+L’s Little Liturgical Lesson: The Sharing of the Peace

The Sharing of the Peace…the ‘holy kiss’   (see for example, Romans 16:16 and 1 Corinthians 16:20)

  • This is an ancient custom you’ll find in the New Testament. It’s meaning and beginning lies with Jesus, who says ‘Peace be with you’ to the disciples on the first Easter evening. Four of the five times the phrase is used in the N.T. are in resurrection appearances, and the fifth has Paul calling down that peace on the Christians in Rome. It’s a peace that is available because of the death and resurrection of Jesus. It’s a gift from him, and he wants us to receive it, and we should want one another to receive it!
  • Paul describes the peace Jesus gives as ‘passing all understanding’, and calls on the Christians to greet one another with a ‘holy kiss’. 
  • Jesus also tells those who will listen that if they have an issue with another person, they should go and make their peace with the other person before going to the altar. (Matthew 5:23-24) The setting of the ‘sharing of the peace’ just before the gifts of bread and wine and money are brought up to the altar is a gentle reminder of this call to be reconciled.
  • The sharing of the peace is not the same as saying ‘hello’ or a time for a catch up! It’s a symbolic gesture of the communion we share with each other through Christ, and is a bestowing of a blessing on each other.
  • We should never be ‘choosy’ about who we share the peace with! The Church is a community of equal love. If there is any bias at all it should be toward the stranger in our midst.
  • While some like to move around the church greeting in the name of the Lord, some prefer not to, and that is fine! Then those around you with whom you share the peace become ‘representatives’ of the whole congregation.
  • Sometimes it feels appropriate to offer the peace with a kiss or a hug, but a gentle hand shake offered with smiling eyes is a good ‘norm’.

BY +LINDSAY