This Sunday at Agape we looked at two parallel stories in the life of Peter, one of Jesus' earliest followers. In examining Peter in similar situations before and after Jesus' ressurection and Pentecost, we hoped to see the changes God made in his life, and the changes he might make in ours.
The first story we discussed was Peter's denial of Jesus in Mark. When Jesus has been arrested, and Peter goes to look for him, three times people ask Peter whether he is a follower of Jesus, and each time Peter denies it. While we couldn't agree on whether, in some sense, Peter made "the right choice," we came to the consensus that, even if it was for the best, Jesus must have been very hurt by it, knowing it would happen. We talked about betrayal, and several people talked about experiences with betrayal, one person speaking about feeling betrayed, and another thinking of a time when he could tell his friend felt betrayed by him.
Then we fast-forwarded to after Pentecost, to the story in Acts where Peter and John heal a man outside the temple, start telling people about Jesus, and then get called in by the authorities. The authorities ask, "By what power or what name did you do this?" Again, Peter is asked, essentially, to identify with Jesus or not.
This time, however, Peter is "filled with the Holy Spirit," and shares the gospel openly. When we talked about why Peter was so different, someone immediately pointed out the Holy Spirit as the source of the change. We talked about what this might mean, and there was disagreement as to whether being filled with the Holy Spirit is something that has to be earned, or something that happens without regard for what we've done.
When we looked back at the first story, however, we could see that, although Peter had certainly done a lot for God already, here he was denying God. If God could forgive Peter, and fill him with the Holy Spirit, surely God will forgive us for what we've done, and offer the same gift. Ending with a message of God's desire to forgive us and lead us forward with his Spirit, we prayed and had breakfast.