Your past doesn’t define you; it only defines God’s love for you. Once we can latch onto that truth, we can live faithfully - tasting God's kindness.
The expression on Doc’s face was a familiar one. I remember being so excited to see my friend’s new baby that I didn’t notice where her face was planted when I bent down to get a closer look. I stopped kissing babies that day.
Even though breastfeeding is a natural way for many mother’s to feed their young, the act itself is often frowned upon when it’s practiced in church. In fact, in some churches it’s taboo to even talk about it. But since people around the world are celebrating the one who gave them their first taste of life, why not? Plus, it’s also part of today’s lectionary reading in 1 Peter 2:2-5
For years my friend Pat has insisted we watch Doc Martin. A British show about a highly successful London doctor who takes over a practice in a little seaside village in Cornwall. It didn’t take Kathleen and I long to fall in love with the quirky cast of villagers who constantly test the doctors tightly wound nerves.
In the last episode we watched, two of the main characters bring home their newborn baby. The mom needs to feed her son, and naturally begins to do so. Right before the baby latches on, Martin gets an eyeful and quickly turns his head away – embarrassed, trying to keep his composure.
Now, like infants at the breast, drink deep of God’s pure kindness. Then you’ll grow up mature and whole in God.
Not to diminish their pain, it’s also worth noting that parenting is no simple task either. Just because you were handed a newborn and sent you off with some diapers, doesn’t mean you’ll step up to be a parent. Some don’t. And some do, knowing they will make mistakes along the way.
Christian faith is no different. Just because you claim the name Christian doesn’t mean you are instantly Christ like. There’s always going to be challenges that we will fail. Peter gives us a pep-talk of sorts; encouraging us to latch on to Christ. And live into his name as God’s beloved child. To be like suckling infants drinking in God’s pure kindness.
In her writing on this passage, Joy Douglas Strome understands “There is always some trial and error when a new mother learns to breast-feed her newborn.” She notes the mom has to be relaxed enough for the milk to flow. She has to be attentive enough to help the baby latch on. And she has to take care of herself nutritionally to produce the milk.
We will make some mistakes. That’s how we learn, grow, become resilient and strong…living stones like Peter described. Jesus never said it was going to be easy, but showed us how to persevere. It is important to stay focused on Christ. Because faith requires you to be attentive and proactive in order to mature. As Peter knew first hand, one’s faith can be easily attack, or abandoned. Especially when it’s new or young.
We have to take care of our faith - making sure it gets spiritually nourish in God’s Word and love. It’s easy to fill up on the junk food of culture or become lazy. But Jesus is always calling us to get our soul food on. As Peter put it, to “taste the goodness of the Lord.” It was Christ who said, “I am the bread of life whoever comes to me will never hunger.” Like a nursing mom, Christ is always ready to feed us. But are we ready to feast on Christ?
Immediately after Sean was born, the doctor handed him to Kathleen. After a moment of being blessed with love and kisses, Kathleen attached him to her breast. She knew how important it was for mom and child to bond like this to work together right from the start.
In the same way, we work together with Christ. Like Strome notes, “A new Christian knows at some deep level that spiritual milk is what will nurture their life of faith. To be sustained for the risk and challenges of a long life of faith, we start as a newborn starts, with the raw material of Jesus’s teachings - the good milk that is specially designed to meet our most basic needs.”
You might recall Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. It begins with the physiological ones – air, water, shelter, reproduction. That’s followed by the need for safety, then love and belonging, and self-esteem. At the top of Maslow’s pyramid is self-actualization – becoming your best self that you can be.
Whether it’s an individual or a new church, we all start out with the basics before we can grow into our true, divine selves. Nothing is more basic than God’s love for you and me. This was the good news Jesus brought. That we are loved by God, no matter what. Your past doesn’t define you; it only defines God’s love for you. Once we can latch onto that truth, we can live faithfully - sharing God’s love with others.
As Jesus demonstrated throughout his life, it’s in our giving of love that we grow into our blessedness. It’s our giving that becomes the building blocks of our faith – living stones constructing a sanctuary vibrant with life. And it’s in this sacred space we become holy – offering our lives to God as children of God in Christ.
It’s in our self-giving that we move from suckling infants to motherhood. For we are all destined to be mothers. To quote Meister Eckhart, “What good is it to me that Mary gave birth to the Son of God if I do not also give birth to the Son of God in my time and in my culture? We are all meant to be mothers of God. God is always needing to be born.”
You don’t have to be child bearer to be a life giver. Mother Teresa never experienced childbirth yet held the title by being a mother to all. She famously pray, “in all that I do, may other’s see Christ and not me.” What a good example she, and others like her have set for us.
God is calling you and me to be mother’s giving birth to love, grace, and peace every day. This is what it means to be a Christian, to follow the way of Christ.
By loving kindness as Jesus did, seeking justice and being humble like him, we keep his mission alive – become living stones that build a spiritual house whose corner stone is Christ himself. And whose identity is secure in the arms of a God who serves us spiritual milk like no other.
Therefore, if you haven’t already, I invite you to latch on to the bosom of God, and taste the goodness of true life which is Christ the Lord.
Strome, Joy Douglas. Feasting on the Word, Year A, Vol. 2. (Louisville: Westminster John Knox; 2010) p. 462.