“May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.”
Many weeks our services at Church on the Green end with those words. I always make a point of smiling and nodding at the people around me, sharing the grace with them. The words are so familiar. I say it so often and it just rolls off the tongue. It’s nice to feel together, to be a little club with a secret sign off. But what on earth are we saying?
The words of “the grace” come straight from Scripture. They are Paul’s closing words to the church in Corinth. You can read it for yourself in 2 Corinthians 13:14. It is a prayer Paul prays for this bunch of Christians who he has been telling off. They are in a right state! They are arguing and fighting with each other, sleeping with each other, really battling to hang on to the truth, struggling with issues of purity and kindness. In his letter, Paul has been pretty stroppy with them!
Paul has spoken strongly with the church in Corinth but his final words are a prayer of blessing. Not a prayer that God would show them that he (Paul) is right, or that God would punish them for being so argumentative.
Paul asks God to bless them with:
1) Jesus’ grace. May God show them undeserved kindness because of Jesus. The church in Corinth definitely didn’t deserve Jesus’ forgiveness. Neither do I. Neither do we. But Paul longs for them to enjoy that grace and prays that they would.
2) the Father’s love. The unending, patient, kind, not-giving-up, pursuing love of God. The kind of love God shows us and the kind of love Paul commands us to have for each other in his other letter to the Corinthians. Love for each other in church is patient, love for each other in church is kind… (1 Corinthians 13:4-8)
3) The together-ness that comes from the Spirit. Despite arguments and sinning against one another. Only God’s Spirit can bring the church together, whether it’s the people local church, or uniting a local church with other Christians far away. Paul prays that God’s Spirit will bring the church in Corinth together as one, and also that they would be joined to himself and other churches through that same Spirit.
Paul’s prayer gives us a look into his heart, looking to bless and love God’s people all the time.
So as you look round the church this Sunday, and smile, nod and wave. But don’t just say the grace; _pray_ the grace for each other.
May God bless you by showing you kindness in Jesus, even though you don’t deserve it.
May God pour out his love on you and show you this week that you can trust him, his love will catch you.
May God bring us together by his Spirit, even though at times we disagree or selfishly sin against each other.
May all the persons of the Trinity bless you, now and forever. Amen.