5th Sunday of Easter, year A, 2014 (preached May 18, 2014)
first reading: Acts 7:55-60
Psalm 31:1-5, 15-16
second reading: 1 Peter 2:2-10
gospel reading: John 14:1-14
I’ve been thinking about babies lately. My son turns eight on Saturday – my babies are growing up.
There are some good things about that for sure, but there are some sad and worrisome things too. Within weeks of my son turning eight, my oldest will be affirming her baptism in the Rite of Confirmation.
I’m bouncing between a growing child who is infinitely inquisitive and believes I know EVERYTHING, and the teenager who increasingly believes I know very little and SHE knows everything!
Where is all this heading you may be asking yourselves? What does my reflecting about babies, and growing children, have to do with our worship today?
Throughout the week I kept coming back to our second reading. It begins, “Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow into salvation – if you have indeed tasted that the Lord is good.”
We all now how difficult infants can be when they’re hungry. And we all know how their disposition changes when they’re finally fed. And we know that if an infant is fed, it will be healthy, and grow and change and grow some more.
In our second reading, this is the image we’re given – of us as newborn babies who are well-fed, satisfied, and growing – the picture of health.
Just as an infant needs “material” food to grow and be strong and healthy, in 1 Peter we’re told that we need “spiritual” milk to grow and stay strong and healthy spiritually.
And what is our “spiritual milk?” What practices, what food, helps us grow and stay strong and healthy in the faith? I see four.
1) We have the Word of God found in Holy Scripture.
2) We have worship, during which we give our very selves over TO God, and receive FROM God within a community of faith.
3) We have the sacraments, especially Holy Communion, in which Jesus literally feeds us with HIS very self.
4) And we have prayer, in which we share with God, give thanks, present our worries and fears – and also LISTEN for God.
Just as neglect of an infant’s physical needs can result in failure to thrive, neglect of our spiritual food can result in our failure to thrive in faith no matter how old we are.
To be a disciple of Jesus means that we are in a LIFELONG relationship of love and learning with our Lord and in lifelong service to him. We can never know all there is to know. We can never completely comprehend the majesty and mystery of God.
1) The Bible. I don’t know anyone who believes they understand everything in the Bible. I certainly don’t. Even the greatest biblical scholars are constantly searching, constantly reaching to understand more.
The Bible is a gift to us that is filled with the richness of the stories of God’s people. The Scriptures help us get a glimpse of God’s nature, the Bible shows us Jesus. In reading and wrestling with Scripture we grow and stretch out of our comfort zones to see God at work in the lives of people just like us, and people who are definitely NOT like us but who God loves equally.
2) Worship. SO many people miss out on so much by neglecting worship. Now there are those who say we can worship on the golf course or in the mountains or at the beach – but do they?
How many folks do you know that read Scripture or sing songs of faith or pray for the WORLD (not just for a good round) on the golf course?
Contrary to what some would like to believe, we’re not called to be Christians in solitude. In Peter’s letter we’re given the image of ourselves as STONES, that together are built into a spiritual house. There can be no house with just one stone.
Being part of a church isn’t always easy. We can get caught up in personality differences, in all the STUFF that has to get done, and the work of running the “business” of the church, especially in a small congregation like ours.
But this is why worship is SO important. It reminds us why we work so hard. It reminds us that there is something at work here that is bigger than ourselves – and our worship together gives us strength from God and from one another to go out and face another day.
3) The sacraments are a vital part of any growth or health or strength in faith. Even though we believe in only one baptism – every time we witness a baptism we can be reminded of the promises God made to us at the font. And in Holy Communion we are continually renewed in faith through the forgiveness of sins imparted at Christ’s table.
They are the means by which God gives grace and forgiveness to each one of us, a way that God comes to you and me as individuals and as a community.
4) And we have prayer. Prayer is something we do together AND individually. We share our inmost fears and desires, and we pray together for unknown numbers of people we will never meet.
And we listen. The listening is the hardest part, at least for me. It’s the part that stretches us to grow the most – because we can never be quite sure what God is going to say.
As we receive our spiritual milk, Peter’s letter tells us we “grow into salvation.” Now, growing into salvation doesn’t mean working at our salvation. It doesn’t mean we’re earning it – it means we are constantly in the process of discovering what our salvation means.
Growing into salvation means being fed so that we are strong and healthy enough to explore all the layers of who this Jesus God-person was and is, for us and for the world.
Growing into salvation means allowing God to feed us through all of the means of grace – through the Word, worship, sacraments and prayer – so that we may be drawn ever closer to Jesus and to one another.
In this wonderful faith we have, centered on the miraculous love of Christ, we have a lifetime to learn and grow and love. Praise be to God!