Summary: We are called by God to be in community with each other. We are each a spiritual stone used by God to build the church. There’s no such thing as an individual Christian.
Imagine a world where coming to church meant risking your life, a world where professing belief in Christ was the same as signing your own death sentence. Although that might be hard for us to comprehend, it is that world that our scripture invites us into this morning. 1 Peter was a letter written to a group of Christians who were facing serious and life-threatening persecution. The letter’s writer was an expert in such matters. Peter was one of Jesus’s most trusted disciples, and watched helplessly as his master was tortured and killed. It was too much for Peter to bear, and he ultimately denied knowing Jesus to save his own skin. But after the resurrection, Peter went from cowering disciple to towering apostle, and became one of the leaders in the fledgling Christian movement.
One of Peter’s tasks was to keep in contact with believers in Christ who were spread throughout the world. The letter of 1 Peter is one example of that. Peter encouraged them to keep the faith, even while they were being targeted by the Romans. You see, after the Great Fire of Rome in 64 AD, emperor Nero, who was rumored to be fiddling during the blaze, was looking for a scapegoat, to take the heat off of him. And he found his perfect prey in the Christians. He blamed them for all the empire’s troubles, including the fire, and started a merciless campaign of persecution that would devastate the movement. In fact, both Paul and Peter would be killed during this time. But before his death, Peter wrote to as many people as he could, reminding them that the are God’s children and should suffer their persecution knowing that they belong to a power far greater than Nero’s. One of the ways Peter does this in our passage today is through the metaphor of spiritual milk.
Anyone with children can relate to Peter’s words. Leigh and I certainly can as we work on teaching Sydney the language of faith. She’s learning pretty well. She can recite her way through the Lord’s prayer, and knows “Jesus Loves Me.” I remember when she first tried to sing, “Amazing Grace,” she would sing, “Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a scratch like me…” We say a blessing before every dinner, and pray each night before going to bed. She wasn’t born a spiritual giant or theological genius, although I know with her pedigree she’ll become one. She’s still an infant in faith, learning the vocabulary and craving that spiritual milk. And with persistence on our part and curiosity on her part, through God’s grace her faith will continue to grow.
That’s how it is with all of us. We’re all at different places in our faith. I didn’t start attending church regularly until college. Even as a young adult I was a spiritual infant. Some of us are taking in a healthy diet of spiritual disciplines: prayer, meditation, scripture reading. Others of us are still infants, only able to digest the spiritual milk of God’s word we hear on Sunday. That’s wonderful; we all have to start someplace. And as we continue to nurse on God’s word, and learn the vocabulary of faith, we will grow. We know the language….Our father, who art in heaven…praise God, from whom all blessings flow…this is my body, broken for you…as we hear and say those words, we’ll continue to grow in our faith, maturing from infants into spiritual adults.