FROM THE PASTOR
"Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world. Grant us peace!" So we sing every week before Christís altar, as the Church has sung for countless generations.
Jesus brought peace to earth Ė peace between man and God, because through him, we have the forgiveness of sins, and deliverance from slavery to sin, and these gifts bring an end to our enmity.
The Holy Spirit also has his gift of peace, which he produces in those who believe in Jesus (see Galatians 5:22). He brings the peace of a good conscience, which is washed clean of the guilt and punishment of sins, and is fortified by confident trust in Godís promises. He brings a peace that surpasses all understanding, which enables us to endure even the worst kinds of difficulties and temptations in this life.
But there is another way in which the Holy Spiritís gift of peace works: by helping us to live with one another in love and unity. This kind of peace, however, takes some work and effort on our part! So Saint Paul wrote in his letter to the Ephesians 4:3:
"I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace."
This is the sort of unity that Jesus prayed that his Church would have. Meditate on these words, with which Christ prayed for his disciples Ė and for you:
"I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me." John 17:20-23
For this reason, the Church of all ages always strives to live together in unity and peace.
Sadly, the unity and peace of Christ have been broken in the past, among us, in our families, and in our neighborhoods. The sinful works of the flesh Ė rivalries, dissensions, divisions (see Galatians 5:20) Ė have manifested themselves. We do not, however, give up! As Christians, we never cease to desire and strive for that unity and peace, for which Christ prayed, and which the apostle Paul exhorted us to maintain.
Out of love for one another, and for all our Christian brethren throughout the world, therefore, we gather to worship God, and receive his gifts in the Divine Service in a way that reflects this desire for peaceful unity. As Lutherans, we strive for greater conformity with one another, and with our heritage of the last 2,000 years. We ground ourselves in Scripture, we build each other up on Christ, and we rely solely on Godís grace. In this way, our doctrine and practice becomes recognizably Christian throughout the world, not only to those who are alive today, but also to those who have gone before us: to the entire body of Christ Ė of which we are so blessed by Godís grace to be members.
May we ever love Godís peace, strive to keep it, and pray that his peace may be given to us in abundance, according to his good and gracious will.
"Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God." Matthew 5:9.