Avoiding the Peace

Traditional Christian worship often includes a Rite known as the Passing of the Peace.  While it may well be that this was once observed within worship with the sharing of a holy kiss (Romans 16:16, 1 Corinthians 16:20, 2 Corinthians 13:12, 1 Thessalonians 5:26) the practice these days is usually sufficed with a handshake.  Sometimes people will say The peace of the Lord as they shake someone’s hands.  It’s supposed to be a brief exchange with the people nearest you, but it can easily get out of hand in a friendly congregation, with people traversing the entire nave (church space) to say hi to all their favorite friends.

It’s beautiful, but it can be difficult for new folks because regulars aren’t going out of their way to come and say hi to them, so they’re standing there awkwardly while others are going through elaborate greetings.  It can also be very difficult for introverts, for whom large-scale social interaction can be uncomfortable.  I know this.  I’m an introvert.  I became a pastor in part so I wouldn’t have to share the peace.

Not really, but I can certainly empathize!

I believe that the ritual has a very specific purpose.  Certainly in early Christian congregations you had people from all walks of life – the rich and the poor, slaves and free, converted Jews as well as non-Jews.  Yet in Christ these divisions cease to hold the same importance that they do without him (Galatians 3:28).  It isn’t that these divisions disappear – they still exist (much to the consternation of some very idealistic Christians across two millenia!), but as a reminder to everyone that they may matter in the world but not in Christ, we share the peace.  We share the reminder that we are united in the forgiveness of Jesus Christ, won by his very real suffering, death, burial, resurrection, ascension and promised return.  What we now have in common far outweighs our differences.  It transcends them and starts to transform them as we extend forgiveness to one another.

But it’s still difficult for some.  I imagine they might appreciate this little tome.  I haven’t read it, but it was referenced in a high school buddy’s annual missive and I know there are more than a few folks out there who would probably find it very relevant to their struggles.


One Response to “Avoiding the Peace”

  1. sinner Says:

    Pastor Nelson you got a tiger by the tail on this subject. As a older man in his eighty’s i have seen alcohol become a problem in lives within and outside of the church. I have also seen overeating, wandering eye, pride, and numerous other failings be problematic to both Christians and non Christians.I have attended churches where Christ’s first miracle of turning water into wine was portrayed not as fermented wine but just plain old grape juice.This viewpoint was problematic to me 60 years ago and still is. When Jesus turned water into wine at the wedding feast at Cana the master of the feast was surprised that the best wine was served at the last of the wedding celebration and not at the beginning.It makes sense to me that he was implying that the usual practice of serving the best wine first was customary as after celebrating for a time it would more difficult to judge the quality of the wine.This makes sense to me as the taste buds could be dulled by the alcohol. The Bible tells us that where the Spirt of the Lord is there is liberty. I believe this liberty of
    having a glass of wine or spirts is ok for me as long as i do not abuse it.Scripture tells us to not become drunken. If another is convicted that drinking is not proper for whatever reason then don’t drink as it is wrong for you.

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