28 May 20132 Corinthians 13:11-13
"The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with all of you." (v. 13)
How many times have you been in a church service, meeting or just a church setting and heard the invitation, "Shall we say the grace together?" And how many times do we intone a version of the words contained in verse 13, yet with our minds on the coffee after worship, who we need to see, the journey home or some other distraction?
Grace is a constant theme in Paul's writing - one to which he returns to again and again. It begins many of his letters (eg Romans 1:7; 1 Corinthians 1:3; Galatians 1:3), including this one (2 Corinthians 1:2), and ends many of them too. For Paul, grace (ie the freely given love of God) should be in every moment of the life of faith for all believers. Our life is dependent upon it, from the beginning to the end.
Different translations of the Bible use different words for "communion", such as "association", or "fellowship". This can refer either to a close personal relationship between each person and the Holy Spirit, or it can relate to the fellowship among believers that the Holy Spirit produces, such as the spiritual gifts that the Spirit brings to enrich the life of all (eg 1 Corinthians 12:7; Galatians 5:22). But the joy of this is that it is not necessarily a case of 'either/or' but 'both/and'!
This verse and the prayer conveniently have a very neat expression of the Trinity (God/Father, Christ and the Holy Spirit), but its lasting power is its ability to give voice to the depth and breadth of God's love.
The final five words "be with all of you" once again proclaims the inclusiveness of God's love. It is made the more poignant given the context and content of the letter that Paul had just written: the Corinthian church had been infiltrated by false teachers who were challenging Paul's authority and integrity. Paul makes a defence of himself and his beliefs along with a warning of his readiness to exercise discipline if required. In spite of the disagreements and threat of division, he ends by affirming that the members of the community do stand on the same ground and belong to one another because of God's love - the grace that comes from Christ and the fellowship which is generated by the Holy Spirit.
So the next time you are invited to join in "the grace", try and be more aware of the power of the prayer that you are praying.
- In verse 11, Paul writes "live in peace". How can we "live in peace" when there is so much strife and suffering in the world?
- What does "the communion [fellowship] of the Holy Spirit" mean to you?
- "The grace" is often said as a prayer of blessing to one anyone. How easy is it to say when they are those you struggle to love? What might you do in response to this?