In the last few weeks, we have gathered for funerals for several of the members of St. John's. Several times a phrase was used to describe where our hope rested: "he/she is resting in peace." They departed into a peace that surpasses human understanding as their souls were now with the Lord in the heavens. But what about those still here, what about our peace?
It is a great delight to celebrate Holy Communion and then hear, or remember, the beautiful song of Simeon that celebrates an absolute peace that has been received. Simeon had been promised that he would not die until he had seen the promised Messiah. Upon Jesus naming and circumcision, Simeon sings the words of praise for the gift God has sent to fulfill all of His promises to the world and especially, to His Church who trusts His promises. The "Nunc Dimittis" gives all believers the great joy of remembering that God is faithful and He has sent His Son to save mankind from sin.
"29. Lord, as you have promised, you now dismiss your servant in peace. 30. For my eyes have seen your salvation, 31. which you have prepared in the sight of all people, 2. a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel." (Luke 2:29-32) These words do not deal with a wish, or an earthly hope, that God has forgiven our sins. It declares God's action and fulfillment of salvation in the One who is the Christ, the Son of the Living God. Our confidence is not based on a 'sense' of emotional peace, but on the declared peace that comes by God's pure grace that is gripped by faith the faith God has accomplished in us. Our peace rests in God's faithfulness to His promises, in spite of our unfaithfulness as sinners in a fallen world.
When the pastor, as the Lord's spokesman, dismisses the people "in peace," our attention and hope is not looking inward to our determination to be faithful, for our self-examination will always lead to the realization of our sinfulness. By God's undeserved love, out attention is focused outwardly to the Word and Promises of God that proclaim to us forgiveness and peace. It looks squarely into the Bread and the Wine received, along with the promises of God which empower this sacrament, and rejoices in the promise proclaimed forgiveness of sins. The hope that is within us is not self-generated; our hope is born of God and received in the words and promises of Jesus who says to us, "26. While they were eating, Jesus took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying, "Take and eat; this is my body." 27. Then he took the cup, gave thanks and offered it to them, saying, "Drink from it, all of you. 28. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins." (Matthew 26:26-28)
When the pastor dismisses those who have received the true body and blood of Christ in Holy Communion, he sends them out in the peace of the Lord, a peace accomplished on the Cross of Calvary when Christ paid the punishment for all sin for all time. With great joy we actually "Go in peace", and in the Good News is that this isn't because we now have a peaceful feeling within us, but we have received the declaration from God that our sins are forgiven, which is life and salvation. Our peace rests in the almighty and infallible words and promises of our Lord, by the grace of God.
So we sing the song of peace received by God's grace through the Easter victory we constantly celebrate in our worship life. We look to the cross and understand that God paid the price for sin through Jesus Christ, and we have peace because He has accepted this great sacrifice of Christ's death for our sin. The only faithful Son of God paid what we cannot, and then delights to send us out singing with Simeon, "Lord, now let your servant depart in peace." We depart the sacrament and the divine service in peace to live under God's free grace and favor. We live in peace for all the days that we live in Christ, or better understood as "He lives in Us!" "20. I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. 21. I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!" (Galatians 2:20-21) These words don't indicate a foolish God who sends His Son to die for sins that can be paid for by us in some special way! No! Christ paid for the forgiveness of sins that no one could work out for themselves. God's grace in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ is the great gift of forgiveness of sins that leaves us singing: "Mine eyes have seen Your salvation which you have prepared in the sight of all people."
A former member called to say she had gone here for five years, post cancer visit, and was told she is free of cancer. How beautiful is the faith of all Believers (Christ's Church) to hear by the grace of God: your sins are forgiven, depart in peace!
"The Lord bless you and keep you, the Lord make His face shine upon you and be gracious unto you; the Lord look upon you with His favor and grant you peace.