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Sermon: Long for the Pure Spiritual Milk (1 Peter 2)

by PastorWilliams on May 14th, 2017

* Order of Service: Prayer & Preaching

* Hymns: LSB #722, 646, 895

LONG FOR THE PURE SPIRITUAL MILK

SERMON TEXT: Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up to salvation. (1 Peter 2:2)

Christ is risen! (He is risen indeed! Alleluia!)

St. Peter tells his readers, “Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk.”1 Peter yearns for all Christians to continue through life, no matter how long they’ve been in Christ, “like newborn infants.” Infants are completely dependent upon their parents for everything they need to survive in this life. No matter your age, you are an infant of your Heavenly Father and your mother Church. Everything we have and need is supplied by God. As we say in the First Article, “He richly and daily provides me with all that I need to support this body and life…. All this He does only out of fatherly, divine goodness and mercy.” The majority of the immaterial blessings everyone seeks after come through the Church, as we see in the Third Article. Faith. Hope. Love. Community. Peace. These things exist outside the Church, but they only find their true meaning in the Church. St. Peter points out that you are dependent on God and the Church for the things you need to survive and thrive in this world.

In your dependence, you have a longing for spiritual nourishment. Peter understands that longing. Even though he’s writing this epistle decades after Jesus called him, Peter still has the same longing. Even though Peter is an Apostle and a pastor in the Christian church, he still has the longing for the pure spiritual milk.

Milk is the basic food of life. The first food received by newborn infants. Milk doesn’t need to be chewed or cut into small bites. It’s already in the most basic, perfect form for easy consumption. You need spiritual milk as a Christian. You can read your Bible daily. You can read a devotion like Portals of Prayer. You can listen to good confessional sermons. You can engage in discussions of the faith with your neighbors. All of these should be based on the pure spiritual milk of the Gospel.

The pure spiritual milk that tells you, “Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.”2 Jesus came down to rescue you from the depths of your sin. He came to give you mercy while you were His enemy.3 Mercy through salvation. Salvation for those who sought to kill Him. His disciples deliver the same spiritual milk. In very similar conditions.

St. Stephen delivered the spiritual milk as the stones were being hurled at him. Stephen preached the Gospel in the worst place imaginable. Jerusalem. The backyard of the chief priests who had crucified Jesus. Within five years of the crucifixion. To the very people who may have incited the crowd to shout, “Crucify him!” A very hostile group, but Stephen boldly preached. His sermon would become his lasting testimony.

Emboldened by his eyewitness to this proclamation, “Saul [of Tarsus] was ravaging the Church, entering house after house.”4 A few years later, he would see the Light. The crucified Jesus would appear to him. Stop him in his tracks. Turn him completely around. We would not have Stephen’s sermon had a repentant Paul not made sure that it was in the book of Acts. The zeal with which Saul persecuted the Church is the same zeal Paul used to proclaim the pure spiritual milk to Jew and Gentile alike.

According to Church tradition, St. Peter proclaimed the pure spiritual milk in Rome. Helped build up the Church in the imperial capital. Which he calls Babylon.5 The place where God had sent His Old Testament Church into exile. Today’s best parallel would be the pastor of a church in Mecca, where Islam began. Where it is illegal to meet as a congregation. Where the very suspicion that you are preaching the pure spiritual milk of the Christian Gospel is the only necessary ground for the death penalty. In Rome, Peter gladly faced death. Not long after writing his two epistles. He was sentenced to be crucified. Just like Jesus. He begged to be crucified upside down.

Today, thousands of Christians suffer persecution for their faith around the world. Not only in Muslim countries. Not only in Communist countries. Right here in the United States. Where we have the constitutional right to the free exercise of religion. That freedom is upheld right up until the pure spiritual milk is proclaimed. It doesn’t matter how “tolerant” someone claims to be. Once the pure spiritual milk of Christ’s death and resurrection is proclaimed, the persecutions begin. No one has been put to death for their beliefs in America. But how many people have had their livelihoods destroyed for their Christian beliefs? The ones that have made the news are just the tip of the iceberg. Not surprising most of them have been on the coasts. But it’s not too far for the Midwest. Not too far away for Minnesota. What happens when the persecutions come knocking at your door?

How can you and I withstand the persecutions that we suffer today? “Like living stones [you] are being built up as a spiritual house.”6 The Church is the mother of all believers. She has conceived and given birth to Christians in the waters of Baptism. She teaches the faith by delivering the pure spiritual milk of the Gospel. She nurtures you as you grow into salvation.

Through the waters of Baptism, the Church does conceive and give birth to every Christian. This is why we have placed Baptism on such a high pedestal. Baptism makes us brothers and sisters with each other and with Christ. Children of the same heavenly Father. Baptism’s new birth of water and the Spirit conceives and gives birth to the new man or new woman that emerges in Christ. The new man or woman who longs for the pure spiritual milk.

Answering that longing, the Church delivers the pure spiritual milk. She brings pastors into congregations to preach the pure spiritual milk. She brings brothers and sisters together so that they may build one another up. Therefore we proclaim and confess “the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting” in the Creed. This is where we find comfort and peace. This is where the pure spiritual milk flows. Even at a funeral, we pray to God for the comfort of these gifts to be continued to us.7 Why are things things important? Because they are the means through which the Holy Spirit makes us holy by delivering the pure spiritual milk.

Through these means, the Church nurtures you as you grow into salvation. Lutherans are often short-sighted and see salvation only as part of justification. But it is part of sanctification as well. Salvation is a process that continues throughout life. This is why congregation members are disheartened when the young people stop coming to worship after they’re confirmed. They aren’t done with their salvation. They aren’t done growing in Christ. They aren’t done with their need for worship and Bible study. Their “living stone” is just a small pebble. It still has room for growth. All living things seek growth in their existence. Christian faith is no different. Faith comes from the living and active Word of God.8 The Word of God, delivered through the pure spiritual milk, builds you up into a stronger, larger stone. An example to the world around you. A beacon of hope in a world awash with despair. Because you have faith. You have the pure spiritual milk. And you want to share it with others.

As one stone in His spiritual house, you are built upon Jesus, the chosen and precious cornerstone.9 The cornerstone from which flows the pure spiritual milk. The spiritual milk every Christian should long for. This milk is the basis of life in Christ. It is the bond that links us together. It is the hope in which we stand.

Christ is risen! (He is risen indeed! Alleluia!) Amen.

11 Peter 2:2

21 Peter 2:10

3Romans 5:6-8

4Acts 8:3

51 Peter 5:13

61 Peter 2:5

7PCC p. 117

8Romans 10:17; Hebrews 4:12

91 Peter 2:6

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