Thursday, March 31, 2011

ATP: The Sharing of the Peace

"Peace be with you." This is the greeting after the prayers in Setting 4 of the Divine Service. Why do we do it? What should we say? What does it mean?

In learning this new setting of the Divine Service, the greeting after the prayers has more than a few people confused. Some have wondered what they should be saying. Others have inquired why we do this in the middle of the service. Still others have complained that it seems to break up the flow of the service.

What is this greeting? First, what it isn’t. It’s not a time for conversation, not a time to welcome visitors, not a time to catch up with friends, not even a time to say “hello.” When it becomes any of those things, the complaint that it breaks up the flow of the service is correct.

So what is it? A word of peace. The rubrics instruct, “Following the prayers, the people may greet one another in the name of the Lord, saying, ‘Peace be with you,’ as a sign of reconciliation and of the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace (Matt. 5:22–24; Eph. 4:1–3).” In short, it’s a word of forgiveness.

This is a time to set aside past hurts, to give up grudges, to promise not to dwell on sins committed against you. This is a time of saying, “Since in Christ God has forgiven me an insurmountable debt, I will freely and fully forgive anyone who has sinned against me.” It’s what we pray God would enable us to do in the 5th Petition of the Lord’s Prayer. Those who have been forgiven forgive one another.

“The sharing of the peace is an opportunity for the worshippers to be reconciled and to express the great love they have for one another” (Maschke, Gathered Guests: A Guide to Worship in the Lutheran Church, 146).