Every Sunday, we open our service with these words: “Grace and peace to you from God our Father, and from our Lord Jesus Christ.”
There are a couple of reasons why I love this little greeting.
First, it is borrowed directly from scripture. This particular phrase comes from the Apostle Paul’s letter to the Galatians. As much as possible, from one Sunday to the next, we try to weave the words of scripture into our worship services. We pray using scripture language. We sing songs that use scripture language. Certainly, we try to preach in a way to the focuses on and opens up what the bible has to say to us. It really makes sense if you think about it. These are the words the Apostles and Prophets used to express their thoughts about God, who he is and what he is up to. And they did this under the influence of the Holy Spirit. Why wouldn’t we want to practice using the language of scripture in our own prayers?
The second reason I really like this greeting is that it summarizes in just a few words the whole of the good news of Jesus Christ. Martin Luther summed it up this way in his commentary on Galatians.
"The greeting of the Apostle is refreshing. Grace remits sin, and peace quiets the conscience. Sin and conscience torment us, but Christ has overcome these fiends now and forever. Only Christians possess this victorious knowledge given from above. These two terms, grace and peace, constitute Christianity. Grace involves the remission of sins, and peace involves a happy conscience."
You see, the truth is we come to church because we are sinful lawbreakers in need of God’s grace. We come to be reminded of the good news that tells us that by his death and resurrection Christ has set us free from the penalty of being lawbreakers. Our salvation is all mercy; favor that we do not deserve, given to us as a gift from God. The word for that is "grace."
Then by his Holy Spirit, God gives us peace that comes from the very same freedom Christ has won for us. We no longer have to be bothered by the need to justify ourselves to God or to other people. We can rest in God’s goodness. This is peace that works from the inside out. The more we dwell on and in God’s grace, the more the Spirit does his work to change us so that peace becomes a part of who we are, and flows out to those around us.
Grace is our salvation. Peace is our transformation. Grace and peace are the two sides of the gospel coin. What better place to start our worship?
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