The Final Words
“Send us now into the world in peace,
and grant us strength and courage
to love and serve you
with gladness and singleness of heart;
through Christ our Lord.”
These 30 words from the first of the post-communion prayers sum up the Prayer Books theology about what God desires of us as Christian community, a community of thankful responsibility to Christ. And it bugs me from time to time that we/I seem to think so little of this prayer that we let ourselves be distracted by other needs, instead of focusing on this final—and crucial—30 words. Perhaps this is on my mind more than usual, as we have been fasting from participation in the bread and wine of our Eucharist since March; however, that does not preclude any of us from ‘going out’ and ‘being sent’. These final words remind us of what we are to expect in our daily lives as God’s people.
This is at heart a prayer of petition, in which we present our needs during the week to come, asking that God’s will be done. “Send us… grant us…” Whatever happens to us in the week to come, this prayer reminds us, happens to a people, a community, “accepted as living members: and fed…with spiritual food; which, in these times, are the words we recite and live into, together.
• We are not alone, even when no one else is there.
• We are not ‘lone rangers’ acting in isolation, but God’s people, sent as community to do God’s will in a needy world.
God’s will, we are reminded, is to be recognized “in peace”; we act for the sake of peace and for the sake of God’s peaceable reign here on earth as in heaven.
• Peace does not come easily, for we begin by praying for strength. We go in peace strengthened by divine love.
• Yet the kind of love that God gives us for strength is a love that calls us into those risky places where God’s will gets done; those scary places where love is most needed, those places that may not even want our love, but to which God is calling us to bring God’s peace. So we pray for courage. The courage not to back down, not to wait until later, not to let somebody else do it, not to fear, whatever cost is involved for us.
Our praying shapes our belief that we are sent to serve God in our life—not in mindless obedience, but in love; in love that has made us in its image; with singleness of heart, not distracted by all the other demands on our lives.
It really keeps me up at night when I forget to take these final words with all the seriousness it deserves. NLJ+