PEACE BE WITH YOU
I don’t know about you but one of the things I have missed most during the pandemic period has been the ability to shake hands with people I meet - whether to greet, thank or bid farewell. I have never really taken to the ‘bumping’ of elbows.
A handshake can be used to convey warmth, sincerity, consolation, transaction, authority, affection, and peace. And it is fair to say that even the finest of elbows will struggle to convey such a range of meaning.
The idea of making peace with our neighbours is powerful. Under ‘normal situations’ we do this each Sunday as we believe that we cannot truly be at peace with God, and ourselves, if we have not made peace with our neighbours. To put it another way, we cannot ask God to forgive and bless us, if we have not forgiven those who have offended us and asked forgiveness from those whom we have offended. It is in our exchange of words, ‘Peace be with you’ that we mutually forgive and bless one another.
In church, there is a moment in the communion service, in the sharing of bread and wine, when we can shake hands with those around us as we say the words ‘Peace be with you’.
This little ritual derives from the more elaborate and ancient ‘kiss of peace’ - a gentle embrace and kiss on the cheek that symbolised fraternal love for our ‘brothers and sisters’ in Christ. A simple, physical act that represents a deep and significant bond - it reminds us that we are together on this journey through life. Of course, with the restrictions of the pandemic upon us we have adapted our practice in church from a handshake to a mutual nod or a little wave instead, but we still say the words ‘Peace be with you’.
This month may see the further lifting of restrictions, and who knows, we may soon be able to put our elbows away and shake hands with confidence once more! But whatever the pace of change, as we collectively emerge from the most challenging period of our adult lives, let us remember the power of simple actions and words. We will not have got everything right in the past year, and nor will others in their behaviour toward us - it has been a testing time for us all.
So, as we reconnect with those around us, whether we choose to embrace, to shake, to nod or to wave - let our message be ‘Peace be with you’ - and let forgiveness and blessing be our exchange.
This coming week may you all know the peace of God which passes all understanding.
With my love and prayers