1 Peter 2:2-10 is one of those fascinating passages from the New Testament which, if you miss the sacramental context of Peter’s first letter, you miss the bigger whole. As I’ve been commenting, Peter’s first letter is written to a bunch of newly baptized Christians – both as an encouragement in their faith as well as support for them, given the context of persecutions that existed already in the early Church.
This passage ends reminding the first readers (and us) that through baptism, we have been transformed into a new kind of people – whose identity is framed by the mercy of God which we have received in Christ. “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” (verse 10). This is a reminder that baptism changes us through our association with Jesus Christ – it gives us a name, a living purpose, which is rooted in and arises out of God’s mercy as His Gift.
This is illustrated in the verses before (verses 4-9) where Peter uses the example of Jesus as that cornerstone upon which the ‘royal priesthood’ of the Church is build. We, he writes, are ‘living stones’ – plucked from the field (like so many useless rocks) and transformed into stones with a purpose, being brought together, shaped together, through the mortar of Jesus’ grace and forgiveness which we have been planted into through baptism, to be a new people – who both declare God’s praises in both our lives of worship and witness – as we participate in that life of prayer and intercession for the world which Jesus as our high priest carries in Himself.
We are to be a people of prayer – absolutely. A people who gather (because we have been gathered in baptism) to worship together and work together. We are to be a people who immerse ourselves in His mercy so that we can live that same grace with one another – even and especially when times get rough … which leads us back to the opening verse: “Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up to salvation — if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good” (verses 2-3). This is Peter’s reminder that faith needs to be nourished and nurtured and that not everything that passes as ‘spiritual’ foodstuffs is necessarily good for us.
As parents, we strive to feed our children good food so that they grow up strong. At the same time, we understand the allure of junk food. It’s easy to grab for a bag of chips or a favourite chocolate bar to quench our rumbling tummies – but what we really need to good food – nourishing food – our mother’s milk, as St. Peter here suggests.
As baptized children of God, these words are a reminder for us not to get distracted by chasing after whatever seems easy or captures our fancy in the broad smorgasbord of spiritual ideas and opinions that are out there in our world today. No, instead, Peter calls us to look for our mother’s milk – that pure spiritual food – which comes to us in the Word (Scriptures) and through the means of the Sacraments (Baptism and the Lord’s Supper) as a way – GOD’s way – to nurture our faith and spiritual lives in union with Jesus Christ who alone died and rose again to be that Saviour for us all.
Be careful what you ingest as spiritual food. I know that it’s far too easy to chase after preachers and speakers that seem to promise all the kingdoms of the world ‘if only’ you follow them. As Christians, however, we ought only to have one Master – Jesus Christ; and Church ought to be a place where we point to Him, and nurture our lives of faith in Him through the means and Gifts which He has given us. Let’s set aside the junk food and nurture that craving for the pure spiritual milk that Jesus gives.