Easter 2 – "Like Newborn Infants" – John 20:19-30 – 4/3/16

sermon-4-3-16

Hospital Nursery
Each of the six Sundays’ that follow Easter Sunday have been given a name that sets the tone for the Church’s worship on that particular Sunday. Names like, “Misericordias Domini,” (mercy of the Lord); “Jubilate” (rejoice); “Cantate” (sing); “Rogate” (pray); and “Exaudi”(listen).
Today, the 1st Sunday after Easter, has what most be the most delightful name – it’s“Quasimodogeniti Sunday” It means “like newborn infants.”

The name comes from 1 Peter 2:2, which was the antiphon verse that we heard in the Introit this morning. “Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up to salvation, if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good.”

The historical connections to this 1st Sunday after Easter are pretty rich. In the Early Church, the Catechumens were baptized on Easter Eve. Easter Eve marks the END OF THE OLD and the BEGINNING OF THE NEW. The OLD AGE of sin and death have come to their LAST DAY and the NEW AGE of forgiveness and life begin anew as Christ is raised from the dead.

So, the Catechumens were baptized on Easter Eve as they, quite literally, move from the OLD to the NEW as they are taken into Jesus Christ Himself. As the baptized come out of the water, they were given a WHITE ROBE to wear which reminded them that they no longer wore the FILTHY RAGS that stunk of their sin. All that had been washed away and they were not to wear them any longer. The WHITE ROBE reminded them that they were now CLOTHED IN THE RIGHTEOUSNESS OF CHRIST.

They would wear that robe for a week – 7 days. And then on the 8th day, the day stands outside of time itself, they would take the robe off and put on their street clothes again. But as they did so, the Bishop would admonish them with the words of St. Peter, “Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up to salvation, if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good.”

In Holy Baptism, we are ‘born again.’ No matter how young or old you were when you went into the water, when you came out, you were “like a newborn infant.” Not physically of course. That would be pretty weird, wouldn’t it Nicodemus? But spiritually.

‘Newborn infants’ need to eat. Some take right to it and others need some coaxing. For most, as soon as they get a taste for eating, they ‘long to be fed,’ and sometimes, at the most inconvenient times – 2am, 3am, 4am.

It’s the same for ‘newborn’ Christians. They need to eat. And they need to eat the ‘right food,’ ‘healthy food,’ spiritual food that is nourishes the spirit. ‘Junk food’ is not good for newborn infants. And it’s not good for grown up adults either. “Pure spiritual milk” is what we need to be fed – regardless of how young or old you are.

So, there’s a very real sense in that the Baptized are never weaned from nursing on the “pure spiritual milk” of the holy gospel. We never outgrow our need for it.

So when we come together for worship, the sanctuary is like a hospital nursery filled with ‘newborn infants’ who are all just waiting to be fed with “pure spiritual milk.” It’s like a nest full of baby birds, with cocked, mouths open, “longing” for our Lord to drop His food into our mouths that we may “grow up” to the salvation that is already ours through holy baptism.

There’s a myth that has been going around for some time now that it’s not good to remain like newborn infants in your faith. Eventually we’re supposed to grow up and be mature and stop acting like babies who “cry to the Lord day and night” for His word of mercy and grace. ‘I forgive all of your sins.’ ‘Peace be with you.’ ‘I am right here with you and I will never leave you.’ ‘You are my child and I will always love you.’ (Luke 18:7)

Truth is, we’re never so grown up and mature in our faith than when we are like newborn infants who know just how totally dependant on Jesus we are and ‘long’ to be fed with the ‘pure spiritual milk’ of His gospel. The more you’re fed, the more you long for more. And the more you drink in, the more you grow up in your salvation. And the more you grow up in your salvation the more you realize what a little baby you are and you never stop “crying to the Lord day and night” for more “pure spiritual milk.”

That might be the best way to look at the church that’s gathered together behind locked doors. “On the evening of the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews…” Their Lord had been snatched away from them, nailed to a cross and sealed in a tomb. Who will feed them? How will they survive? They’re huddled together in fear “like newborn infants.”

Certainly not the picture of the mature, grown up church we like to brag to others about. Plenty say that this is the picture of a church in big trouble, you’re never going to grow with that kind of attitude. They need a new vision, a new program, a new book to read, they need to grow up.

In fact, the only thing this church has going for it is – JESUS COMES TO THEM. The only thing this congregation has going for it is – EVERYTHING and THE ONLY THING THAT MATTERS.

He walks right into their fear. He comes right through the locked doors and into their pathetic little sanctuary. He doesn’t even bother to knock or wait for them to invite Him to come into their hearts. He just comes to His dear children and begins to feed them with PURE SPIRITUAL MILK. “Peace be with you.”

