In our liturgy each week something happens after the prayers and prior to Holy Communion that is normal for us Lutherans, but might seem odd to visitors. We call it the “Sharing of Peace”. Many denominations practice this ritual during worship, while many others don’t and may even consider it rather strange. Sharing the peace has been a part of my faith upbringing as long as I can remember. In some congregations it’s been a simple handshake with the person beside me and I never leave the pew. At other times, it’s meant walking around the sanctuary for about 10 minutes and greeting just about everyone in the church. Sometimes I’ve held a hand, at other times I’ve given or received a hug. During flu season some prefer an elbow tap or the “two finger peace sign” from afar. However we do it, sharing the peace has been around for a very long time. The word Shalom in Hebrew was used to share the peace long before the time of Jesus. Now during the season of Easter, we will hear Jesus in our readings say Peace be with you on a regular basis.
Sharing God’s peace is not simply a time to say hello to someone sitting near you, which can be accomplished prior to worship. Sharing God’s peace is not the time to remind someone about a meeting after church. Sharing God’s peace is not the time to talk about the score in last night’s game (I’ve been guilty of this). Sharing God’s peace is an act of reconciliation between hearing the Word of God and participation in Holy Communion. It is an announcement of grace we make to each other. We share the peace with people we like and with people we don’t like. We share the peace with people we typically get along with and with people we hold grudges against. This is a time to remember that we are getting ready to receive a very special meal of forgiveness so we enter into that moment reconciling with each other. This is not human peace alone, but the peace which is only possible through Christ.
So when I share the peace, I am intentional about not only embracing those I really like, but also those that I might be in conflict with for some reason. It’s a time for holy peace among brothers and sisters in Christ. It’s a time to set aside our differences and be in the presence of the divine. I invite you, therefore, to embrace this opportunity we have in worship with a sense of unity, love, and wholeness among God’s people.