2nd Sunday of Easter, April 7th, Year of Our + Lord 2013
St. John and Trinity Lutheran Churches, Fairview and Sidney, Montana
John 20:19 – 31 The Doubt Removing Milk
Like newborn babes, crave the pure spiritual milk of the Word, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good.
I thank God for the homebound. I thank God for shut-ins. I thank God that my vocation requires me to visit those who cannot come to this place to hear God’s Word. For the homebound Christian truly craves pure spiritual milk; they crave the Word of God, and the Lord’s Supper. I thank God as I have opportunity to bring pure spiritual milk to our shut-in members, for then my doubts, like those of Thomas, are dispelled.
Do doubts creep into your mind, into your heart? Thomas is well known for his doubts, for his refusal to believe the words of his brothers. His experiences during Holy Week had sown seeds of doubt which were sprouting up in his heart. The other apostles had told him the Word of Peace that Jesus had spoken to them. They told Thomas the Good News that Jesus had risen from the dead, and the even better news that the risen Jesus had forgiven the disciples for deserting Him. But none of these words uprooted the doubt in Thomas’ heart. He had to see, he had to touch and feel, or he would not, could not believe.
How much like Thomas are you? Yes, you have heard and believed, you are among the blessed that Jesus speaks of today, the blessed who have not seen, and yet have believed. The Word of God has struck your ears and splashed over your head in and with the water. The Word made flesh has even fed most of you with His Body and Blood. Blessed are they who come to believe through the Word of the Apostles. The Holy Spirit creates faith through the pure spiritual milk of the Word, and he sustains faith by that same Word.
But doubt can still spring up and grow in our hearts. Thomas’s doubt came from seeing all the frightening and terrible things that happened on Good Friday. Thomas doubted that anyone, even God, could overcome the evil of the Cross. Such doubts may assail us too. We will not see anything so frightening as Good Friday in our lives, but still, when disease ravages a loved one, when accident or violence claims a young life, doubts assail us. When, even though we plan and work and sacrifice, still our savings disappear and our lives end up in a mess, doubts assail us. When, despite our best efforts, people we love turn from God, when, even though we fight against it, we say and think and do terrible things, doubts attack us.
Doubts can also attack us in the midst of ordinary, everyday life. When the every day cares and troubles of this life distract you, when busy-ness defines your life, how much pure spiritual milk are you picking up? When life is comfortable, do you even think about drinking spiritual milk? When life is busy and you don’t have time to eat breakfast, let alone the Bread of Life, when your soul is parched for heavenly drink, then your heart and mind become fertile ground for Satan’s seeds of doubt, doubt about the truth of the Bible, doubt about the reality of the Resurrection, and, most dangerous of all, doubt about whether you really need the God of Calvary in your life, whether you really need a Savior.
I pray such doubts don’t creep into your life. But I believe that doubts do attack you. I know that doubts attack me. And so I say again, I thank God for the homebound. I thank God that my vocation requires me to visit those who cannot come to this place to hear God’s Word. For the homebound crave pure spiritual milk, they crave the Word of God and the Lord’s Supper. Our shut-ins have tasted that the Lord is good. But now, with age and infirmity denying them the regular opportunity to receive the pure spiritual milk of God’s Word, now they truly crave it.
Many of our homebound members can no longer even take the Bible in hand and read it for themselves. Their eyes and minds and strength failing them, they must now depend on others to bring God’s Word to them. And it is good for the soul to be the milkman, to be the deliverer of God’s pure Word. For, as I take the Lord’s Supper to shut ins, as I go and read and pray with them, God cares for me. As I read, to Myrtle or Evelyn, to Madeline or Stevie, the Word strikes my ears also, and Jesus says to me: stop doubting and believe.
God through his Church has given me the time and opportunity to study the Bible and its teachings. I have been blessed to learn more about Christ and His Gospel than I ever imagined I could. But sometimes I only know the facts. The knowledge I have gained, which should be sweet and satisfying, can at times, in my dull heart, seem to be nothing more than dusty intellectual facts.
But as shut in Christians ask me questions about God’s love, and as I do my best to apply the Gospel to their concerns, these truths of Christ, which sometimes I only know intellectually, these truths suddenly enliven my heart again. As the Word of Christ works peace in the hearts of our homebound members, that peace is also extended to me.
Concerning the Gospel, John wrote: these have been written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name. It is a great joy to see this promise coming true in the lives of people who crave the pure spiritual milk of the Gospel, a great joy, and a great comfort to me, a renewal of faith, as this promise also becomes mine, again and again.
Thomas should have believed the word of his brother Apostles, for their word is good and right. But he didn’t. He needed Christ to come to him, he needed to see and to touch in order to believe. And so Jesus came to Thomas. We all ought to believe in Christ, firmly, joyfully, all the time. We all ought always to trust and worship only Him, for to believe and worship God in Christ is good and right. But none of us can do this of our own strength. We all need God to come to us, and so Jesus did, and still does. He came to Thomas with what he needed, and Christ comes to you with what you need: forgiveness for all your sins, including the sin of failing to believe and worship only God. Jesus comes with pure spiritual milk to satisfy the thirst of your soul, declaring the promise of eternal life, as well as providing strength and hope to go on one more day.
Like newborn babes, crave the pure spiritual milk of the Word, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good. When newborn babies are hungry, they are totally focused on getting the milk they need. They cry out to get their message across. If the parents misunderstand the craving, and give their baby a toy, or a hug, instead of milk, what happens? The baby cries all the louder, until she gets the milk she craves. But when the baby gets the milk she craves, what a change. Screaming in hunger one moment, satisfied and quiet the next, happily drinking milk. Peace comes to both baby and parent.
Peace. When Jesus appeared to the disciples, hiding behind locked doors, doubting and fearing, our Lord summed up all the gifts of the Gospel with this one little word: Peace. Peace with God for sinners, through the scars of Jesus. Peace that passes all understanding. Peace that comes from eating and drinking the Body and Blood of Christ. Peace that is received by the blessed ones of God, through the pure spiritual milk of his Word.
Delivering the pure milk of the Word is the heart of my calling as your pastor. It is also part of your calling as a Christian. You can give the Word to your family, in simple ways, using any of the many wonderful resources we are blessed to have. You can save the Church a stamp and deliver the sermon and bulletin to one of our homebound members, visiting them, and reading with them, maybe even singing with them psalms and hymns and spiritual songs. God will go with you, enabling you to do these things, and then the Word in your mouth and in your ears will also drive out your doubts, and give you peace.
Drink the pure spiritual milk of the Word every chance you get. Taste and see that the Lord is good. And the Peace of the Lord will be with you always. Amen