The Peace of the Lord Be With You
The LORD gives his people strength. The LORD blesses them with peace.
In many churches today, there is a time in the worship service for the Passing of the Peace. The person leading worship says something like, "The peace of the Lord be with you." The congregation responds, "And also with you." Then, worshipers are invited to share the peace with others. They turn to their neighbors and echo the blessing that had been given to them, saying "The peace of the Lord be with you" or something like this.
I did not grow up in a church that passed the peace in worship. We greeted each other more casually, if at all. So, when I began worshiping in a congregation that passed the peace each week, at first I felt a bit awkward. But, as I began to pay more attention to what I was saying and doing, I began to value the passing of the peace as a time to bless my fellow worshipers with one of the greatest of all gifts: God's peace.
In Psalm 29, David states that "The LORD gives his people strength. The LORD blesses them with peace." Some translations put these in the form of a wish prayer: "May the LORD…" This is grammatically possible, but it misses the strong affirmations penned by David as he closed this psalm. After calling for God to be worshiped (29:1-2), the bulk of the psalm focuses on God's superlative strength as revealed in the natural world (29:3-9). Verse 10 emphasizes God's endless authority. Then, verse 11 adds a final, encouraging, empowering thought: The Lord uses his strength and authority for the sake of his people. He gives us strength and blesses us with peace.
Of course, God can bless us with peace apart from any human mediation. But, sometimes, God chooses to use a brother or a sister as a channel for his blessing. Thus, when I say "The peace of the Lord be with you," God may very well be doing what my words request, giving you the marvelous gift of his peace.
Do you need the peace of the Lord today? Are you struggling with worry? with fear? with unfocused anxiety? with hatred? with hopelessness? Then, please receive my greeting with a heart open to God: May the peace of the Lord be with you!
QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: If you're in a church that regularly encourages you to pass the peace in worship, how do you think about this activity? In what areas of your life or for what concerns and challenges do you need the peace of God today?
PRAYER: Thank you, God of power and might, eternal king, for blessing your people with peace. Thank you for all the times you have given me the gift of peace, not only internal peace, but peace in my relationships, in my work, in my activity in the world.
Lord, I pray for all who read this reflection today, that you will indeed give them the gift of your peace. And may they pass on this gift to others in your name. Amen.