Fifth Sunday of Easter May 6-7, 2023
“Babies and Buildings” I Peter 2:2-10
Rev. John R. Larson Ascension Lutheran Church Littleton, Colorado
When Pastor Michael Paulison was here the middle of February, he was asked a question in Bible Class for which he had quite an interesting answer. Pastor Mike heads up Mission Experience in Haiti. He helps run an orphanage and a school in that impoverished county. The question that was raised was how success was measured in what he was doing. He said normally ministries use three criteria to evaluate if they are meeting their goals. The three are butts, bucks and buildings. Butts – number of people. Bucks – how much money people are willing to give. Buildings – what new structures have you built. Butts, bucks, buildings. But Pastor Mike said there has to be a greater measurement of whether or not God’s will is being done in a ministry.
Peter, in my estimation, suggests two. Keeping with the letter “B”, I’ve chosen “Babies and Buildings”. God’s success, not ours, but His, is found in two words today. Babies. Buildings.
“Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good.” (I Peter 2:2-3) When a little baby is hungry they don’t accept reasonable compromises. The mom may say to the famished infant, “Can’t you just wait ten minutes? “It really isn’t convenient to feed you here.” “You just ate!!” “Look at my watch – your next feeding isn’t until the big hand gets up to the twelve.” No, it doesn’t work that way. And God says that His working in us, to bring us His many gifts, to feed our soul, comes with our constant craving. One commentator said it is like us having an unrestrained hunger.
Jesus had much to say about newborn babies and children. In Matthew 18 Jesus is asked this question and gives a great answer, “At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven? He called a little child and had him stand among them. And he said, ‘I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.’” (Verses 1-4)
How do we know if God is doing what He wants to do here, among us? How do we know if His will is being done within each one of us? As newborn babies we know we are dependent on God for everything. We have nothing to offer Him but we are craving, spiritually, everything He has to bring us. The forgiveness of our sins, the cleansing of our mind and soul, our hope for eternal life in heaven is ours in our one hope – Jesus Christ. Jesus doesn’t applaud children because they are so innocent. He directs us to follow their ways because they are so needy. “Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation.”
Babies and Buildings – the mark of God’s working. But I’m not talking about buildings like brick, mortar, ceilings and windows. No, I’m talking about a permanent building, something eternal – the hearts and souls of people. Your body. Your mind. The dwelling place of God’s Holy Spirit. Peter writes, “As you come to him, the living Stone – rejected by men but chosen by God and precious to him – you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” (I Peter 2:4-5)
If you drive around Denver and the suburbs you are sure to see some demolition company taking down some house or apartment or commercial building. Those things aren’t permanent. This is. We are. That is what makes all of human life, every one of us, every one of them, important and treasured. We are a “spiritual house, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.”
On Thursday the artists guild who have been coming here every week for decades wanted to know more about the Boy Scout Troop that has been here for longer than they. They had seen the plaque over the water fountain (or, as you people from the Midwest call it – a “bubbler”) that had the names of the Eagle Scouts listed. As we spoke they mentioned the dedication not just of the youth that earned that award but also the involvement and sacrifice that was made by their parents. The boys would not have gotten all those merit badges and their final award of Eagle Scout if others were not supportive.
You are only as strong as your foundation. Peter talks like this about the foundation stone of Jesus Christ, “See, I lay a stone in Zion, a chosen and precious cornerstone, and the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame.” (I Peter 2:6, quoting Isaiah 28:16) Psalm 127:1 says, “Unless the Lord builds the house, its builders labor in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the watchman stand guard in vain.”
St. Paul when writing to the Corinthians spoke about how to build a building that will last, “By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as an expert builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should be careful how he builds. For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ.” (I Corinthians 3:10-11)
But not everyone has a foundation that is solid. Not every kid has a parent who will get involved in their life. Not everyone has a faith in Jesus their Savior. Peter speaks about the difference between those whose life is built strong on the foundation of Jesus and His death for our sins and His resurrection for our eternal life and those who stumble over Jesus Christ. He writes, “Now to you who believe, this stone is precious. But to those who do not believe, ‘The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone’, and ‘A stone that causes men to stumble and a rock that makes them fall.’ They stumble because they disobey the message – which is also what they were destined for.” (I Peter 2:7-8)
Do you remember that Vacation Bible School song about the “Wise man who built his house upon the rock”? Do you also remember the foolish man? What was his problem? He didn’t build on rock. He built his house on sand. (Sort of like the three little pigs, and the wolf that blew their house in!!) “But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.” (Matthew 7:26-27)
But you have a foundation. Jesus Christ is your foundation. Nothing else is going to make you strong in life. Jesus is your cornerstone, the cap stone, the living stone, the precious stone. And now this is how Peter describes you, “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.” (I Peter 2:9-10)
When the foundation is right, the building is good. Our foundation is right – it is Jesus Christ, His crucifixion, His resurrection, His forgiveness, His promises, His word. And then the building – us – is given the most glorious names and we have the most wonderful responsibilities. You and I are a people who now belong to God. We are a chosen people who declare praise to Jesus – He has taken us out of darkness and brought us into His wonderful light!
What makes any Christian church into the church God has designed for it? What makes this church, our church, Ascension Lutheran Church in Littleton, Colorado, a church of God’s making?
Two things. Babies. Buildings. Babies – having a faith in Jesus that humbly seeks His work. Having a trust and faith that will take Him at His word. And building. Having a life that God is busy building. We have a foundation that is strong and can weather any storm. We build on Jesus Christ and on Him alone. His death. His resurrection. We build on the rock.
Two things. Being ever a babe in Christ; ever having a foundation in Jesus. We then are His chosen, His own, a people belonging to Him. Amen!!