This is an adapted form of the sermon I preached this morning, the Fifth Sunday of Easter. The reading I preached on was 1 Peter 2:2-10.
Our second reading from 1 Peter says this:
Like newborn infants, long for the pure, spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow into salvation – if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good.1 Peter 2:2-3, New Revised Standard Version
The original audience of this letter were people who indeed knew what it was to long for things. Because these were people who had lost so much. This letter was written toward the end of the first century, a few decades after Jesus died and was raised again. These were new Christians, people who had become part of this new thing, the church. But joining the church in those days wasn’t easy. Christians were persecuted and alienated, looked upon with suspicion.
These people had been loved and respected in their city. But now, because of their faith in Christ…some lost their employment. Some lost their friends. Some lost everything. Everything had changed for them. They weren’t sure how to deal with it. They longed for things to be the way they were. They longed to feel connected. They longed for hope.
I wonder if we’re always longing for something. I looked back at the last time I preached on this text. It was three years ago – the Fifth Sunday of Easter, May 10, 2020. Boy were we longing for things then. Do you remember?
On that day, we longed to see our relatives and friends. Our grandchildren and grandparents. We longed to gather together around a table. We longed to go back to work. We longed to go back to school. We longed to come back to church. We longed to go shopping. To go anywhere.
Amazing how long ago that seems. Most of us don’t long for those things anymore. And yet, we still experience longing, even today, don’t we? There’s always something missing.
Peter wrote to people who were longing, and said, “Like newborn infants, long for the pure, spiritual milk – if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good.”
Take that longing feeling you have, and shift it onto something else. Instead of longing for things to be the way they were, instead of longing for people to treat you right, long instead for God. Because God is like a nursing mother, and God will give you what you need. And the milk that God provides is life. And salvation. And everything you could ever need.
When my child was an infant, I noticed that the only things that were going into their body were milk and rice cereal. That’s all they ate for months. And that meant that every part of their body, their bones and muscles, their heart and brain, were all composed completely out of milk and rice cereal.
I started thinking about what I could make out of those two ingredients. If I took some milk and some rice cereal, I could make something that resembled oatmeal. And I could probably make a smoothie. And maybe, maybe if I left it to dry overnight, I could make some grout. But that’s it. But I held in my arms this beautiful child that God had made out of milk and rice cereal.
I know I’ve told you that story before, but it never ceases to amaze me, what God can do with simple ingredients.
Our second reading from 1 Peter tells us this:
You yourselves are being built like living stones into a spiritual temple.1 Peter 2:2:5, Common English Bible
You are coming to the living stone which is Christ, the cornerstone, and you are being built upon that cornerstone. You are being built into a great structure, into a mighty fortress. Into the church.
Our ever-creating God builds us up out of milk and cereal, oxygen and DNA, molecules and atoms. Builds us up into people, into miracles that live and breathe. And God builds something even greater with us as the ingredients. Like a master mason, God chooses the stones that fit perfectly. God chooses the stones that are needed in the right places and at the right times. And building upon the cornerstone, who is the risen and ever-living Jesus Christ, God builds a church, with the Holy Spirit as the mortar that forever binds us together. And this church, this building, this shelter for the poor, this hospital for the weak, this fortress for the frightened, is God’s gift to the world.
And let me be clear, when I say this church is a building, I’m using building as a metaphor. Because this building that we are gathered in right now is not the church. This is just a place where the church meets. Where the church gathers. Where the church gets recharged and sent out to be the church in the world. Because the church is not a building. You and I are the church.
When I say the church is a shelter for the poor – I don’t mean this building, I mean us. When I say the church is a hospital for the weak – I don’t mean this building, I mean us. When I say the church is a fortress for the frightened, I mean us.
And through us, through the shelter, the hospital, the fortress that is us … God is changing the world.
Our second reading from 1 Peter tells us this:
You are a chosen race. You are a royal priesthood. You are a holy nation. You are God’s own people.1 Peter 2:9, paraphrase
Race doesn’t mean white or black. Priesthood doesn’t mean pastors or deacons. Nation doesn’t mean America or China. Which is good for us, because the people Peter first wrote to were brown-skinned people living in what’s now Turkey. But you are part of this race, this priesthood, this nation, this people, because you are baptized, and God has chosen you to be Jesus’ followers here and now.
God formed you out of the dust. And God breathed life into you. God nourished you with the milk of salvation. And God built you into the church. And our second reading from 1 Peter tells us why:
You have become this people so that you may speak of the wonderful acts of the one who called you out of darkness into his amazing light.1 Peter 2:9, Common English Bible
This is what God does. Calls people out of darkness into the light. We see it throughout the stories of scripture. Remember Joseph, the one with the technicolor dreamcoat? God called to Joseph in his darkness. His brothers had sold him into slavery, and he ended up in an Egyptian prison. God brought him out of the darkness, and placed him in charge of all Egypt, and called him to take care of his brothers. And he did.
Remember David, with the slingshot? God called to David in his darkness. He was the runt of his family, everyone knew he would never amount to anything great. God brought him out of that darkness, and anointed him King of Israel, the greatest king they’d known.
Remember St. Paul, the great writer and teacher of the church? God called to Paul in his darkness. He was originally a brutal persecutor of the church, and on his way to Damascus, God blinded him. As he healed in the home of Ananias, God called him to be the great Apostle to the Gentiles.
God called you in your darkness. And God is calling to you in whatever darkness you might live in now, whatever longing you feel now. Calling to you, saying to you:
Long for me instead.
I am the light. I will guide you.
I am your father and your mother. I will nourish you.
I am the cornerstone, and I am the master builder. I will fashion you and place you where you need to be.
I am the salvation of the world. I will make you my hands and feet, my voice and my heart. And through you, through all of you together, I will change this world.
I am here. I am always here. I am with you. Take my hand. Let’s get going.
One thought on “Longing for God (Sermon)”
I like this description of church as a gathering place.