The Sign of Peace

Date: 3/6/2011
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John 20:19–21 -  So when it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and when the doors were shut where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst and *said to them, “Peace be with you.” 20:20 And when He had said this, He showed them both His hands and His side. The disciples then rejoiced when they saw the Lord. 20:21 So Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you; as the Father has sent Me, I also send you.”

1) We need peace. Peace in the Bible is the final state of affairs. Grace, mercy, justification.  .  .  all these are just a means to peace. “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Rom. 5:1). The kingdom is itself peace - “the kingdom of God . . . righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Rom. 14:17). Peace means “wholeness” (Heb. Shalom), not a mere cessation of war or trouble. We shall only be whole in our own Transfigurations in the Resurrection.

2) We need resurrection peace. Jesus’s first action in His resurrection presence with His disciples was to grant and confer peace to them. He even said it twice to make the point: “So Jesus said to them again, ‘Peace be with you’” (v21, also Lk. 24:36). This was not a mere greeting, “hello” or “how’s it hangin.’” Rather, it expresses the recognition of “His peace accomplished” on the Day of Resurrection and focuses on the true unity of those baptized in Christ. We have peace with God (definitively after the resurrection, believe it!). From this Jesus, summarizes our mission. “Peace be with you; as the Father has sent Me, I also send you” (v21). By this peace we are duly and actually empowered in His presence to be “sent” to the world.

3) We need the sign of peace. For these reasons, the Consistory determined to add “The Sign of Peace” or The Pax Domini (“Peace of the Lord”) to our Liturgy. This element complements quite beautifully the shape of the All Saints service. This practice has been historically part of the worship in East (Orthodox), West (Roman) and traditional Protestant communions, such as Lutheran and Anglican and many Reformed Churches. Many evangelical traditions have incorporated this as an informal greeting time. We all need to feel the bonds of love and acceptance, knowing we are “at peace” in the congregation. We will be officially adding this to our service (just prior to Coming to the Table). Use these words, “The peace of Christ to you” with the response, “And also with you.”

Gregg Strawbridge Gregg Strawbridge, Ph.D., is the pastor of All Saints Church in Lancaster, PA. He became a committed follower of Jesus Christ at age 20, discipled in the context of a University Navigator Ministry. As a result of personal discipleship he went on to study at Columbia Biblical Seminary (M.A., Columbia, SC, 1990), as well as receive a Ph.D. in education and philosophy... read more