Our solid ground

We will only navigate the challenges of the coming years if we learn to be a deeper church again. This year, we’re encouraging everyone to explore what God is saying to us as a Church by dwelling on 1 Peter 1.13–2.12.

Read the verse

A Call to Holy Living

13 Therefore prepare your minds for action; discipline yourselves; set all your hope on the grace that Jesus Christ will bring you when he is revealed. 14 Like obedient children, do not be conformed to the desires that you formerly had in ignorance. 15 Instead, as he who called you is holy, be holy yourselves in all your conduct; 16 for it is written, 'You shall be holy, for I am holy.'

17 If you invoke as Father the one who judges all people impartially according to their deeds, live in reverent fear during the time of your exile. 18 You know that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your ancestors, not with perishable things like silver or gold, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without defect or blemish. 20 He was destined before the foundation of the world, but was revealed at the end of the ages for your sake. 21 Through him you have come to trust in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are set on God.

22 Now that you have purified your souls by your obedience to the truth so that you have genuine mutual love, love one another deeply from the heart. 23 You have been born anew, not of perishable but of imperishable seed, through the living and enduring word of God. 24 For

'All flesh is like grass
and all its glory like the flower of grass.
The grass withers,
and the flower falls,
25 but the word of the Lord endures for ever.'

That word is the good news that was announced to you.

The Living Stone and a Chosen People

2 Rid yourselves, therefore, of all malice, and all guile, insincerity, envy, and all slander. 2 Like newborn infants, long for the pure, spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow into salvation-- 3 if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good.

4 Come to him, a living stone, though rejected by mortals yet chosen and precious in God's sight, and 5 like living stones, let yourselves be built into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. 6 For it stands in scripture:

'See, I am laying in Zion a stone,
a cornerstone chosen and precious;
and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.'

7 To you then who believe, he is precious; but for those who do not believe,

'The stone that the builders rejected
has become the very head of the corner',

8 and

'A stone that makes them stumble,
and a rock that makes them fall.'

They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do.

9 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God's own people, in order that you may proclaim the mighty acts of him who called you out of darkness into his marvellous light.

10 Once you were not a people,
but now you are God's people;
once you had not received mercy,
but now you have received mercy.

Live as Servants of God

11 Beloved, I urge you as aliens and exiles to abstain from the desires of the flesh that wage war against the soul. 12 Conduct yourselves honourably among the Gentiles, so that, though they malign you as evildoers, they may see your honourable deeds and glorify God when he comes to judge.

These verses are from the New Revised Standard version of the Bible, copyright © 1989 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.

Reading aloud is powerful.

For those of us fortunate to have been read to as children, it can evoke comfort and safety. Reading the text aloud is an important part of Dwelling in the Word.

In my last job I did a lot of driving and often listened to books. I recommend a reading of David Bentley Hart’s translation of the New Testament. I was so moved by his version of Matthew’s crucifixion scene that I once had to pull over before I could continue driving.

As we dwell in the word over a period of months, consulting different translations can be helpful. Hart’s version is excellent, but I also recommend the New Testament as translated by Oxford-based Jesuit Nicholas King.

King’s translation of our passage begins stirringly “gird up the loins of your mind”. This is a reference to Proverbs 31:7. It’s a strong image; we must be ready for what is ahead, which won’t be some placid existence but the continuous activity of faithfulness. The whole passage is full of direct quotations and allusions to other parts of Scripture. It is likely that the author knew these by heart and incorporated them as he wrote - a reminder of the importance of learning texts by heart so that they become part of us. This is one of the ways in which Dwelling in the Word works.

Holiness

The first half of our text has holiness for its theme. Holiness has its origins in God who is holy, and the call to holiness in Leviticus is our charge. The author firmly roots that call in the person of Jesus before suggesting how a Christian community might exhibit holiness, entrenched in the Word in which we dwell.

Solid ground

The second part of our passage does not so much have a theme as a central image: stone, rock. Greek readers would have recognised that this is the meaning of the author’s name. Try counting how many times the image is used in these verses. Standing on solid ground is something many of us yearn for amidst the shifting uncertainties of life and the times in which we live. Jesus is our only solid ground, the cornerstone that holds it all together. We have gone from being “No People” to being the “People of God”. That’s quite a claim.

“Jesus is our only solid ground”

The holy life is always grounded in Jesus. It is dwelling in his word that transforms us, makes us holy. But never reaching that goal is also part of our calling. As Jim Cotter put it in one of his prayers: “Give us the clarity to perceive such holiness in others, And give us the sanity never to claim it for ourselves.”

(Unfolding the Word, Jim Cotter, Canterbury Press, 2012)

Words: Father Richard Peers, sub-dean of Christ Church Cathedral, Oxford


Bishop Steven and bishops from around the world are rediscovering the medicine 1 Peter offers for today’s church. Bishop Steven's podcast series draws on Peter's letter and it's meaning for us in this time. 

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Page last updated: 5th January 2022 11:10 AM