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Ever wonder why we Lutherans use the form of worship we do? In this series we examine the depth and meaning of the various elements of our Lutheran worship service.

“Where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them,” Jesus promises. (Matthew 18:20 ESV) Every worship service is a time of precious fellowship with brothers and sisters in the faith and with the Lord Jesus Himself. By faith we are joined to Him as branches to the vine. But Jesus doesn’t stop there. He comes to us in an even closer, visible, and tangible way. He gives us His very body and blood in, with, and under the earthly elements of bread and wine. Martin Luther wrote, “I certainly love it with all my heart, the precious, blessed Supper of my Lord Jesus Christ, in which He gives me His body and blood . . . accompanied by the exceedingly sweet and gracious words: Given for you, shed for you.” (What Luther Says, page 792)

The historic Christian liturgy rightfully focuses a great deal of attention on this special feast for the soul. Following the Preface, Sanctus, and Lord’s Prayer, the pastor speaks the Words of Institution to consecrate—set apart for the Lord’s use—the bread and wine. Then comes the Pax Domini (Latin for “the peace of the Lord”). The pastor may pick up both the chalice and the bread while saying, “The peace of the Lord be with you always!” The congregation responds by singing or speaking, “Amen.”

Such simple, yet reassuring, Gospel-filled words! On the first Easter night Jesus appeared to His frightened disciples and said, “Peace be with you.” (John 20:19) Though they had abandoned Him at His arrest in the garden, and only John was there at His crucifixion, Jesus assured them of peace. He had endured the suffering for all their sins, and now all was well between them and God. Looking ahead to their work as the Lord’s apostles, there was no cause for fear. The living Lord would be with them always.

That peace is also ours. St. Paul assured the Corinthian believers that they need not be anxious about anything: “The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:7 ESV)

The peace of forgiveness is given by the Lord in the Sacrament in a way which we can see, taste, and touch. When we eat food, it becomes part of us. We take it into ourselves, where it nourishes every cell of our body. In the Lord’s Supper we take in Jesus’ body and blood. The Lord and His peace become part of us. “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.” (Galatians 2:20 ESV) It’s a way for us to “taste and see that the Lord is good.” (Psalm 34:8)

No matter the strife happening in the world around us, no matter how uncertain and unstable your life, the Lord gives you His peace to see you through all the unknowns of a new year and beyond, until we join the entire Holy Christian Church in the eternal feast of His kingdom in glory. The Lord will never forsake His own. “You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you.” (Isaiah 26:3)

The peace of the Lord be with you always! Whether it is spoken or sung, the confident response of faithful hearts is “Amen!”

Such simple, yet reassuring, Gospel-filled words! On the first Easter night Jesus appeared to His frightened disciples and said, “Peace be with you.”

Michael Eichstadt

Michael Eichstadt is pastor of Messiah Lutheran Church in Hales Corners, Wisconsin, and a past president of the CLC.