Friday, January 25, 2013

The Passing of the Peace

The habit of “Passing the Peace” predates early Christian worship going all the way back at least to the time of King David. In Psalm 122, David writes, “I was glad when they said to me, ‘Let us go to the house of the Lord.’” Later in that same psalm he writes, “For my brothers and companions’ sake I will say, ‘Peace be within you!’”

Jesus greeted his disciples with the words, “Peace be with you” (Luke 24:36; John 20:19, 26) and the Apostle Paul frequently opened his letters with the words “Grace and peace be with you” (Rom. 1:7; 1Cor. 1:3; 2Cor. 1:2).  In imitation of this habit, the Christian Church from its earliest days has adopted this custom during their worship together. Most commonly one speaker would say, “The peace of Christ be with you” and receive the words in turn, “And also with you” or “And with your spirit.” Variations on this may be “Christ be with you,” or simply “Peace be with you.”

This greeting is simple, yet profound. By extending our hands and exchanging “Peace” we acknowledge to one another that Jesus Christ is at the heart of our coming together. We express our solidarity in Christ with each other. Further, the cumulative impact of passing the peace week after week shapes our hearts that our lives together conform more perfectly to the words themselves. Finally, when we regularly pass the peace we practice God’s call “to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” (Eph. 4:3)

As we pass the peace, take a moment to turn to those around you and share in the blessing of peace given to us by our Lord Jesus Christ. Rather than an opportunity to merely chat or catch up, use this time to build one another up with these simple words.

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