It’s 100% pure. Not additives. No scolding, no conditions, no hoops they must first jump through. Pure grace. Pure gospel.

They had been so bold and courageous before when they fed themselves with delusions and lies about themselves. When He had told them that He must go to Jerusalem where He would be handed over to the authorities to be crucified, Thomas was the big, brave adult who said to all the others, “Let us go with Him that we may die with him.” (John 11:16). But as soon as the soldiers with their heavy armor and weaponry showed up, the all ran away. And I wouldn’t be surprised if Thomas wasn’t the first.

And then, early that morning, some of the women had told them His body was not where it should be and that some angels told them that He had risen from the dead and, one of them said that she spoke with Him and that He told her to tell them to go to Galilee where He would meet them.

Which all sounds like thrilling news – unless you’ve abandoned Him or denied Him or ignored Him or cheated on Him or told Him you loved Him and gave Him your list of what you wanted Him to do for you and then left Him because He didn’t do as He was told, as quickly as you thought He should. And now HE WANTS TO MEET WITH ME.
Oh, how like newborn babies they longed for His pure spiritual milk. And that’s just what He gives them. “Peace be with you.” “It’s okay, it’s okay, my little babies. Drink deeply my little children. Peace be with you.” Here is the richest crème that money cannot buy that alone can satisfy the hungry heart.

But it’s like these little lambs don’t recognize their shepherd. Or maybe it’s all just too good to be true. They’re still not sure, not ready to believe, not ready to drink. They need some coaxing. “When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. THEN THE DISCIPELS WERE GLAD WHEN THEY SAW THE LORD.”

This is what makes His peace REAL PEACE. “He was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us PEACE, and with His WOUNDS we are healed.” (Is.53:5).

“Pure spiritual milk” comes at a price and it’s not cheap, even if we treat it as if it were not worth much. It is more precious than all the gold and silver in the world. It cost the Son of God His very life. And He paid it GLADLY – for you, His little babies, that you would not hunger or thirst but be satisfied.

A second time Jesus speaks His word of peace. “Peace be with you.” Now that they have TASTED THAT THE LORD IS GOOD and gracious and merciful and abounding in steadfast love, now they’re ready to go and be disciples and feed others with the same “pure spiritual milk” that they themselves continue to crave.

“As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” “And He breathed on them and said, ‘receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them they are not forgiven.”

In the beginning, He breathed this same breath into the lifeless man of dust – and the man became a living being. Now, again, He breathes on these dry bones and they rise to new life in Him and are ready to unlock the door go out into the world and feed others with the ‘pure spiritual milk’ that they have been so wonderfully fed.

What a strange and remarkable thing this ‘one, holy, Christian and apostolic church’ is – a movement of ‘newborn infants’ entrusted with feeding ‘newborn infants’ with the ‘pure spiritual milk’ of the gospel.

Seems as though the first little baby they go to was Thomas who, for some reason, wasn’t in church that Sunday. They tell him the good news but Thomas can’t believe it. The APOSTOLIC WORD is not enough for him. “What, you think I’m an infant or something?” He’s a mature grown up who doesn’t believe in crazy stories. “Unless I see the nail marks in His hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe it.”

So, “eight days later,” which is today, Thomas is in church with the others. Once again the disciples are in the room with the doors locked. Still afraid. Still unsure. Like newborn babies, they don’t learn things the first time. Things have to be repeated, over and over again, week after week.

Eventually, they would open the doors and they would be treated to the same rejection and suffering and death as their Lord. But by then, their faith had matured and they consider it an honor to counted worthy to share in His sufferings and death.

But on this night, Thomas was with them and Jesus once again entered the room, right through the doors and feeds His little babies with His pure spiritual milk once again. “Peace be with you.”

Once again, He shows everyone His wounds. And then He invites Thomas to touch and see and stop acting like a big, strong adult and start acting like a little baby. “And Thomas answered him, ‘My Lord and my God.’” Not bad for a baby’s first words.

Tradition tell us that after the day of Pentecost, Thomas traveled all the way to India where he fed men and women, boys and girls, with the ‘pure spiritual milk’ of the gospel of Jesus Christ – crucified for our sins, raised for our peace. There, he was martyred – a spear thrust through his side. To this day, there exists in India a church that calls themselves, “Christians of St. Thomas.”

The same crucified and risen Lord Jesus comes into this room to be with us today – coming right through whatever locked doors we are hiding behind in fear. By His words and His wound and His breath, He feeds us with His “pure spiritual milk” that we “long for.” Peace be with you.

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