux-industrial cafes we get in Singapore. Cafe design is truly a thing in Melbs and the rest of the Antipodes – there’s even the Eat Drink Design Awards to highlight this.

Flat White Coffee and Brunch in Melbourne: The Kettle Black - hotcake, crayfish burger, beef steak burger

Flat White Coffee and Brunch in Melbourne: hotcake with ricotta, blueberries, pure maple, double cream and seeds

Flat White Coffee and Brunch in Melbourne: The Kettle Black - fresh crayfish in an ash roll, with purslane and local leaves, lime and yuzu mayo

Flat White Coffee and Brunch in Melbourne: The Kettle Black - Cape Grim fully-traceable beef with house-made mustard, seasonal fruit relish and leaves on the Kettle black bun And even the plating of the food was excellent. Festooned with edible flowers, a riot of colours, you might be forgiven for expecting that brunch that looks this good must be without substance. But these (especially the hotcake and beef burger), like math-teacher-male-supermodel Pietro Boselli, exceeded expectations.

Above: the hotcake with ricotta, blueberries, pure maple, double cream and seeds; Cape Grim fully-traceable beef with house-made mustard, seasonal fruit relish and leaves on the Kettle black bun; fresh crayfish in an ash roll, with purslane and local leaves, lime and yuzu mayo.

Flat White Coffee and Brunch in Melbourne: The Kettle Black (50 Albert Road)

Flat White Coffee and Brunch in Melbourne: The Kettle Black (50 Albert Road) - flat white, latte, hot chocolateSquare One Coffee Roasters provided the house blend of 50% Ethiopian Wote and 50% Guatemala Santa Isabel. The chocolate-toffee notes were strong in my cup – interesting how un-citrusy it was, especially given the African-Latin American blend.

Manchester Press

On the other side of the Yarra River, down a little alley, there is Manchester Press (facebook, 8 Rankins Lane).

Flat whites and brunch in Melbourne: Rankins Lane, outside Manchester Press

Flat White Coffee and Brunch in Melbourne It’s housed in one of those spaces off Little Bourke Street that was once an industry useful in the last millenium – a printing press. Some might call this gentrification, but that is perhaps too narrow a view; perhaps this changing use of space indicates the succession of generations, as observed by John Adams:

The science of government it is my duty to study, more than all other sciences; the arts of legislation and administration and negotiation ought to take the place of, indeed exclude, in a manner, all other arts. I must study politics and war, that our sons may have liberty to study mathematics and philosophy. Our sons ought to study mathematics and philosophy, geography, natural history and naval architecture, navigation, commerce and agriculture in order to give their children a right to study painting, poetry, music, architecture, statuary, tapestry and porcelain.”

Flat White Coffee and Brunch in Melbourne: Manchester Press (Rankins Lane)We are of the cafe-hopping generation, with the luxury to indulge in whimsical fancies. But soon, as the circle of history turns, our children might have to study politics and war.

Flat White Coffee and Brunch in Melbourne: Manchester Press (Rankins Lane) - chia seed and coconut pudding with passionfruit coulis, topped with toasted oats, dried cranberries, and fresh berriesFor now, we can indulge in chia seed and coconut pudding with passionfruit coulis, topped with toasted oats, dried cranberries, and fresh berries, and edible flowers;

Flat White Coffee and Brunch in Melbourne - Manchester Press (8 Rankins Lane) - Texas BBQ style pulled pork, slow roasted for 14 hours, soaked in BBQ sauce, and topped with homemade slaw and pickles in a bageland Texas BBQ style pulled pork, slow roasted for 14 hours, soaked in BBQ sauce, and topped with homemade slaw and pickles in a very good chewy bagel;

Flat White Coffee and Brunch in Melbourne: Manchester Press (Rankins Lane) - toasted blueberry bagel with whipped raspberry mascarpone, fresh strawberries, and crushed pistachiosand toasted blueberry bagel with whipped raspberry mascarpone, fresh strawberries, and crushed pistachios;

Flat White Coffee and Brunch in Melbourne: Machester Press (Rankins Lane)

Flat White Coffee and Brunch in Melbourne:Manchester Press (Rankins Lane)and talk about how good the flat white is here – 8oz Coffee Co. providing the house blend that tasted so much like rich chocolate milk, I had to check that no one sneaked a cocoa dusting into my cup. Delicious.

Brother Baba Budan

Just out Rankins Lane, on the corner with Little Bourke Street, is Brother Baba Budan (twitter, 359 Little Bourke Street), named for the chappie who smuggled 7 coffee seeds out of the Middle East, thus breaking their hegemonic powers in the caffeine world, liberating the oppressed etc.

Flat White Coffee and Brunch in Melbourne: Brother Baba Budan (359 Little Bourke Street)

Flat White Coffee and Brunch in Melbourne: Brother Baba Budan (359 Little Bourke Street) Flat White Coffee and Brunch in Melbourne: Brother Baba Budan (359 Little Bourke Street)

Flat White Coffee and Brunch in Melbourne: Brother Baba Budan (359 Little Bourke Street) Flat White Coffee and Brunch in Melbourne: Brother Baba Budan (359 Little Bourke Street)

Flat White Coffee and Brunch in Melbourne: Brother Baba Budan (359 Little Bourke Street) - latte and flat whiteThis cosy cafe with its distressed walls and chairs hanging precariously overhead is a Seven Seeds Coffee Roasters outpost. I didn’t know if the blend was too light to come through the milk in the flat white or if it was a barista error – a decent cup, not a destination cup. The latte-drinker liked his milk drink much better than the one he got at Manchester Press though.

