Sunday, April 8, 2018

Easter Brunch

Easter Brunch

Easter brunch is one of my favorite things about the holidays, even if, as a Pastor, Easter brunch doesn’t come until around dinner time! Whether it is a fun meal with out of town family or just take-out Thai food, there is something about Easter brunch that makes the meal extra satisfying, even holy. I promise you it's not just the satisfaction of being done after marathon Easter services. Well, not only that.

Funny enough, out of all the various Easter holiday traditions, Easter brunch is probably one of the more biblical. We may love seeing kids (even adult kids) running around looking for eggs hidden around a lawn or house. We may remember fondly holding little baby chicks that the Pastor brought to Church. We may have rabbit candy, bunny shaped decorations, and watch rabbit themed movies. But as special as Easter bunnies, chicks, and eggs are, they are not very biblical. I don’t want to take away the fun or even deny that the theme of rebirth isn’t a part of the joy of Easter. Yet the events at the heart of Easter are far from metaphoric. When we say that Christ is Risen indeed, this isn’t just about the idea of new life but about the physical resurrection of a body; a body that the scripture today tells us was not only very tangible (touchable) but a body that ate food.

From the literal resurrection of Christ’s body, Scripture tells us the story of the first Easter Brunch. The meal happens while the Disciples are feeling high anxiety, perhaps even exhaustion, and grief. Their leader and friend, their messiah and Lord, their God and Christ, has died. This was not a metaphoric death. This was not just a myth. They saw Jesus taken from them. They were at his trial. They saw how his associates were being hunted. They had failed to be there for Christ. And then they saw him die. Worse still, afterwards, they had lost even his body, which had somehow disappeared after burial. The affect of the first Easter was likely one that involved a lot of fear, grief, and confusion. Is this it? Will all of this end in death; a gut wrenching cessation of life with nothing symbolic about it?

It is into the anxiety of Easter that Christ arrives to deliver the good news of Easter Brunch. The first thing Christ tells them here is, do not be afraid. “Peace be with you,” records scripture. This is a good opening line for the resurrected Christ to make. First, because they were afraid. Their leader, who they supposed would be the savior of the world, had been brutally killed. Now they were being hunted. They had reason for fear and anxiety. But second, into the very real and very gritty context of the apostles huddling together in hiding, the man who they had just seen brutally killed had walked in among them. Despite all Jesus had taught them about God and the promise of resurrection, the first thing they seemingly think when the risen Christ walks in would be some various on: “AHHHHH! GHOST!”

I don’t know about you but I often imagine Jesus giving a knowing, indulgent smirk to his disciples. “What were they expecting?” Jesus might have wondered. “Did they think I was being metaphoric when I talked about the life to come?” or “Are ghosts really more believable to them than the Son of God rising from the dead?” All of this wry humor and exasperation may be present when Jesus asks them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your minds? Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have.”

Clearly, even Jesus’s followers had found resurrection more digestible as a metaphor than as a physical reality. Because even when faced with the literal body of Christ standing in front of them, seeing is still not believing. Their minds jump again to doubt, to things as insubstantial as a ghost or spirit rather than accepting the literal fact of the resurrection that is present before them.

Jesus consistently meets people’s anxieties head on and more often than not he meets their anxieties about the life, death, and resurrection of the body with food. When the Apostles immediately jump to conclusions about his resurrection as some sort of spiritual metaphorical vision, Jesus stops them in their tracks and commands them, “touch me.” He reaches out with his body, coming to where they are and calling on them to meet him where He is. Because the Kingdom of Heaven that Christ reveals to His people is not a merely metaphoric or spiritual place. Christ was not a metaphor in life and nor was he a metaphor in death. Christ was fully God and fully human. Humans have bodies. Humans need bodies. Human’s touch one another. Humans are touched by one another. God does not hate human bodies but regularly finds ways to affirm the importance of bodies.

