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What's For Breakfast?

Sermon
The Culture Of Disbelief
Gospel Sermons For Lent/Easter
The testimony of Easter is that Jesus joins us again, on earth, after his resurrection from the dead. The disciples make this testimony in at least three ways: on the road to Emmaus, to Mary in the garden, and in our text today, in a request for something to eat for breakfast.

Many people have wished for something larger and more dramatic, only to be given these simple appearances. Many of us also want to be touched by God in our regular life. We await the thunderbolt experience, only to receive the still, small whisper.

A friend tells of a day when she was more than a little beside herself. Life seemed more difficult than she could manage. Even emptying the dishwasher seemed an enormous task. She is not the only one who has ever felt overwhelmed by the details of daily life!

She decided to have a little fun. She took the back road to work, one never taken before, just to give herself a change of pace and look. The road proved circuitous, mountainous, and small! She kept thinking she should turn around, discipline herself to a regular path -- and stop being so upset about the dishwasher detail that was frightening her so.

As she turned the final corner to reconnect to the main road, a peacock appeared on the road. The tail feathers were fully displayed. She got the point: Seek and ye shall find; knock and the door shall be open to you. She was able to go to work with a different point of view. The very things that had seemed so large before seemed manageable now. The peacock feathers had put them in their proper size and context, one that included God's magnificent creation -- which includes peacocks.

On the way back from France one year, I had a similar experience. We were being served the fancy French lunch that French airlines provide. I looked up to see that the server offering me bread was the pilot. There were his wings, there was his tag, there was his uniform. I panicked a little. "Why aren't you flying the plane?" "Oh," said he, "I needed a change of pace."

When Jesus came to the disciples on the road to Emmaus, he could have said something profound or mysterious. He could have continued as their wisdom figure and once again startled them with his wisdom. Instead, he offered them peace. "Peace be with you." He then asked them what was for breakfast. He made the extraordinary, ordinary.

A little religion goes a long way. I think of cults and the way they magnify the wisdom and peace of Jesus beyond all proportion. Heaven's Gate, for example, took everything that major religions say about life and overdid it. New Age and up-to-the-technological minute, they still got trapped by the oldest sin of all: pride. Like true believers everywhere, Heaven's Gate flew too close to the sun of their own certainty.

Religions of all types see eternity as a continuation of the present moment. They make the ordinary, extraordinary, and vice versa. They take breakfast dishes and place them in the proper context. I think of the Celtic sense of thin or transparent moments, when heaven and earth blend a bit, in an ecstatic experience. In C. S. Lewis' The Lion, The Witch, And The Wardrobe, the children go through a simple door, and there is as an opening to a simultaneous world. Lewis swore that death was just "opening a door." Many of us believe he was right. We don't need to kill ourselves to be picked up by a spaceship.

Where cults go wrong is in their idolatrous appropriation of religious metaphors: they think they know more than God about when heaven and earth intersect. They get too smart. In genuine religious experiences, people become more humble and open. The captain serves bread. But the phony close time: they think they know what God is doing and give themselves the lead in God's script.

Religions of all types do advocate that we write ourselves into the divine script. "I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life," said Jesus. "Follow me." Remembering that we are not God is the trick that lets people be actors in God's holy play. When we confuse ourselves with God and decide that our chariot is coming on a certain day, at a certain time, we move ourselves to a place that looks a lot like heaven but is actually hell. We get like our friend was before she saw the peacock: we occupy too much of the space in our life and forget that the world is larger than our preoccupations.

The hell is aggravated self-control. Genuine religion keeps God in charge of the important stuff, like life and death and appointments with chariots. Genuine religion is, as those now dead believed too hard and too well, a kind of surrender. The devil is tricky: the devil can twist even the good of surrender into the evil of controlling appointments with God.

As established religions become more boring, and more status quo oriented, cults thrive. They thrive by the simple act of coloring a grey world. Established religions, both Jewish and Christian, are more and more obsessed with our own institutional survival. We spend too much of our time being anxious about "why people don't come to church or synagogue any more," thereby creating exactly the scene we are trying to avoid. Pride and self-absorption twist good into evil.

The Divine is divine because it cannot be manipulated either by anxious establishments or by appointments made on-line for end time. When Jesus chooses to join us on our ride, or on our airplane, Jesus will. He will come as bread or breakfast. He will come simply, as he has done before.

When we try to control God with our grandiose fantasies of what God ought to be, we miss the God of the garden, or the God of breakfast, or the God of bread and wine. We miss the God made known to us in the breaking of the bread.

There is a little bit of the cultic and the desire for the dramatic in each of us. We want God to be the star of stage and screen -- but God chose to come as a humble man, a carpenter's son, one identified fully with the little people. God made a grand world of peacocks and comets and airlines -- but chose for best embodiment, a child, a man, a simple one at that.

Little people know that the grace of God is at the core of the universe. We open doors but don't close them on God. We remember how long a way a little goes. We enjoy comets. We don't ride them. We worship a God who comes for breakfast, who doesn't need a three-star restaurant but actually prefers walking with us at the beach.

During this Easter season we need more to right-size our expectations of God -- not downsize them but right-size them. When we are ready to let the ordinary be extraordinary, we will probably receive a visit, just like the disciples did. Thus will the scriptures be opened to us.

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