Vicar Noah Herren
Third Sunday of Easter
May 4/5, 2019
Come and Have Breakfast
“Come and have breakfast.” These words were printed on a teal coffee mug at a church plant I was involved with in Birmingham, AL. This church was meant to minister to those who had been hurt or burned by church, those who had been cast to the margins. I certainly was one of those people when I found St. Junia. I had been out of church for the past few years. After coming out, for the first-time, I thought I had lost just about everything I had to lose: my marriage, my job, my house, my church, my community. So when I read the words “Come and have breakfast” on this newly minted church merchandise, I scoffed and said to myself, “That’s not in the bible!” After all I knew the Bible pretty well. I didn’t bother to look it up or ask anyone, you know, like you do when you don’t want to be proven wrong. But it continued to bother me, so I formulated another theory: maybe it IS in the Bible but probably in one of those quirky translations like The Message. It wasn’t until I was in seminary a few years later that I came across this passage in John and admitted defeat.
When I read the passage again this week, I was reminded of this time in my life. I started wondering what it was that made me react so adversely to these words. Come and have breakfast. They seem pretty innocuous, and I really love breakfast. So what was it? I realizedthat, at that point in my life, I didn’t want those words to be in the bible, because it seemed too easy. Eating brunch with Jesus on the beach? That sounded amazing, but no, it wasn’t in my paradigm for religious life.
What’s wrong with things being easy? Think of all the ways we use and conceive of the word. The word “easy” defined means achieved without great effort or presenting few difficulties. Some common phrases are easy as ABC, easy street…we talk about the easy way out, getting off easy, having it easy…or what about a person of easy virtue, easy money. And while we’re talking about breakfast, how about over easy eggs. They just run all over the place, right? That’s what our culture thinks about when we think easy, running all over the place, unboundaried, undisciplined, unreliable.
I don’t know about y’all, but easy doesn’t sound like the Christianity I grew up with. We were kind of more of the “take up your cross” variety. And not only take up your cross, but run over to grab others crosses, pick up any crosses left lying on the ground that someone else left behind a long time ago. I imagine if we had been with Jesus that morning on the beach, our breakfast would have gotten cold while we went searching for driftwood to build crosses to carry.
As much as Christians talk about grace and love, we certainly seem to hold onto the crosses we bear for dear life. Isn’t carrying a heavy burden part of the Christian life? Jesus basically says this to Peter in this text, too, you will have to take up your cross and follow me. In our Good Friday service at HT Lakeview, we processed the cross down the aisle and proclaimed three times, “Behold the life-giving cross on which was hung the Savior of the world.” Even on the dark night of Jesus’ death, we acknowledge the life-giving nature of the cross. So what does this life look like?
In a Huffington Post article titled, Brunch is Better than Church, Pastor Josh Cobia explores the phenomenon of brunch. On any given weekend, you’ll find people of all sorts gathering to share sweet and savory dishes and craft cocktails. The attractiveness of brunch lies in a few factors, Cobia suggests.
First, it facilitates meaningful conversation. Beau and I had the privilege of going to brunch with our young adults a few weeks ago. The conversation naturally turned into some tough theological topics at the table with people of varied backgrounds and beliefs. It was fantastic and powerful, and all over plates of french toast and breakfast tacos. *The second thing brunch does is offer inclusive welcome. Table fellowship brings everyone together, no matter how you’re feeling that day, what you’re wearing, what you order, whatever idiosyncrasies that generally tend to separate you from others, brunch is an equitable place where you can just show up. *Finally, brunch becomes a place where community and meaning are intertwined. At the table, we see a vision of the hope we have for the world where all are fed, welcomed, loved, and valued.
In discussing declining church attendance, Cobia states, “People didn’t stop going to church, they just started calling it brunch.” Wow. This hit home for me. I remember in the years that I was too afraid to darken the door of a church because of my queer identity, I never missed Sunday brunch with my friends. Brunch was my church.
And, y’all, Jesus invented brunch. And not just with post-resurrection grilled fish and bread on the beach. It’s all over the gospels, Jesus eating with everybody and anybody, anywhere, and getting flack for it. Jesus consistently teaches, preaches, and builds community over food, with food, and in the presence of food. Anywhere we practice this type of communion, Jesus is with us. Jesus feeds us and asks us to feed each other.
Life is not always going to be easy, there will be hardships, without a doubt. We don’t deny the pain and suffering of bearing the weight of the cross, but we also can’t deny the power of the resurrection. And table fellowship anchors us in resurrection hope as we catch a glimpse of an abundant, just, and equitable world. Elsewhere in the Gospels, Jesus says, “My yoke is easy and my burden is light.” My hope is that those of us who have been taught that faith is a constant struggle can gradually begin to relax into these moments where Jesus is asking us to be present and enjoy life.
Although I was wrong about my initial assessment of breakfast in the bible, I was right in assuming that there are some variations in translation. The King James Version asks us to “Come and dine.” The Message translation exclaims “Breakfast is ready!” I can hear someone ringing the front porch bell with that one.
Today we come as we are to this table of abundance, as we respond to Jesus’ simple invitation, “Come and have breakfast.”