May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.2 Cor. 13.14
We come today to the conclusion of our liturgy for Morning Prayer with the words of The Grace. After the Lord’s Prayer, this is probably the most familiar prayer for many Christians. The Grace is a very special prayer – that reminds us that each member of the Trinity is both distinctive and united. In just the same way as every Christian has a distinctive ministry and yet is united as a member of one body, with a unique part to play in the ministry of the church.
Paul’s phrase begins with the word “may” – we are wishing that this prayer may be true not just for our own benefit but for that of our fellow-believers – hence the practice in many congregations to say the prayer aloud to each other for mutual encouragement.
The words of the grace bring us full circle to the verse from Romans 1 with which we started our Morning Prayer. However, we have one addition: “The fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with us all”. Fellowship is not a word in common usage today – but for me, it has warm and happy connotations – something we may feel a need for during the dark times we are currently experiencing. It reminds us of the companionship that God has provided for us throughout our lives – where the presence of God or even Jesus can sometimes seem quite remote, the Holy Spirit is the comforter who accompanies us through the ups and downs of our daily lives.
Some Christians try to maintain their spiritual lives by means of their own determination and commitment. However, if we believe that we can fulfil God’s call in our own own strength, we will probably end up weary, frustrated and disillusioned.
When they arrived, they prayed for the new believers there that they might receive the Holy Spirit,because the Holy Spirit had not yet come on any of them; they had simply been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.Then Peter and John placed their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit.Acts 8. 15-17
Peter and John had been sent to churches in Samaria where teaching about the Holy Spirit had not yet reached. On receiving the Spirit, their lives were immediately transformed in tangible ways and the spiritual gifts recorded in many of the Epistles became evident. They expressed heartfelt worship and were equipped to become God’s ambassadors in passing on the good news of salvation to a wider and growing circle of believers from every nation. May we all know renewal by the power of the Spirit in our lives that we might be as effective in witnessing to our own generation!
We are also made aware that when we enjoy the fellowship of the Holy Spirit in our daily lives, our behaviour will change. Paul writing to Christians in Galatia, a church with many problems, reminds us of the transformation of our characters that will gradually take place as we walk in fellowship with the Spirit:
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.Gal. 5. 22-25
At the time of writing this reflection, we cannot easily express our unity by means of hugs, or express our love through body language. In this final week, it is appropriate that we remind ourselves that we can emerge confidently into our daily routine, by expressing a desire that we will each experience God’s grace and love, with the Holy Spirit acting as a guarantor of our faith.
May God’s grace be with you all