By Jennifer Taylor
Occasionally I attend services at an Episcopal church in downtown Nashville. Although I love my “every week” church, I also enjoy the rhythms of the liturgical year and the thoughtful worship this congregation creates around it.
One of my favorite parts of the liturgy is the offering of peace. After the confession of sins, the priest says, “The peace of the Lord be always with you.” We answer, “And also with you,” the signal for the congregation to smile, shake hands, and even hug those in the pews nearby. When greeting each person it’s customary to say, “Peace to you” or simply, “Peace.”
How Do You Like Me Now?
It’s interesting Jesus greeted his gathered disciples this way. Of all the messages he could have communicated at this important moment, he led with a message of comfort. These followers, huddled in a locked room, were hiding from their fellow Jews and grieving his death. They were confused about the empty tomb and unsure what it meant. When Jesus suddenly appeared in their gathering place, the initial reaction must have been surprise, fear, and even guilt.
But he didn’t say, “I told you I’d come back,” or “Do you believe yet?” He simply offered peace.
Peace to You
In the Episcopal tradition the Peace is followed by Holy Communion. After admitting sin and extending grace, the congregation accepts grace in the body and blood.
In John 20, the disciples had no problem recalling their sins, and the exhortations to remember Jesus’ broken body and shed blood probably still rang in their ears from that supper just a few days earlier. But they, too, received peace and a precious communion—a reunion with Christ!
Although the peace given and received during these worship services comes from the mouths of fallen people, together we represent Christ to each other. We, too, are scared and guilty and more than ready to commune with God. And we, too, are greeted with peace because of Jesus.
Today Christians around the world celebrate that Christ has died. Christ has risen. Christ will come again. Peace to you as we celebrate the joy of Jesus’ resurrection.
Jennifer Taylor is a freelance writer and editor in Nashville, Tennessee.