Last night Jane and I were in a restaurant and at first it was just a really nice evening - eating out, being with the one I love, surrounded by others having a good time, no worries... but all of a sudden I could just feel this incredible tension in the air. Some members of the waitstaff were apparently not getting along. And they were making it quite known to those around them. It really ruined the mood of the evening. And, even though it had nothing at all to do with me, it effected me... negatively. It made me want to leave (which we soon did); it made me not want to ever go back there.
As I was thinking about that this morning, I began to wonder... how often is church just like that? People come to a worship service, hoping to meet up with God and enjoy his presence along with some others... and then they get subjected to someone trying to create turmoil in the church; or someone with an agenda; or even a pastor who happens to have an attitude problem that day. Man... I shudder to think of the number of times I have probably ruined the mood for someone - both as a pastor and as a lay person. Forgive me, Lord. Help me to always be mindful of the effect and influence my thoughts, attitudes, and actions can have on others.
I decided something we might want to start doing in our church is "Passing of the Peace." Sure, we usually have a time to "greet" one another - to say "howdy, how are you." But Passing of the Peace is much more than that. According to this site (https://www.lcms.org/pages/internal.asp?NavID=4456) even beginning with the New Testament church it "took on a specific function of liturgy... It's function was to visibly demonstrate that all who were present were one in the faith and that no sin stood in the way of their unity." For example, "Consider this: what if you don't want to share the peace with the person sitting in front of you because you are mad at that person for something he did to you or sad about you? The fact that you don't even want to shake hands with that person would suggest that indeed there is a need for reconciliation to take place - a gift that God freely offers through His Son."
Yeah... I like that. A time during our gathering where we say to those around us, "The peace of Christ be with you," and hear back, "And also with you." We're not just greeting one another, we are seeking God's peace upon the person(s) we greet; and therefore bringing His peace into our presence. We are creating a time and space for people to freely come to Him, to feel safe, and among friends. This would be a holy place. This is my desire for our weekly gatherings. Remind me, Lord.
The peace of Christ be with you.