In our second reading this morning from First Peter we are encouraged to long for pure spiritual milk.
Like newborn infants, long for the pure, spiritual milk, so that you may grow into salvation—if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good. (2 Peter 2:2)
We are encouraged to desire the sincere milk of the word; to taste and see that the Lord is good, (Psalm 34:8) and I am reminded of that beautiful invitation in Isaiah: Ho everyone that is thirsty. Come you to the water. He that does not have money, come buy and eat. Hearken diligently to me and eat that which is good and let you soul delight itself in abundance. (Isaiah 55:1-2)
The continuum of interacting with scripture is important to me. Holy Scripture is a gift that just keeps on giving. I’ve studied other religions. In my post-graduate work, I did a lot of study that included visits to different faith practices. What I gained from how other faith traditions approach their religious beliefs is an awareness and appreciation of our faith traditions, the rich traditions and on-going practices of Christianity. I love Scripture, and I am driven to consume scripture daily, just as the Israelites gathered manna daily as they traveled in the wilderness. Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation—if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good. (1 Peter 2:2)
Our children’s Sunday School teachers have a two-fold mission: To teach children the stories of the Old Testament and New Testament, to have a working knowledge of scripture, and the second mission is to point children to Jesus, to appreciate and understand that we are a “people of the book”, and we are also people of the person, the person of Jesus Christ”. We want to impart a deep desire for scripture, to lean and apply those scriptures to their lives. What does it mean to be a Christian? What are our benefits and what are our responsibilities?
One of my favorite collects in the BCP fits perfectly with this message today. “Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning: Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them, that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life, which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever” (Proper 28, BCP)
The Written Word is intended to lead us to the Living Word. We are not called to worship the Bible. We are called to enjoy a wonderful relationship with the Living Word, Jesus Christ. We are invited to not only taste the pure spiritual milk, but to use that milk to grow into a deeper relationship with the Living God. We are invited to enjoy the land of Canaan, the land flowing with pure milk and honey. In other words, to enjoy a relationship with God that is greater than what is just written in a book.
We study to know the context of scripture, the when, where, why and how? What kind of writing is it? What language was it written, and does the language of the text reflect the language of the time of authorship? Is the New Testament letter written to a specific church or is it a message that is to read and passed around to other churches? For example: St. Paul’s letters to the churches are unique to what was going on in those churches, things that needed to be corrected and things that they were to be applauded. And, what can I take-away from the reading to learn from and apply to my life?
Sometimes I read the Bible like a prayer, reading it to God and with God, Lectio Divina or holy reading, praying scripture. The reading entwines with the heart of God, and it’s like we become united through the scriptures. Scripture is a wonderful thing.
About eighteen years ago, a few years before we became Episcopalians, we got hold of the Book of Common Prayer, and we started reading the scriptures listed in the back of the BCP, the “Daily Office Scripture Readings”. Our lives were very busy. I was working in Sales Management, and Naomi was the CEO of a Refugee Resettlement Agency, and when we left in the morning we would not see each other until later in the evening. We found our best time to read the Bible, have prayer and discuss the day together was early in the morning. We decided to read all our readings for the day, both morning and evening offices, at the same time in the morning.
I heard a phrase a few weeks ago that has stuck with me, and it has challenged me. “I may be fasting from Holy Communion, but I am feasting in the Word”. I do not make it a habit of telling people how to arrange their private devotional life. There are many ways of approaching a practice of reading Scripture and prayer. I have found a way that is meaningful to me, but we can all have this one thing in common:
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.