When I read the passage from 1 Peter earlier this week, the first thing I thought was, “Wow, isn’t that appropriate for Mothers Day.” 1 Peter 2:2-3 (NIV) says, “Like newborn babies, crave spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good.” Like newborn babies crave spiritual milk.
All of us were born from our mothers. Despite the urban legend that has gone around for years, none of us was hatched. Our mothers gave us free room and board for the first nine months of life. Then we were born and between Mom and Dad, we got another twenty or twenty-five years of free room and board; the view was just a little different. Our mothers cared for us, nurtured us and taught us all of the basic life skills that we needed to survive. Sometimes we delighted them and sometimes we frustrated them to no end. But they still loved us just as we should always love them. Today, we celebrate those special women in our lives whom we call mothers. Whether they are still with us or gone to be with God, we owe them an immense debt of gratitude.
Peter reminds us of that when he talks about newborn babies craving milk. As most of you know, Ruth and I became grandparents for the second time just over a month ago. And as we tell everyone, Paisley is adorable and quite perfect. We’re not the only ones who welcomed a new baby into our families in the past few months. Recently Cindy and Steve Ghikadis had a son, Nathan. Brittany and Steve Welker welcomed Rhea. Mike and Naomi Strong were blessed with the birth of Fredrik back in January. John and Pattie Logan will be first time grandparents later this year when Sarah and Jordie meet their new little bundle of joy. And the list could go on. We have had a waft of babies born around here lately and for that we rejoice and give thanks to God. One of the things that they all had in common was that they all began by drinking milk. That was their first food. Whether they were breast fed or formula fed, it doesn’t matter. It all comes down to the same thing. Babies thrive on milk.
Peter wrote, “Like newborn babies, crave spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good.” What Peter is doing here is using the image of babies being fed milk to demonstrate what happens with new Christians. What I didn’t read was a few verses earlier in 1 Peter 1:23 (NIV) where he wrote, “For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God.”
Peter talks about being born again. That’s a common expression among some Christians and we often hear it used to describe what it is like to come to Christ and give your life to him but did you know that it only appears twice in the entire Bible. One is here in 1 Peter and the other is in John 3 where Jesus is talking with Nicodemus. What it’s saying is that coming to Christ is like being born a second time. The first time was a physical birth. The second time is a spiritual birth.
At each of those births it is important to be fed the right food. A new born baby is fed physical milk which is the best thing he or she can have from the mother. New born Christian, on the other hand, are fed not physical milk but spiritual milk. Why? Because just as physical milk is good for a newborn baby spiritual milk is just right for a brand new baby Christian.
But what is spiritual milk? It’s the basic stuff of the faith. It is the food that helps to build the foundations upon which a mature faith is built. As Peter says in 1 Peter 2:2, we are to be given spiritual milk for a reason. It is so that we may grow up in salvation.
But what do I mean by spiritual milk? Just as physical milk provides the foundation for a baby as it begins it’s life, spiritual milk provides the foundation for a new Christian to build a life of faith. That’s what Peter is getting at in 1 Peter 2:5 (NI(V) which says, “… you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” This verse talks about what God wants us to become. He wants us to be a holy priesthood which means that God wants us to live holy lives according to his commandments and precepts. And he wants us to be willing to offer spiritual sacrifices which means that we need to be willing to live sacrificially. We need to be willing to stay faithful to God no matter what it might cost us.
That does not mean that faithfulness requires you to be poor and live in a shack. That’s not true. There are all kinds of very faithful Christians who have loads of resources at their disposal because God has blessed them with material abundance. And those Christians have a special calling on their lives to use their resources for the good of the kingdom. I remember hearing a programme on Focus on the Family a couple of years ago. The host was interviewing a very wealthy man who was also a committed Christian. In fact, he was so wealthy that he could easily support the entire ministry of his local church all by himself. The main theme of the interview, however, was how to be a Christian when you are blessed with abundance. He said that he had to be very careful and discerning when it came to giving his tithe. If he gave his entire tithe to his local church, they would want for nothing and perhaps become complacent. So decided to only support his church up to 10% of it’s financial needs. He sort of tithed his tithe, if you will so that the church would not just become dependent upon him and his generousity. But what did he do with the rest of his tithe? He sought God’s will through prayer and discernment about what missions and ministries that God wanted him to support. And because of that, many, many people were blessed and the gospel of Christ was shared.
Most of us don’t have that problem. Most of us do well to support the local church and a few other ministries with our tithes. And as far as I know, no one in this congregation is that wealthy but I wouldn’t complain if God led someone like that here. The point is that Christianity does not come with vows of poverty. But being faithful means that you remain faithful even if it means that you have to go without some things. That’s what it means to live sacrificially. Each of us must be prepared to give all that we are and have for Jesus.
The more that we mature in faith, the more likely it is that we are able to do that. We don’t become mature Christians over night. It is a life long process but it has to start somewhere and that’s where spiritual milk comes in. It provides the foundation upon which we build the rest of our lives.
