Spiritual Formation Over A Lifetime: The Life of Peter

God always begins with us where we are; not where we wish we were. In Peter’s case, though he was a successful fisherman, that meant “uneducated and ordinary” (Acts 4.13). “Starting where we really are” is a core formational thought that explains much of the biblical narrative from: “Adam, where are you?” to the calling of Abraham and Jesus’ calling of the twelve and his various conversations with everyday people. But this is also a great promise: our starting point is not definitive. Movement – the direction of one’s movement, the end to which one is moving- is our focus in the formation of our souls into Christlikeness.

The Apostle Peter may be the shining example in the New Testament of one who started from a significantly confused, mixed, halting place—and who through transformation gained by following Jesus, became a founding father in the faith. In turn Peter could be humble, be told: “Get behind me, you have in mind the things of men,” be full of zeal for God, fiercely proclaim love for Jesus and also deny him.

In this series, we will discover what it might mean to give our whole selves to the whole process of spiritual formation as Peter described it (2 Peter 1: 5 – 11):

…make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But whoever does not have them is nearsighted and blind, forgetting that they have been cleansed from their past sins.

Therefore, my brothers and sisters, make every effort to confirm your calling and election. For if you do these things, you will never stumble, and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Peter’s parting words in his last letter comprise our aim for this series: to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Epiphany Readings: Sunday, February 9

Readings:  Psalm 112:1-9 and Matthew 5:13-20

Reflection Questions:

The heart of the Sermon on the Mount is the heart. Jesus’ teaching to his disciples revolves around Matt.5:17-20 and governs what came before and his remaining (through Matt.7:28). Jesus stands juxtaposed to the religious leaders of his day and expresses the real intent of the Law that was given to God’s people on Mt. Sinai (see Matt.22:38-40). Jesus’ criticism was toward a purely moralistic or behavioral oriented religious system without a change of heart. Jesus himself embodies the entire message of the Law and the Prophets: a self-giving love for God and others. His followers are invited into a different kind and quality of life that derives its reality and way of being in the world from a Person and relationship rather than a handbook for behavioral management or modification.

  1. As you sit with Matt.5:13-20 listen to Jesus’ vivid description of his disciples:  You are salt…light…a lamp…a city on a hill. What one image captures your heart and imagination? Why? Is this how you see yourself in the world?  If so, how does the way you see yourself in the world enhance your perspective and experience of life in the world? In what ways are you salt, light…etc…in your family, at work, in your church community, with strangers? If not, how do you see yourself, your life in God? How might these descriptive images expand or change your perspective of your identity in God and way of being in the world?
  1. As you think about your life and way of being in the world, take time to discern any inner struggles, circumstantial difficulties, or real people in your life that might be diminishing your experience of God’s kingdom and goodness, and your influence or way of being in the world? Have a conversation with God about these things.
  1. While reflecting on Jesus’ teachings, what invitations do you sense from God? How might you respond to God in concrete ways today? What changes might you make to live more fully into God’s kingdom life?
  1. Read through Jesus’ descriptives of his followers again. What assurances or encouragements do you receive to your heart and life, right where you are, just as you?

– Elizabeth Khorey

Epiphany Readings: Sunday, February 2

Readings:  Psalm 15 and Matthew 5:1-12

Reflection Questions:

  1. Some of what we hear in the Beatitudes (Mt.5:1-12) is a description of the kinds people who God invites into relationship with him in his kingdom.  No one is exempt from his blessing. Can you identify with any of these human conditions of body, soul and social self? If so, how have you or do you experience God’s blessing in poverty of spirit, grief over losses in life, trouble and trouble making situations, challenges of faith, rejection from others?
  2. What ways do you need God’s intervention, comfort or support in your life today? Spend some time in prayer asking God’s Spirit to shelter with love, sustain in weakness or bolster faith in your present condition.
  3. As you talk with God about what’s going on in your life, how might you see your present condition as an open door for God to come, work, transform or bless you with his goodness?