There’s a part in our worship, and the worship of many churches throughout the world, called the sharing of the peace. It’s an opportunity to greet the people around you with a sign of Christ’s peace, and at the church I serve it can take a while. Frankly, I think it could go as long as you let it.
And that reality surprised me when I arrived there. You see, I always thought of ‘passing the peace’ as more of a ritual than a genuine greeting. The pastor would say “the peace of Christ be with you always,” and you’d start to share. But after greeting the people you came with you and the people immediately next to you, you sat down.
Imagine my surprise when I came to Hope and people not only shared the peace with more than 4 people but left their seats to do so. The first time I said, “the peace of Christ be with you always,” and people started getting out of their seat I thought they were leaving. It took me a minute to realize that they were just trying to share the peace with as many people as they could—including people clear across the room.
And that is worth doing, because sharing the peace is about more than just saying good morning. When we hear the word “the peace of Christ be with you” we’re reminded of Jesus’ reconciliation and grace that restores us and forgives us and makes us whole in person and with God. Then we get to share that with each other, and with every “peace be with you” grace is proclaimed. Differences are set aside. Forgiveness is offered. Community is formed. And all of that begins with a word of peace.
There’s a text from the gospel of John that shows up what God’s peace can do. It tells the story of the very first Easter evening. The disciples were locked away. They were scared. Their whole world has turned upside down in a week. And Jesus came and stood among them, and said “Peace be with you.” And he did not say it just once, but 3 times, and as he said it their fear turned to joy. As he said they were filled with the Holy Spirit. And as he said it, Thomas who is most well-known for his doubt, is filled with faith and proclaims: My Lord and My God.
If ever there was a time where we can relate to those disciples, it is now. For we too know what it is like to live in fear. We know what it is like to feel locked in our homes. For many of us, we actually are. My prayer for us, is that joined to them in their fear we might also be joined to them in their experience of Christ’s peace. That we too may experience Jesus’ presence and hear his declaration of peace.
We’re not together to share the words with handshakes and hugs, but we are nevertheless invited to continue to share Christ’s peace with one another. Christ’s peace meets us in our locked rooms and turns our fear to joy, fills us with the Holy Spirit, and gives us faith to proclaim “My Lord and my God.”
The Peace of Christ be with you this day and always.