Passing the peace is a major and necessary part of the ritual for Word and Table Service in the Methodist Church.
The Peace is sandwiched between Confession/Pardon and the Great Thanksgiving. The celebrant says, “Let us offer one another signs of reconciliation and love.” And the congregation rises up from the comfort of their seats, reach out to their neighbours, grasp their hands and say, “Peace” or “The peace of Christ. Shalom.”
The gesture is simple yet the meaning is profound. But we have often denigrated it to be a form of greeting rather than a sign of reconciliation.
The purpose of passing the peace of Christ is to affirm with one another, “I am at peace with Christ. And I am at peace with you.” This is not a greeting. This is not an intermission when we catch up with each other or meet new comers. This is an intended sign of reconciliation.
And which congregation in the church doesn’t need that?
In any circle of relationships, there will always be people who pissed you off and those who are pissed by you.
Yet we are called to “Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:3).
Passing the peace is a major step towards that. It is saying, “I am at peace with God and I want to be at peace with you.”
Otherwise, in other occasions you would rather avoid people who pissed you. You would rather not speak with them. But now you touch, shake hands and speak “Peace.” And the silence is broken, the bad vibes canceled and the negative feelings drained out.
Passing the peace is an important tradition we need to keep and practice. It expressly identifies us as peacemakers. It trains our hearts, our hands and our lips to speak peace. Just like we train our children to say “please” and “thank you.” And even though initially they might do so without much sincerity or doubt the value of such gestures yet over time through regular practice, their hearts are eventually filled with grace and gratitude.
In fact our Lord Jesus encourages us to do so. In Matthew 5:24-25 He said:
“Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.”
It is for this reason passing the Peace always comes before Communion. Before you offer your gift at the altar, Jesus says, “be reconciled.”
Let the peace that guides you to the Lord’s Table be the peace that guides you to your coffee table and lunch table.
Let us remember we are reconciled people of God whom Jesus invites to His Table.
Like any family, there will always be strife, hurts and resentment. Don’t be pissed. Pass the peace.