“The peace of the Lord be with you.” “And, also with you.”
For those of you who worship weekly in a liturgical tradition, these words are familiar to you. But, whether you say these words as part of your worship on Sunday mornings or not, you may not be fully aware of why they are said communally.
In my church, we “pass the peace” after the sermon and after the confession/absolution of sin. It gives us a chance weekly to remember that we receive peace from Christ through His forgiveness of our sins. Following that, we are called to extend that peace to those around us. This is a truly biblical concept. As we receive peace from God, we are called to be peacemakers in our world in exchange. That peacemaking task should begin in the church and grow out from there.
Jesus said, in His Sermon on the Mount, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.” The writer of Hebrews actually goes as far as to command believers to pursue peace as a means of sanctification. “Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.” (Hebrews 12:14, ESV) Scripture implores us to be men and women of shalom, of peacemaking. We need the weekly reminder during worship of what a large role we have to play in peacemaking in the Church and in the world. We live in an extremely divisive culture so we would do well as those who call themselves “Christian” to continually remind ourselves of our role in extending Christ’s peace.
In my last blog post, we explored the idea that peace and thanksgiving are intricately connected. I do not believe it coincidental that the passing of peace falls right before the Eucharist or communion in the liturgy. The word Eucharist is derived from a Greek word that actually means thanksgiving or praise for the wonderful works of God. We celebrate communion as an act of remembrance and thanksgiving for Jesus’ work on the cross. That work is the only true source of peace in our lives. Yes, there are plenty of circumstances and events and blessings that cause us to experience peace but true, lasting shalom cannot be experienced outside of the forgiving work of Christ.
I dare to conclude that thanksgiving should be practiced in order to both experience peace and as a response to the peace we receive. The two are so intwined, I truly believe they cannot be experienced separately. As we approach the Thanksgiving holiday next week, I hope you will join me in seeking to be people of thanksgiving as we seek to be people of shalom.
Prayer of Peace
Peace before us,
Peace behind us,
Peace under our feet.
Peace within us,
Peace over us,
Let all around us be peace.
Christ before us,
Christ behind us,
Christ under our feet.
Christ within us,
Christ over us,
Let all around us be Christ.
(based on a Navaho prayer, David Haas)