The Nurtured, Nurturing Church
by Dan Kidd
Have you ever met someone who was younger than you but had a remarkable spiritual maturity about them? For those of you who have worked in student ministries, or who have spent time around children, you've probably had an encounter where a young(er) person said something so profound, so true, so wise, so beautifully simplistic that it tilted your jaw and expelled a 'huh," as in "huh, I've never thought it of like that before." I've had a number of these moments in recent years, between leading student ministry and being the father of a 2 year old. At one point in high school ministry we did a small group series called "Can I Ask That?" where we fearlessly tackled some of the questions our students had about what Christians believe and do, as well as how God's Spirit, the Bible, and the Church inform and guide us. It was so heartening to watch those students take on complex questions about their faith, while they were developing strategies for lifelong discipleship.
Today's passage speaks to a group of freshly reborn disciples of Jesus--newly purified and empowered to love one another from the heart. Peter implores them to leave behind the fleshly behaviors from which they'd been saved and drink freely from the nurturing milk of the Lord's goodness so that they would grow up into their salvation. Peter encourages them to embrace the unity of the whole church, employing images of interdependence and mutual benefit--they are living stones and (together) a royal priesthood. Though, most likely, many of them were adults, they were in spiritual infancy and in need of assurance that Christ had chosen them to be his treasure--overcome by the radiance of his marvelous light. What a gift that must have been!
This is one of the most precious gifts of the Church: that we can offer the assurance of God's goodness and faithfulness to those just learning to see this for themselves. And that we continue to receive the blessings, hope, and wisdom from those spiritual mothers, fathers, sisters, and brothers in our lives. The Church raises and feeds her own, and I'm certain if you thought some on it you could name at least a few people whose nurturing care, timely counsel, and practical love have grown you into who you are now. Perhaps they know that. And maybe this would be a fitting time to share that with them.
The best news of this is that the whole structure of living stones rests entirely secure on the unbreakable Cornerstone. Christ, our foundation, relieves us of any notions of fear that we might fall in on ourselves or that we might crumble with weather or weight. We are constructed stone-for-stone; we are built on, beneath, and beside each other; we're mortared together and all of us are standing indestructible upon Jesus. Whether we have freshly emerged from the baptismal waters, or we're looking back to them from decades ago, let us live into this incredible Gospel: we, who were not a people, are a people, and we belong to the Lord.
A Blessing Prayer - Take several moments to be quiet. Invite the Lord to bring to mind someone who met you in your spiritual childhood and nurtured you, loved you, or guided you. Spend a few minutes prayerfully remembering your relationship with them. Then, thank the Lord for them and pray for the person, or perhaps their legacy, as you feel led. Next, ask that God's Spirit shows you someone you are currently raising up in the faith. If no one comes to mind, consider asking God to show you who that person might be. Pray for them as the Lord leads you.