One of the most direct ways that God affirms the importance of bodies in the resurrection is through food. Throughout scripture, we see God not only bless bodies but literally feed bodies. God feeds his people in the dessert. Christ turns water into wine, multiplies fish and breaks bread. These are signs of God’s love but signs delivered through literal physical meals. What can be more of a reminder of our materiality than our body’s constant demand to be fed drink and food? We might prefer we not have bodies. We might want bodies that don’t demand so much maintenance. Working all day, praying, even leading a marathon of Easter services would be so much easier if our bodies were not whining that it needs to be fed. We may prefer to think of the resurrection as spiritual because we frankly find bodies to be inconveniences that we would rather transcend if at all possible.

Yet the reality that God gives us is rarely the half-baked, thin, and unsubstantial fantasies and fears we concoct in our minds. In response to our solitude and anxiety, Christ walks in among us. In response to our doubts and theories about ghosts or visions, Christ commands, “touch and see.” In response to our tendency to be spiritual but not religious, or metaphorical but not material, the resurrected Christ says, let’s sit down and have the first Easter Brunch.

Whether the Risen Christ needed to eat for his own needs, or whether He was eating as yet another sign and lesson for us, Jesus’s command that they sit down together again for a meal is yet another way he teaches us about God and heaven. “’Do you have anything here to eat?’ [Jesus asks. Then] They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate it in their presence.” In the cartoons, if he was a ghost he would have eaten the sandwich, and they would have been able to see it going down his esophagus, and that didn’t happen.

Eating teaches us something about the resurrection. Because Christ’s resurrection isn’t just a metaphor but a present reality. The resurrection isn’t just spiritual but something that can be touched. The resurrection is just sort of divine vision that plays with our senses but one that can pick up a material fish and eat it. The fish isn’t just touched by the risen Christ but eaten.

Christ asks his disciples to share in their food, provided by their talents. The Gospel of Luke records that while Christ ate, he continued to teach them about the Kingdom of Heaven, “he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures.” Christ in particular seemed to prefer the simple meal of wine and bread, maybe some fish. Christ made signs turning water into wine and multiplying the fishes and loaves. Christ tells us that he is present in the breaking of bread and wine. Here the resurrected Christ eats fish. These are not unimaginable holy foods from some spiritual banquet. This Easter Brunch was simple and not extravagant, humble and not showing off. The Easter Brunch with the embodied Jesus was just the sort of food that was lying around.

Then as now, God meets us where we are and shares in our world, our bodies, and our meals. Christ comes to join us in our communities, our homes, and share in our meals. Easter is not just about going out to meet God but making room at our tables for a God that desperately wants to come in and meet us. Christ wants to be present with us, to embody a physical, a human God among us.

Christ was always concerned with the material needs of his followers. An embodied Christ, understands personally the material needs of his followers, however, transforming the materials lives of the people meant also transforming systems.

In the summer of 1966, Martin Luther King Jr. visited homes in the hamlet of Marks, Mississippi. Later he remembered the hundreds of children who lacked shoes. A mother told King that her children had no clothes for school. The Nobel laureate wept openly. “They didn’t even have any blankets to cover their children up on a cold night,” he recalled. “And I said to myself, God does not like this.” Then he vowed, “We are going to say in no uncertain terms that we aren’t going to accept it any longer. We’ve got to go to Washington in big numbers.”

The Poor People's Campaign (PPC) was created on December 4, 1967, by the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) to address the issues of unemployment, housing shortages for the poor, and the impact of poverty on the lives of millions of Americans. Unlike earlier efforts directed toward helping African Americans gain civil rights and voting rights, SCLC and its leader, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., now addressed issues that impacted all who were poor regardless of racial background. Their immediate aim was to secure Federal legislation ensuring full employment and promoting the construction of low-income housing to raise the quality of life of the nation's impoverished citizens.

