Over the next few weeks, I intend to pass on to you the reasons why I feel that this short form of “service” provides an ideal preparation for the start of each day.
Let’s start with our opening text:
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.Romans 1.7
This is Paul’s initial greeting in his letter to the Romans, the book that arguably above all others defines the theology of the Christian Church. I take this text as a cue to set aside everything else and relax in my most comfortable armchair in God’s presence. With a bowl of porage and a cup of coffee, I can spend a few moments reflecting on the privilege and joy of being able to wait upon the Lord. If this seems difficult, our recent readings from the book of Hebrews remind us of the freedom we have, through Jesus to enter into the Holy place. In particular, this passage from Chapter 10:
Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water.Hebrews 10.19-22
What is it that God wants for us? Grace and peace in equal measure!
Grace is a term which is not in common usage today, and we may have a rather generalised concept of what it means. Put simply, it is the unmerited favour of God towards all of us. In particular, we are reminded that Jesus, through his death on the cross, died for each one of us, to bring us into an eternal relationship as sons and daughters of the living God. We do not have to worry about our many failures – none of them is too great for us to be forgiven – simply leave them each day “at the foot of the cross”. Paul’s famous statement about the thorn in his flesh in 2 Corinthians 12, he speaks of asking three times that this thorn be taken from him, only to receive the answer
my grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.2 Corinthians 12.9
Here, grace is equated with the power to live the Christian life to the full. We too can take delight in the fact that whatever personal problems we may have, we are still able to live fulfilled Christian lives as we open ourselves up to God’s grace.
Peace is a word in common usage – and it can sometimes be used in trivial ways. However, the biblical concept of peace is larger than that and rests heavily on the Hebrew text which means “to be complete” or “to be sound.” We recall Jesus’ greeting of his disciples after his resurrection recorded in Chapter 24 of Luke’s gospel:
While they were still talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.”Luke 24.36
Peace speaks to us of a state of mind, particularly when we face circumstances that threaten to overwhelm us, such as the pandemic which grips the world at the present time. It is inevitable that we have anxiety – not only for ourselves and our families and friends, but also in response to the dreadful images of the suffering of others which come on our TV screens on a daily basis. We need to be reminded of Isaiah’s words:
You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you.Isaiah 26.3
Peace is also an active thing for us to share with friends, loved ones and the world beyond:
You know the message God sent to the people of Israel, announcing the good news of peace through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all.Acts 10.36
Let us not keep this peace to ourselves, but boldly share the good news of Jesus Christ to all those around us who are fearful for the future.