So what is spiritual milk? What lays the foundation for a mature life of faith? Let’s look at that and let’s start with worship. Worship is the time when the community of faith gathers to give God praise and glory in a very intentional way. In worship we come together to read scripture, to pray, to sing songs of praise and to hear the word shared. And do you know something else? It’s always more or less been that way. People gather. They pray. They sing. They read the Bible and they listen to a message. Over the years, that form may have changed and the songs may have changed but the essence of it has remained the same.
In worship we realize that we are not meant to be Christians all by ourselves. Christianity is by it’s very nature a communal religion. We are meant to gather together. Think about this for a moment. The book from the Bible that we are talking about is 1 Peter. It’s one of two letters written by Peter that have been preserved by the Church in the Bible. 1 Peter 1:1 tells us that he wrote it to various churches in Asia Minor or modern day Turkey. When those churches received this letter it was probably during worship that it was read to the congregation. It was, if you will, the sermon for the day. That’s why Peter almost always refers to the gather community. All of the pronouns that he uses are plural. In verse 2 he refers to them as new born babies, in verse 5 a living stones, in verse 9 as a chosen people. Again all of these nouns are plural. This letter is written to the gathered community because the community is an important place to get spiritual milk.
Let’s turn to prayer. Prayer provides spiritual milk that will help to lay a strong foundation of faith. In prayer, we connect with God. We get to know God. It is something that we do when we gather for worship but it’s also something that we do when we are alone with God. Prayer is important because when we pray we discover that all sorts of coincidences begin to happen. And then we realize that they are not coincidences at all but they are, rather, answers to prayers. That doesn’t mean that God answers all of our prayers the way we would like him too. But it does mean that he always answers prayers. And every time we experience God answering prayers, we grow in faith because we learn that God is faithful and just, abounding in mercy and love for us all.
Another way to find spiritual milk is to learn how to navigate your way through the Bible. One thing that always surprises me is just how many Christians aren’t all that familiar with the Bible. And I’m not just talking about new Christian. I’ve met lots of people who have been Christians for many year and they just don’t know how to get around it. They may know that there’s an Old Testament and a New Testament. They may be able to tell you that the four gospels are Matthew, Mark, Luke and John but beyond that they’re stuck. And that leads sometimes to some embarrassment because they don’t want others to know just how much they don’t know. And that prevents them from coming to Bible studies where they would learn about the Bible. And that’s really unfortunate because being able to navigate your way around the Bible is key to maturing in faith. I’m not saying that you have to know where every book in the Bible is. To tell you the truth I still have to think about where some of the minor prophets are. If you asked me to read a passage from Obadiah, it might me a few minutes to find it because I can’t tell you the last time I read from Obadiah. So if you want to learn about the Bible, come on out to Bible study. Trust me, you won’t be the only one looking at the index. It’s spiritual milk for Christians.
The last thing I want to mention today about spiritual milk is that it’s important to find a mentor to talk to. By a mentor, I mean someone who is mature in their faith, who has been around for a while and seen the exciting things that can happen when we trust in God and seek to follow Jesus. It’s a great idea to have someone to show you the ropes, guide you and answer some of your questions. That’s a great place to find spiritual milk.
As Peter reminds us, it is important for new Christians to get that spiritual milk that they need so that a firm foundation of faith can be created and built upon as we grow and mature in faith. But we all have to start somewhere and when it comes to faith we start with the basics of spiritual milk.
BEYOND THE MILK
But here’s something else to think about. Hebrews 5:13-14 (NIV) says this: “Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.” These verses contrast milk and solid food. It says that milk is for infants but solid food is for the mature. That’s true no only when we mature physically from babies to adults. It’s also true in our spiritual growth. The writer of Hebrews tells us to get past the milk to the meat of faith if you will.
What is he mean by that? He says that the solid food of faith is connected with what he calls righteousness. This righteousness is about what we do, it is the righteous life that God commands us to live. He goes on to say that it has something to do with being able to distinguish good from evil.
A mature Christian, then, is able to distinguish good from evil. That’s important because if you can’t distinguish good from evil then you will never be able to live the life that God has planned for you. You will never fulfill the purpose for which God put you on this earth. To live the way that God wants you to live, you have to understand what is right and what is wrong by God’s standards. That’s what mature Christians do and that’s where all of us should aim to be.
At it’s very heart Christianity is not a faith that’s all in your head or all in your heart. It is not exclusively a spiritual faith. It’s a faith that impacts every aspect of your being, your body, mind and spirit. It is lived out every day in what you say and do. Mature Christians understand that. They know God’s standards of right and wrong according to the Bible and they make all of their life decisions based on that knowledge.
And here’s the other thing. They also know the difference between God’s standards and the standards of the world and when the standards of the world conflict with God’s standards, they follow God. That’s not to say that they always get it right. There are times when all of us blow it, even the most seasoned Christian, but the goal is to live every day closer and closer to the righteous life that God would have us live.
But here’s one of the problems that I see in many Christians today. They get stuck on the spiritual milk and never get to a mature faith. Do you know where you see that? You see it in the way they live their lives. There is an inconsistency in their views or good and evil, right and wrong. Sometimes they live according to the teachings of the Bible and sometimes they don’t. Sometimes they live by the standards of the world which may or may not be the same as God’s standards. They just go along with the flow of society either because it’s easier or because it feels good or maybe just because they don’t really know what God’s standards of right and wrong are in that particular situation.
