WHAT’S WITH THE HAND-SHAKING WE CALL “PASSING OF THE PEACE”?
The Passing of the Peace is a sign-act of reconciliation and blessing which is based on New Testament Christian practice (Romans 16:16 and at least 4 other verses advise, “Greet one another with a holy kiss.”) These days, we are a bit shy about kissing, and some are even hesitant to shake hands, especially if they’ve got a cold. Nevertheless, the act is significant, whether we shake hands, bump elbows, hold up a hippie “peace-V”, or simply look one another in the eye as we greet each other. It is far more than a chance to say “Hi.” In sharing words like “The peace of Christ be with you,” and hearing the response “And also with you,” we are reminded us that we are all in this together; we are all God’s children, who “forgive as we are forgiven.” We have the power and the charge to bless others with Christ’s peace every moment of every day, but it’s not easy! In worship, we practice sharing that important, life-giving act.
It is good that we share the peace towards the beginning of our worship. It helps us to approach God with a clean heart. In Matthew 5:23, Jesus tells his followers, “if you are presenting your offering at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your offering there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering.”
So next Sunday, as you prepare for worship, prayerfully consider people or situations in your life where God’s reconciliation and peace is needed. As you pass the peace with others, earnestly seek to offer and receive the Peace of Christ. You may at that moment experience a blessing of release and forgiveness, or it perhaps it will empower you to go and seek reconciliation in the week to come. Peace be with you!