Deuternomy 30: 15-20 Rev. Dr. Galen E. Russell III
1 Corinthians 3: 1-9 February 12, 2017
“So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth.”
Prayer: O God, may we choose to be strengthened by your rejuvenating spirit. In Christ we pray, Amen.
Last Sunday, while watching the Super Bowl, a couple whom I married years ago was there with their new baby. When little Zaria got hungry, her mother, quite naturally began discretely to feed her. It has long been known that babies fed with their mother’s milk in the first weeks and months of their lives has enormous health benefits for the baby. I read that Mother’s milk is a nearly perfect mix of vitamins, sugar, proteins, and fat. It also has antibodies that help the baby ward off diseases, and in some cases, can prevent the baby from getting a disease all together. “Specific maternal immune cells in the mother’s milk cross the wall of the baby’s intestine to enter an immune organ called the thymus. Once there, they “educate” developing cells to attack the same infectious organisms to which the mother has been exposed” (https://www.universityofcalifornia.edu/news/benefits-mothers-milk, retrieved February 10, 2017).
Not only that, an intimate bond between mom and baby is developed, one that is rarely broken for the duration of a life time.
And, of course, baby gets instant gratification, right? Immediate needs are met. Mom quenches baby’s hunger providing physical, emotional, and spiritual nourishment right on the spot. Mom provides the means for the baby to grow. All that was going on in a beautiful way last Sunday, and I would guess in thousands of households everywhere around the world.
Paul’s message was spiritual milk to the new Christians at Corinth. That message was that the Good News of Jesus Christ is Jesus the Redeemer. Christ has redeemed them and us and the whole human race, meaning, as I understand it, that even though we have the ability to make our lives one hot mess, even though we are hopelessly caught in our inherent tendency to make something other than God the god or gods in our lives, being redeemed means that God no longer holds that part of our human nature against us. We are forgiven for it. So, our ability to make ourselves and our free will our god can no longer disconnect us from God or God’s love. Amen!
Which means, that God and human being, like mom and baby, can develop an intimate bond, one that cannot be broken for the duration of a life time. And, just as Mom quenches hunger by providing physical, emotional, and spiritual nourishment right on the spot for the baby, so God does for us in our spiritual lives. God provides what is necessary for us to grow on our spiritual journeys.
Because as redeemed people, God is very close… as close as the air we breathe, providing spiritual love, presence, guidance, wisdom to us personally—all the time.
And, the good news of God is also that having God in our lives is like receiving antibodies in mother’s milk—the Spirit educates our inner spirit to fight against and overcome any infectious diseases of the spirit, like any message, cultural, spiritual, or otherwise, that says you’re not good enough for God to love you. You haven’t earned God’s love. God has abandoned you. None of these messages and others like it are true.
When, as individuals, we come to understand and accept that Jesus is our Redeemer, and we stand before God with nothing held against us, well, that’s cause to jump for joy! It’s the “Oh what a feeling!” jump! It’s the “I’m walking on sunshine” feeling. God loves me! I love God! I’ve been redeemed! I’ve chosen life! I’ve chosen to live in God’s grace, to share in God’s prosperity and blessing!”
I remember when I first encountered the love of God and knew I was redeemed by Christ. I was on cloud nine! It was back in the early 70’s when the national UCC sponsored what was called Lay Witness Missions. These lay “witnesses of the gospel” who were thesepeople who went all around the country to churches and youth groups. In our youth group, there were witnesses by the names of… I think one was named Keith, maybe another named, Guy, and a bunch of others I can’t remember… all sharing the love of Christ. And, I accepted Christ as my Lord and Savior. And, it was wonderful! I chose God! I was thrilled that the “land” that God promised for me was indeed God’s eternal realm when my body would cease to live on earth!
I found new life. I was changed. I was happier than ever before! I sang,” I’ve been redeemed by the blood of the lamb!” And all that! God quenched my spiritual hunger by providing for me this spiritual milk of the gospel.
