Monday, September 6, 2010

Sharing the Peace

It is not uncommon for some folks to complain about the sharing of the peace.  It is especially the case for those who complain about the "new" services and bemoan the loss of The Lutheran Hymnal.  I have personally introduced the sharing of the peace in two congregations which had a history of conflict and neither were fond of the idea of sharing the peace -- perhaps most of all because they knew what this ritual actually meant.  I am somewhat sympathetic of those who feel like certain placements of this exchange of peace disrupt the flow of the liturgy and distract from what is happening but this is easily rectified.

I learned from my friend and mentor the Rev. Charles Evanson to place the exchange of peace following the absolution prior to the actual start of the liturgy.  In reality, I prefer this placement not only for aesthetic reasons but also for theological ones.  I understand why it is placed prior to the offering (given the words of our Lord in Luke's Gospel about leaving your gift at the altar and going to make peace with your brother first).  I can understand why it is placed following the Pax Domini since both are about peace (although I do not equate the peace of the Lord spoken while lifting up the chalice and host with the handshaking and hugging we associate with the sharing of the peace).  In both places the flow of the liturgy does seem to be disrupted by the practical aspects of standing up and moving around for the sharing of the peace.

For this reason I prefer the placement immediately after the absolution.  It fits.  We have just received absolution from the Father through Jesus Christ and now we have the opportunity to share what God has given us in Christ with those around us, signaling that we are not merely people of vertical relationships but horizontal ones as well.  So, following the absolution I say "May He who began this good work within us bring it to completion on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ."  To which the people responds, "Amen." and I continue, "The Peace of the Lord be with you." and they respond, "And also with you."  Then we share the sign of peace one with another, connecting our absolution from God to our relationships together as His people.  That completed, we are now free to begin the Divine Service.  The preparation is over.  The liturgy may begin unimpeded by the sins which built a wall between us and God and between each of us on earth.

As the organist intones the Introit, Kyrie, and Hymn of Prace (the extended entrance rite), we complete our sharing of the peace and move naturally to the beginning rite of the Divine Service.  It just fits.  So much more natural than at the end of the prayers or the Pax Domini of the Eucharistic Liturgy.  Think about it... I really do not know why to move it to another place. It is natural and less obtrusive to folks than stuck there at the end of the prayers or as the last versicle and response prior to receiving the Lord's Supper.

And I found fewer folks complaining about this ritual since it connects so well to the confession and absolution.  So it is an easy introduction to the Divine Service and much easier for folks to understand... what do YOU think?


Anonymous said...

Most helpful. Thank you very much.

ErnestO said...


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Judy said...

We do it at the end of the service after the candles are extinguished. (greeting each other). Our church was taught by former pastors "Before church, talk to God, during church let God talk to you, and after church talk with one another" Even with all the explanations I've heard about why to have it, and even being to churches that do have it, I'm still very uncomfortable having it during service. It still turns into a mini social time. I know it will come to our church soon, and it is just one of those things we have to accept. Why is there so much pressure to do this????

Rev. Allen Bergstrazer said...

If you've grown up without the sharing of the peace it often seems awkward and contrived. I think you've found a good way and place to have it if it is a part of the congregation's tradition.

One of my best friends told me what it was like introducing the sharing of the peace to his congregation in California back in the mid 70's. The pastor asked everyone to greet one another, and Russ turned around to an elderly German gentleman, extended his hand and said cheerfully 'greetings in the name of the Lord!" To which the other man said 'dummheit!' and sat down.

Anonymous said...

1. Korinther 1: 18 Denn das Wort vom Kreuz ist eine Dummheit denen, die verloren werden; uns aber, die wir selig werden, ist's eine Gotteskraft.

The idea that our faith is our own very private business, which nobody has the right to invade, has been a tradition in our church for many years. Passing the Peace is, among others, a wonderful, historical way of reminding us that the Kingdom of God is not for individuals, but for God’s people living in unity. Our Lord said, “where two or three are gathered ….”; not that a person by himself can constitute the church, or be saved apart from the Kingdom, which is made up of “a host arrayed in white.”

I know of an LCMS congregation in which, at some point selected by the pastor, he says, “As God’s forgiven people greet the people around you and introduce yourself to anyone you don’t know.” Immediately the building becomes louder than the Istanbul market, with guffaws and cheerful noises all around. I question the value of this exercise – no, I am certain it is counterproductive in terms of our faith.

Although I do not know the history of the practice of passing the Peace well enough, my intuition tells me that what you are doing is meet, right, and salutary. The spiritual discernment our Lord provides His people has not failed you.

Peace and Joy!
George A. Marquart

Rev. Luke T. Zimmerman said...

My parish has the Sharing of the Peace done after the Absolution. It is introduced by my saying: "Having been reconciled to God the Father by our Lord Jesus Christ, let us share His peace with one another. The Peace of Christ be with you." Then the sharing is done. Though I don't repeat exactly what was done at Redeemer, Fort Wayne, it is very similar. (Like you, Pr. Peters, I attended Redeemer for several years while at seminary. I also attend there whenever I am back at my parents' home in Indiana.)

I like the Sharing of the Peace after the Absolution, since it (a) naturally ends the Preparatory Rite; (b) connects the Peace to the forgiveness that Christ won for us and has been delivered through the Absolution; and (c) seems to agree with Christ's statement that one should be reconciled to his brother before offering his sacrifice. Since we Lutherans understand worship to be a form of our spiritual sacrifice, then the reconciliation should take place before even the Opening Hymn or Introit is sung. That is not the case if one places it before the Offertory or the Agnus Dei.

Rev. Allen Bergstrazer said...


Quite right. It is rather sad to think that one could enter a church be served by God in the service and leave not having contact with anyone else there. I have met more than a few who would prefer it that way.

Pax et gaudium

Richard said...

One I came to this congregation nine years ago, their practice was to share the peace after the absolution. They had been do it that way since their begining in 1951. After some thought it made great sense to me. I use words similar to Rev. Zimmerman.

The peace of the Lord be with all who receive his absolution.

Bishop Robert Lyons said...

Thanks for sharing this reflection, Pastor! The rationale you describe for its placement in the Lutheran Service is the same I use in my congregation, even though I am not Lutheran. I have found, as many others have, that the sign of peace after the absolution is a valuable way to reinforce the concept that our sins have not simply offended God, but have hurt our relationship with others, particularlly within the Body of Christ.