Sunday, October 11, 2015

A Holy Handshake

Sermon given Oct. 11, 2015 at United Church of Beloit

Genesis 18:1-8

The Three Visitors

18  The  Lord  appeared to Abraham  near the great trees of Mamre  while he was sitting at the entrance to his tent  in the heat of the day.  Abraham looked up  and saw three men  standing nearby. When he saw them, he hurried from the entrance of his tent to meet them and bowed low to the ground.
He said, “If I have found favor in your eyes,  my lord, do not pass your servant by.  Let a little water be brought, and then you may all wash your feet  and rest under this tree.  Let me get you something to eat,  so you can be refreshed and then go on your way―now that you have come to your servant.”
“Very well,” they answered, “do as you say.”
So Abraham hurried into the tent to Sarah. “Quick,” he said, “get three seahs of the finest flour and knead it and bake some bread.”
Then he ran to the herd and selected a choice, tender calf  and gave it to a servant, who hurried to prepare it.  He then brought some curds  and milk  and the calf that had been prepared, and set these before them.  While they ate, he stood near them under a tree.

1 Thessalonians 5:12-28
12  Now we ask you, brothers and sisters, to acknowledge those who work hard among you, who care for you in the Lord  and who admonish you.  13  Hold them in the highest regard in love because of their work. Live in peace with each other.14  And we urge you, brothers and sisters, warn those who are idle  and disruptive, encourage the disheartened, help the weak,  be patient with everyone.  15  Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong,  but always strive to do what is good for each other  and for everyone else.
16  Rejoice always,  17  pray continually,  18  give thanks in all circumstances;  for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
19  Do not quench the Spirit.  20  Do not treat prophecies  with contempt  21  but test them all;  hold on to what is good,  22  reject every kind of evil.
23  May God himself, the God of peace,  sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul  and body be kept blameless  at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.  24  The one who calls  you is faithful,  and he will do it.
25  Brothers and sisters, pray for us.  26  Greet all God’s people with a holy kiss.  27  I charge you before the Lord to have this letter read to all the brothers and sisters.
28  The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.

A Holy Handshake
We are discussing the various aspects of the worship service, why we do them and how. This week we are discussing the “Greeting time” or “Passing of the Peace.”

what is a holy kiss?? NOT like on tv!! more of a peck on the cheek or even an 'air kiss' a way to greet –showed utmost respect and affection. (among equals)

In our OT lesson,
Abraham showed perfect hospitality to his visitors. Striving to be sure they were cared for and comfortable. And standing by just in case they needed anything else! What a great host. He did not at that time know this was a visitation from the Lord.

Yesterday I was blessed to conduct a wedding for a wonderful young couple. They had planned a year ago to have their wedding in another church, but staffing changes happened and that fell through. So last spring the bride and her parents were in Beloit checking out churches, and drove by here. It was the day of our work party so the first folks they met included Steve and Martin who were grubby from digging up shrubs....... then they came in here, where I was supervising the cleaning of pew cushions LOL. The parents and grandparents have attended here a few times, even tho they do have a church home. But they have felt welcomed here and they have found that family feeling here.

Holy handshake...

Our NT lesson tells how to live well in community!! acknowledge those who work hard, encourage those who need it, help those who need help. Yes admonish those who need it also –in love, not in a mean way! Strive to do what is good for each other and everyone else....
or put another way...
Do unto others as you would have them do unto you!!

and our text goes on, Rejoice always, pray continually. Give thanks in all circumstances! And then, finally...greet each other with a holy kiss!

Greeting one another is part of our worship of God. “I wish you the peace of Christ.” It is part of our life of faith, it goes along with prayer! Reading this whole passage again really brought that home to me. This is why it is important to read the bible not just a few verses at a time. Because the context matters too.

Not all churches do 'passing of the peace' or greeting each other. And it we are coming into flu season!! if you choose not to shake hands that's fine! But...there is hand sanitizer in the back. There's some here...most of gals have it in our handbags and I think most of us would share!

So why do we say “Peace be with you?” this is a tradition that goes back to the very earliest church. The first Christians were Jewish followers of Jesus. And Jesus greeted people by saying Shalom! Peace be with you! Shalom does indeed mean peace. And even much more.   To English speakers, peace is the absence of conflict. It is the state of calm or serenity. Shalom however is “well being,” “health,” or “flourishing.” “wholeness”

So Jewish people to this day greet each other with Shalom. Saying I pray that you have peace and well-being.

as I said not all churches do a greeting time...

I've been in several other churches....
Some churches IF they do a greeting time... do it very briefly, very formally-A nod or stiff handshake to one side. some churches do a quick but friendly handshake, maybe even reaching across pews.

And then there are churches where it's a family reunion! And it is a vital part of the worship. I have been in many churches with a variety of greeting time, or none, and I believe that the ones where it feels like a reunion is a healthy church! The congregation care about each other!

Good hospitality, living out our faith, is all about putting yourself in the other person's shoes, so to speak. Imagine how YOU would feel and treat others the way you would want to be treated.

Imagine you went to a church for the first time. You may not know anyone inside, you aren't sure which door to go in or where to sit. And so you go in and no one says hello. If you offer your hand, one may say “I'm not shaking hands because its flu season.' but that person then turns and shakes hands with someone they greet by name. How would you feel? I know someone that happened to. This woman is looking for a church home and that 1 person refusing to shake her hand, but then did shake others....well needless to say that church will not be the new home for this gal. Unfortunately, it was this church. I am not trying to point fingers –it could have been any one of us!

The vast majority of the time we do a good job here. But one slip and it could have been any one of us!! one little slip up is all it might take for hurt feelings.
When we greet one another in a caring compassionate manner, we are not just saying Hi, we are sharing our wish of a good morning or peace for them. It's actually a form of prayer. We are building community.

This can be carried on outside of church too! And that may be even more important!

the greeting time is part of our worship experience and greeting each other is part of our life of faith-just as much as prayer and scripture! One of our parishioners has recently moved into assisted living. Now that is often a hard transition for folks. This gal tho is making the absolute best of it. Since she moved in, she is very deliberate about always greeting others, good morning or good afternoon. Whether she is in her doorway, or in the common areas or on the way to physical therapy, she always greets others. At first, Some people looked surprised, or looked away. It was unexpected and they were a tad uncomfortable with it! But she's kept it up, and now she gets responses, and other folks are greeting others. Her good will is spreading outward and is making this facility a bit better place to be.

This is how we live our faith. We let the Light of Christ shine when we greet each other, whether we say good morning or peace be with you. We live our faith when we greet everyone as a child of God.


I took this photo during a lovely peaceful moment  at a local park. 

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