The SCLC planned a nationwide march on Washington on April 22, 1968, to focus the nation's attention on this issue and particularly to pressure Congress to pass legislation to address the employment and housing issues. Unlike earlier marches, SCLC leaders planned the creation of Resurrection City, a giant tent city on the Mall in Washington, D.C., where demonstrators would remain until their demands were met. When Dr. King was assassinated on April 4, 1968, movement leaders debated whether to go forward with the planned demonstration. They chose to continue the march with King's lieutenant, Rev. Ralph Abernathy, as its new leader. The march date was postponed to May 12, 1968, though a few hundred people arrived in Washington on the original date. The first week, May 12-29, brought a wave of nearly 5,000 demonstrators. During the second week Resurrection City was completed.

The protestors, people from a wide range of racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic backgrounds—Native Americans from reservations, Latinos from the Southwest, impoverished whites from West Virginia, as well as rural and urban blacks—came together and spread the message of the campaign to various Federal agencies. They also disrupted life in Washington to try and force the government to respond. At its peak, the number of protestors reached nearly 7,000 but still far short of the expectation of 50,000 people.

A NEW Poor People’s Campaign launched just a couple weeks ago, a national call for moral revival launched by the Rev. William Barber, this campaign is no longer cart and mules carrying people across the country, however, there remains for people who follow Jesus fundamental claims that we have a moral obligation to care for people’s bodies, the material needs of the people of our communities. The word is spreading through grassroots campaigning, revival services where testimonies are shared of people whose lives are impacted by environmental poverty and racism, whether the Detroit mother whose baby is suffering from lead poisoning, or the poisoning of the water supply in reservations from oil spills. Something has to change...


1. We are rooted in a moral analysis based on our deepest religious and constitutional values that demand justice for all. Moral revival is necessary to save the heart and soul of our democracy.

2. We are committed to lifting up and deepening the leadership of those most affected by systemic racism, poverty, the war economy, and ecological devastation and to building unity across lines of division.

3. We believe in the dismantling of unjust criminalization systems that exploit poor communities and communities of color and the transformation of the “War Economy” into a “Peace Economy” that values all humanity.

4. We believe that equal protection under the law is non-negotiable.

5. We believe that people should not live in or die from poverty in the richest nation ever to exist. Blaming the poor and claiming that the United States does not have an abundance of resources to overcome poverty are false narratives used to perpetuate economic exploitation, exclusion, and deep inequality.

6. We recognize the centrality of systemic racism in maintaining economic oppression must be named, detailed and exposed empirically, morally and spiritually. Poverty and economic inequality cannot be understood apart from a society built on white supremacy.

7. We aim to shift the distorted moral narrative often promoted by religious extremists in the nation from issues like prayer in school, abortion, and gun rights to one that is concerned with how our society treats the poor, those on the margins, the least of these, women, LGBTQIA folks, workers, immigrants, the disabled and the sick; equality and representation under the law; and the desire for peace, love and harmony within and among nations.

8. We will build up the power of people and state-based movements to serve as a vehicle for a powerful moral movement in the country and to transform the political, economic and moral structures of our society.

9. We recognize the need to organize at the state and local level—many of the most regressive policies are being passed at the state level, and these policies will have long and lasting effect, past even executive orders. The movement is not from above but below.

10. We will do our work in a non-partisan way—no elected officials or candidates get the stage or serve on the State Organizing Committee of the Campaign. This is not about left and right, Democrat or Republican but about right and wrong.

11. We uphold the need to do a season of sustained moral direct action as a way to break through the tweets and shift the moral narrative. We are demonstrating the power of people coming together across issues and geography and putting our bodies on the line to the issues that are affecting us all.

12. The Campaign and all its Participants and Endorsers embrace nonviolence. Violent tactics or actions will not be tolerated.

Will we be resurrection people? Will we invite our brothers and sisters to Easter Brunch, sharing our plenty and our want? Will our hearts and our minds be opened in the breaking of the bread? Will we touch, and see, and embrace the resurrected Christ who helps us face our fears, disbelief, and wondering?

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