I’ve been thinking a lot this week about the transitions our congregation is facing as we prepare to say goodbye to two of our leaders. I dread saying goodbye, even in a time when social media makes staying in touch easier than ever.
Then I started thinking about the early church, and how early church leaders like Peter, Paul, and Barnabas were constantly saying goodbye, often permanently. They migrated all over the Mediterranean region, planting churches and moving on. It was dangerous and exciting and probably quite lonely.
Their only method of staying in touch was letter-writing, several of which are preserved in our New Testament. Almost every New Testament letter opens and closes with a simple blessing: “Grace and peace to you.” No hello, no goodbye, only “grace and peace.”
Maybe “grace and peace” was simply a common pleasantry, but I love the way it bookends Paul, Peter, John, and Jude’s correspondence. These men’s lives were neither simple nor tranquil, but grace and peace were constants throughout every one of their lives’ transitions.
Grace and peace often aren’t as “loud” as our anxieties, but they’re present in our transitions, too. Grace allows us to accept that one chapter has ended and move into a new chapter with hope. Peace is the gift we receive when we stop trying to control the transition and trust that God knows the way forward–easier said than done, I know.
Grace places people in our lives who befriend us, comfort us, challenge us, and push us toward growth. Peace comes when we accept those people for the gifts that they are.
Grace and peace don’t erase the difficulty of our lives’ transitions, but because of them, we can come out the other side wiser, stronger, and steadier.
Throughout every transition–personal, communal, and otherwise–may we all find grace and peace paving the way and meeting us on the other side.