Have you ever wondered why we do what we do during worship? What’s up with the passing the peace? Or why are we always confessing our sins? Maybe you’ve wondered if there’s more to the offering besides collecting gifts for the church. If you’ve been asking, if you’ve been curious, if you’ve been wondering, this is the blog series for you!
Now here’s my super short caveat:
1. These posts are based on the book of Evangelical Lutheran Worship (ELW), on my understanding of our tradition as Lutherans, and the ways scripture has influenced our practices.
2. And worship is super contextual. That means that every context may have different practices for their worship time, different understandings of the whys behind what happens, and that’s okay!
3. Also, even if you worship in the same context I do, your understanding or feeling might be different. And that’s okay too!
So here is part 1 of Ask the Pastor – Worship Stuff: Passing the Peace!
Passing the Peace
Leader: The peace of the Lord be with you
All: And also with you
Leader: I invite you to share a sign of peace with your neighbor
Maybe it’s suprising, but passing the peace is one of the most talked about worship parts in my clergy circles. From issues around the peace taking too long or being too short to those who identify as more introverted and/or germophobic struggling with so much handshaking. I’ve heard people concerned about when the peace is shared during service. Should it be at the beginning? In the middle? At the end? Is it disrupting the flow or worship?
Sometimes we think of “passing the peace” as a greeting time so we can say good morning to all of our church friends. We haven’t seen Eunice in a few weeks and it’s so great to catch up and give her a hug. Or maybe it’s a chance for us to introduce ourselves to the visitors who snuck in just as service started (I am guilty of this one for sure). And in our church, as the peace happens at the beginning of service, it’s often a time of laughter and handshakes and preparing ourselves for worship.
All of these are wonderful parts to passing the peace, but they’re actually not the main reason for the peace as part of worship. The actual purpose, the reason it exists, is because of those words the pastor says as an introduction. “The peace of our Lord be with you.”
As Jesus appeared to his disciples after his resurrection, saying to them, “Peace be with you”. As I’m writing this we’ve just finished the second Sunday of Easter and Jesus says to his disciples three times in our reading from John, “Peace be with you.” This is the peace that Jesus brings us in his resurrection. The peace of new life, of the Holy Spirit, of Jesus’s presence among us.
And so when we say “Peace be with you”, or “God’s peace”, or whatever phrase you choose to share as you shake a hand or give a hug or wave from across the sanctuary, that peace is a greeting and so much more. It’s the way we recognize Jesus’s presence among us in worship. It’s how we recognize Christ in our neighbors around us. In just a few words, we greet each other as Jesus greeted his disciples, and welcome Jesus’s presence with us, around us, and through us.
So if you’ve ever wondered why I’m such a proponent of keeping the peace in worship, this is it. Jesus shares his peace that surpasses understanding with all of us, and we are called to share it together. How could we not share this peace as part of our worship?