Now some of you might be thinking, “Wait. What? That’s the spiritual milk? I thought that was the meat of the gospel, the solid food.” It’s easy to get the two mixed up. However, just as a baby needs to be weaned off of mother’s milk and must start eating cereal, so it is with our spiritual lives.
And, indeed, some churches get stuck only in the spiritual milk of the gospel when the message is only about your personal gain, your personal spiritual well-being. For some churches, that personal gain message morphs into messages that God wants to make you prosperous. God wants to make you wealthy. God answers the prayers of the faithful. God wants to make you victorious, not a victim, and other such catchy phrases.
Maybe some of that might be true, but I don’t believe the benefits of personal spiritual well-being is the solid food of the gospel we’re to supposed to digest. Simply put, you know you’re ready to take on the solid food of the gospel when you realize that it’s not all about you receiving all that God offers. Instead of thinking, “What’s in it for me now that God is in my life,” we know it’s time for solid food when we are at the place, “What’s in it for God now that God is in my life.”
I believe God quenches our spiritual hunger with solid food when we devote ourselves to God and God’s purposes, no matter what those purposes might be. My thoughts are that our interests are to be in what God is interested in, and that is almost always the well-being of others—especially those stuck in unjust, or unfair, or inhospitable or intolerant circumstances. And, zeroed in on God, we trust God to quench our spiritual hunger no matter what happens to us as we give of ourselves and we give love away.
Three weeks before Christmas, the San Antonio Mennonite Church in Texas tore down its nativity scene to make room for an influx of immigrantsunexpectedly being discharged from a local detention center. The pastor joked that the church replaced its fake nativity scene with a real one. The women and children are from families—primarily from Central America—who came to the U.S. border seeking asylum from violence back home. They can’t go back because they live under death threats and rape threats. They can’t come in because they are undocumented, but they were released from the detention center some say because of a Texas law which says immigration centers can’t be child-care facilities. The center denies that, saying that the release was part of normal operations. At any rate, the church opened up its doors, its rooms, sanctuary, and hallways to accommodate the immigrants. And, God provided in such a way that food poured in from the neighborhood and around the city. People showed up with food, coats, blankets. Others arrived at the church midweek to help organize volunteers and donations (http://mennoworld.org/2016/12/12/news/san-antonio-church-finds-room-for-refugee-influx/, retrieved February 11, 2017). You see? Physical needs were being met for the immigrants while Christmas arrived in the hearts of those Mennonites who were tending to them. They gave of their time, energy, and dedication. God quenched their spiritual hunger with the solid food of the gospel. When you give away God’s love in action and word, God ends up giving you more love to give.
See God doesn’t necessarily want you to be poor. God doesn’t necessarily want you to be prosperous. God wants you. God may engineer your circumstances that make you poor, or vice-versa, that make you wealthy. But, I believe God wants you—to give Christ and his holy love away. To exhaust ourselves spiritually.
As you know, in our church and ministry at Christ Church over the last several months we’ve been dealing with a lot of funerals. And, I have to admit, I’ve felt spiritually exhausted. But, as I thought about it, it’s like God is saying to me, “I mean to exhaust you! I intend to use you for my purposes. I will spiritually impoverish you. But remember, your replenishment is in me. I will quench your hunger; I will cause your spiritual growth so that you may give my love away again to another person in need. They will drain my life that lives in you, again, until they learn to draw on me directly, until they learn that I will quench their spiritual hunger, as well.”
I don’t remember Keith or Guy very well, except that they gave away the spiritual milk of God’s love to me. Which was good news for me. The Mennonites church members aren’t anything except that God worked through them with a common purpose when they treated
the immigrants justly and kindly. Which was good news for immigrants. God exhausts Pastor Fred and me and many of you because we’re all God’s servants reaching out to those grieving or are in need in our church. Which is good news for those stricken with grief, those whose needs are profound.
For all of us, our solid spiritual food is in Christ. We have spiritual milk to share because Christ lives in us. God will feed us and quench our spiritual hunger as we give Christ and his love away to those in need. They will draw from Christ who lives in you and me. For their sake, are all your spiritual supplies found in God? Amen