Here’s a question. Does that describe you? Do you see that in yourself? If that describes you, I have a word for you about how to deal with it. Go back to the beginning and refresh yourself with some spiritual milk. Go back to the beginning because somewhere along the way you lost your way. Don’t worry about that or feel guilty about it. You’re not the first one to get off track and you won’t be the last. But crave, once again, the spiritual milk that Peter was talking about. Get back to worship on a regular basis. Come to God daily in prayer. Even if it’s only for a few minutes it’s a place to start. Learn how to find stuff in the Bible. It’s actually a lot easier today than it ever was. Just use your phone; it’s called a Bible app. If you know a person who is mature in their faith and you think that they can help you mature, ask them to walk that road with you. Chances are they will say yes and you will find a new friend for life.
It doesn’t matter how old you are or how long ago you gave your life to Christ sometimes you have to right back to the beginning and take that spiritual milk again so that you can rebuild the foundation of faith that probably didn’t get built very well in the first place. And once you have that firm foundation built, use it as the basis to mature in faith and become the person God created you to be. Then you will know right from wrong. Then you will be able to discern God’s standards from the standards of the world. Then you will be able to live every day closer and closer to the way that God wants you to live so that you may fulfill the purpose for which he put you on this earth.
when you do that, not only will you make your Mom proud you will also put a
smile on the face of your Heavenly Father. But it all starts somewhere so crave
that spiritual milk.
PRAYERS OF THE PEOPLE
Loving God, we come as children seeking the pure spiritual milk that only you can offer. We come from our busyness and the stresses of everyday life to find refreshment for our spirits. You, O God, offer us what we can find no where else. You nourish us and nurture us. You give us peace and security. You protect us from the powers that would harm us. You lift us above the difficulties of life and enable us to deal with whatever is thrown our way. Thank you for staying with us. Thank you for walking beside us and never leaving us alone. Even when we forget about you, you do not forget about us. How great and awesome you are.
We offer our thanks for the coming spring. It’s been wet but pray for some drier weather that the farmers may get onto their land to get the seeding done. We also pray for the bees that pollinate our fruit trees in the various orchards in the county. We pray even now for a good harvest this fall, thankful that you hear our prayers.
We also pray and give thanks this morning the for the marriage of Angie and Steve yesterday in Niagara Falls. Bless them, O Lord, as they begin this new stage of their lives together.
And, of course, we thank you for mothers. Each of has someone who was a mother figure for us whether she was our birth mother, adopted mother, grandmother or special friend. Thank you for the work of love that they did on each of us. We also pray for mothers as they continue to nurture their children regardless of what age they might be.
We pray for those who are ill this past week. We especially lift up in prayer Helen Upcott, Don Raymont, Millicent Wormald and Sharon Chalmers. Bless them, O God, with healing and wholeness. Be with their families and calm their fears. Soothe their anxieties and give them the peace that only you can offer.
God of Heaven and Earth, hear our prayers and the prayers of all those
who, in faith, seek you. Feed our hungry souls and lead us onto your path of
peace. We pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.
WORSHIP RESOURCE PAGE
May 14, 2017 / Easter 5 / Mothers Day
Psalm 31:1-5, 15-16; John 14:1-14; Acts 7:55-60;1 Peter 2:2-10
CALL TO WORSHIP
God is our Rock; the stronghold of our lives.
God is our Rock; the foundation of our salvation.
Come, let us worship him in Spirit and in truth.
PRAYER OF APPROACH
We come to you, O God of Life, as newborns awaiting your spiritual milk. Come and quench our thirst. Feed us with your Spirit. Refresh us by your streams of living water. We need your hand to hold us and your light to lead us if we are grow and mature in faith, hope and love. Enter our worship. Enter our hearts. Renew our lives by your Holy and Indwelling Presence. Amen.
PRAYER OF CONFESSION
We seek your presence, even in the midst of our own sinfulness. Like our ancestors, we turn away from your prophets when they say those things that we do not want to hear. Our resistance to change leads us to ridicule those who call us to holiness. We prefer the familiar and the comfortable even if they are not your ways. Forgive us, O God of Mercy, when we stumble and fall. Pick us up and set our feet back upon the way of life. Amen.
ASSURANCE OF PARDON
The Glory of Christ is like a shining star in the dark skies of night. It twinkles and glows and gives us reason for hope. Be assured that that glory is able to overcome even the greatest sin. In Jesus, we have forgiveness and reconciliation with God, with one another and with all Creation.
DEDICATION OF OFFERING
Your gifts, O God, are greater than our imagination. We cannot begin to comprehend what you have given and done for us. Our desire is that you would take what we have and use it for your purpose. May your love and your compassion be shown in our gifts and our lives. Amen.
God’s love is everlasting. God’s mercy is eternal. God calls us to live our lives with love and mercy for all people. Be born again as new creations in Christ, not only today but everyday. Live the lives that God has called us to live.