Faith Matters: Peace Be With You

Pastor Shawn Hannon Hope Lutheran Church, Arcade, NY
Pastor Shawn Hannon Hope Lutheran Church, Arcade, NY

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.

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Pastor Shawn is a 2010 graduate of the Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary in Columbia, South Carolina, and he began his call at Hope Lutheran Church, Arcade NY that summer. While he spent four years learning and serving churches in South and North Carolina, as a Jamestown, NY native, Western New York has always been home. He is glad to be here. Pastor Shawn and his wife Carol Hannon met while attending SUNY Geneseo in the mid-2000s. They have enjoyed making their home together in Arcade with their daughters Quinn and Perry.   Pastor Shawn has a background in youth and outdoor ministry. He is a former camper and staff person at Lake Chautauqua Lutheran Center in Bemus Point, NY. He has also served camps in urban settings and oversees in Madagascar. In seminary he was recognized for gifts in Greek and New Testament, and in his senior year was recognized with awards in both Preaching and Biblical Studies. Pastor Shawn continues to emphasize the youth in his ministry, but not simply because they are the future church, but because they are the church of today.  He also enjoys working on service projects, and takes the role of planning meaningful and engaging worship seriously.  He loves helping people find ways to put their passion and energy to work making their community and other people’s worlds a better place. When he is not working at church, Shawn enjoys remodeling and construction projects around his family’s home.  But as busy as he gets, PS always has time for a quick nine (okay, 18) on the golf course. He enjoys playing sports of all kinds and fiddling with his guitar.