In our congregation, we celebrate Holy Communion at just about every worship service. Following the words of institution, I say, “The peace of the Lord be with you always,” and then encourage the congregation to share our Lord’s peace with those around them.
In addition to the traditional, “Peace be with you…” “…and also with you,” I’ll witness worshipers embracing, exchanging a kiss, shaking hands, waving and other assorted greetings. Some folks are a little uncomfortable with the moment, unwilling to share germs or give up valuable personal space. Many, I am sure, are not even aware of why we do this. So a member encouraged me to write about this part of the liturgy.
The sharing of the peace is intended to be a powerful reminder of the evening on the first day of the week when the disciples were hiding behind locked doors. Some had seen the empty tomb. Some had seen the risen Christ himself. Suddenly, Jesus is standing there among them and says, “Peace be with you” (John 20:19). Powerful words. Through Christ, God has reconciled us to himself. Our sins are forgiven, the relationship has been healed, and we have peace with God.
The real presence of our Lord in the sacrament also brings the peace of the Lord to us, which means we have also received the ministry of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:18). We bring the salt and light of a new relationship with God into our world. God also enables us to pursue and be at peace with one another before we approach his altar (Matthew 5:23,24).
Conflict is inevitable. Relationships are fragile. Feelings are easily hurt. But forgiveness is real. Reconciliation overcomes separation. Love covers a multitude of sins. And as we participate in the body and blood of Christ, we have a lot in common. We are all members of one another. We are his church!
Keep that in mind each time we share our Lord’s peace with one another.