"Passing the Peace"
Text: (The author did not use the prescribed lectionary reading for the week). Isaiah 1:10-18 and Jeremiah 6:14
In the congregation in the United States where I serve as Pastor, we have the practice of "passing the peace" as we prepare to share the Lord's Supper. We turn to one another and offer our hands, and say, "The peace of Christ be with you." This ritual, as is the case with all rituals, is meaningless unless it teaches and transforms us. Like the Prophets before him, Jesus taught that rituals and sacrifices - the daily "work" of church people - are of no worth in and of themselves.
Without mercy - true, lived mercy, they are empty (Hosea 6:6; Matthew 9:13 and 12:7). Isaiah reminds us of this, and proclaims that it is justice - rescuing the oppressed, defending the orphan, and pleading for the widow - that will truly show our faithfulness.
How can we truly live mercy in our daily lives?
The Basotho have a saying when a frustrating situation arises: "Mohau o teng; thuso ha eeo" (Mercy is here; help is not). When we work together to honor and care for one another, we are truly worshiping our God who cares deeply and preferentially for those who are suffering most.
We are a people living in the midst of oppression, poverty, illness, and, often, hopelessness. How can we best "pass the peace?"
We can best pass the peace, it seems, by receiving AND sharing the love and grace God gives us. We can best pass the peace of Christ when we not only pray for those of us who are facing oppression, but work with one another to bring justice, renewal, and hope. We acknowledge God's powerful grace and mercy when we pass the peace in our communities as we share resources, demand justice, embrace our neighbors, and work together.
I learned this well living and working with people in southern Africa in the midst of struggles related to HIV and AIDS. I'm sure I didn't learn enough Sesotho, but perhaps faithful Basotho would agree that "Ka lebaka la mohau oa Molimo o teng, joale thuso e teng - ruri!" (Because of the presence of God's mercy, help is truly present). After all, "Molimo ha a fe motho ka letsoho" (God's help doesn't often come directly, but through the care and kindness of one another).
Pass the peace this week by loving, helping, and caring for and with all the people you encounter!
Written by: Rev. Jeff Moore, D.Min., Ph.D., St. Louis, Missouri USA; CCoH Facilitator.