Matthew 5:21-26 (ESV)
21 “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ 22 But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother[a] will be liable to judgment; whoever insults[b] his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell[c]of fire. 23 So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24 leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. 25 Come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are going with him to court, lest your accuser hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you be put in prison. 26 Truly, I say to you, you will never get out until you have paid the last penny.[d]
It seems like in many of our congregations there is ambivalence about the worship practice of sharing the peace. Some people do it joyfully. Others do it only begrudgingly. Still others refuse to do it altogether. The reasons vary.
The practice of sharing the peace during worship is rooted and grounded in Jesus’ teaching found in today’s reading from Matthew. Here, in Jesus’ famous Sermon on the Mount, Jesus teaches, “So when you are offering your gift at the altar, if you remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother or sister, and then come and offer your gift” (5:23-24). The sharing of the peace is more than just an opportunity to say hello. The sharing of the peace is an opportunity for reconciliation within the community of faith between those who have wronged one another before we present our offerings and before we share in the meal of Holy Communion together.
Though for most of us, most of the time, the sharing of the peace is merely a ritual enactment of our need for reconciliation with one another, in the performing of this practice week after week, hopefully our hearts are opened to seek real reconciliation in our relationships with others. Our relationships with others matter to Jesus. In fact, our relationships with others matter to Jesus more than our offerings, more than our worship, more than our religious ritual. Unless we are open to seeking reconciliation in our relationships with others, it is difficult for our hearts to be open to the reconciliation that God offers to us in Jesus.
The peace of Christ be with you always. May we do it joyfully.
Lord Jesus, where I have wronged others in my relationship with them, help me to seek reconciliation. Where others have wronged me in their relationship with me, help me to offer peace and reconciliation with them. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Written by Pastor Greg Busboom—Lead Pastor firstname.lastname@example.org