Captains of Industry

And then, just on the next alley off Little Bourke, Captains of Industry (facebook, Level 1, 2 Somerset Place) – describing themselves ironically (i think) as “The practitioners of Captains of Industry are Practical Men of Wide Experience offering the Good, the True and the Beautiful in traditional men’s outfitting and dining.”

Flat White Coffee and Brunch in Melbourne

Flat White Coffee and Brunch in Melbourne: Captains of Industry (Level 1, 2 Somerset Place)It was a nice experience, sitting in a darkened space with naked bulbs hanging from a high ceiling, sharing the old table with an old sewing machine, or perched on the chairs looking out at fat little balls of sparrows flitting over Elizabeth Street.

Flat White Coffee and Brunch in Melbourne: Captains of Industry (Level 1, 2 Somerset Place)

Flat White Coffee and Brunch in Melbourne: Captains of Industry (Level 1, 2 Somerset Place) The flat white was what a reasonable gentleman might like on a cold blustery day after having given the morning’s sermon on Luke 10:25-37:

25 And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” 26 He said to him, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” 27 And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbour as yourself.” 28 And he said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.”

29 But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbour?” 30 Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead. 31 Now by chance a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. 32 So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion. 34 He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him. 35 And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.’ 36 Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbour to the man who fell among the robbers?” 37 He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” And Jesus said to him, “You go, and do likewise.”

Axil Coffee Roasters

Flat White Coffee and Brunch in MelbourneFlat White Coffee and Brunch in Melbourne: Axil Coffee Roasters Flat White Coffee and Brunch in Melbourne

A little further to the east, there was a long line for brunch at Axil Coffee Roasters (facebook, 322 Burwood Road, Hawthorn) on the Queen’s Birthday (8 June). We sat outside braving the cold, warming in the winter sun.

Flat White Coffee and Brunch in Melbourne: Axil Coffee Roasters (322 Burwood Road, Hawthorn) Flat White Coffee and Brunch in Melbourne Flat White Coffee and Brunch in Melbourne: Axil Coffee Roasters (322 Burwood Road, Hawthorn) - Queen's birthday cake

The birthday boy bought me brunch and I bought him the Queen’s birthday cake. It was so lovely to catch up with the old boy over a seemingly-healthy (and paleo) breakky. Was encouraged by his singlemindedness and thankful for the great situation that God has put him in – to be working under a pastor who too loves the Word and trusts VK to do the job without needless overbearing oversight. We reminisced a little about MY and the people we met during our time together in London. Lurve-ly.

Dr. Jekyll Cafe

Near St. Kilda Beach with the scary clown mouth of Luna Park, is Dr. Jekyll Cafe (facebook, 107-113 Grey Road, St. Kilda).

Flat White Coffee and Brunch in Melbourne - Dr. Jekyll Cafe (107-113 Grey Street, St. Kilda) Flat White Coffee and Brunch in Melbourne - Dr. Jekyll Cafe (107-113 Grey Street, St. Kilda) Flat White Coffee and Brunch in Melbourne - Dr. Jekyll Cafe (107-113 Grey Street, St. Kilda) Flat White Coffee and Brunch in Melbourne - Dr. Jekyll Cafe (107-113 Grey Street, St. Kilda) - avocado and Meredith feta mash, with mint and lemon on rye toast, with a poached egg Flat White Coffee and Brunch in Melbourne - Dr. Jekyll Cafe (107-113 Grey Street, St. Kilda) Flat White Coffee and Brunch in Melbourne - Dr. Jekyll Cafe (107-113 Grey Street, St. Kilda)

Met an old friend there whom I hadn’t seen in decades (wow, I’ve always wanted to be old enough to say that without exaggeration!). I had the avocado and Meredith feta mash with mint and lemon on rye toast. Not being a great fan of that fatty fruit, I was under instructions to try it out on toast at least once in Melbs. Not bad actually!

HM quickly got to summarising the years that passed since our last meeting. She wanted to know how I became Christian, knowing that I was very much against it in school, and not being of the personality to follow trends. God’s grace, I said, worked out in:

  • how after investigating all the hypotheses found in philosophy, science, literature, politics, psychology etc., the Christian faith proved to have the best historical veracity of claimed facts, and the best internal consistency in the historical texts compiled in the Bible;
  • the Spirit working in my heart and mind so as to understand therefore, the dire state humanity is in because of our rebellion against God (by, fundamentally, not acknowledging him as God) and the gracious salvation offered by God’s son – if only we repented of our rebellion, turned, and acknowledged God as God, and Jesus as his son, who is able and will pay for the sins of the world.

She told me how she herself was getting on – wished I’d more words of assurance to offer, but those words would be empty ultimately. What she needed was God’s assurance – found, not in some whisper in the darkness, but in the comforting words of Scripture. God himself assures us about what reality really looks like, where this world is ultimately headed, and what the purpose in our life is. And so we do not despairingly “eat and drink for tomorrow we die”. Rather, we enjoy God’s gifts of food and drink and laughter in this creation, with thanksgiving to the Creator, fuel for the work to be done on earth, looking forward the new creation to come.