“If you are offering your gift at the altar, and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother or sister, and then come and offer your gift.” [St Matthew 5:23-24]
In some of the ancient worship liturgies, this moment in our worship was called the “kiss of peace.” Literally, you were to kiss one another as a kiss was a sign familial connection, of relationship and reconciliation. While today we may rarely kiss at the sign of peace, the purpose remains the same. This is the pivotal moment in our worship time. Having come into the church, made our confession, listened to the stories from the Scriptures, heard instruction and stated what we believe to be true, now comes the moment when we begin to make these things real. The sign of Peace is the moment we are to begin living into everything we have been working on up to this moment. We are to become the embodiment of reconciliation, forgiveness and the Gospel story and we begin with the people around us – our friends, family and fellow worshippers. We take this moment to live into the words of Jesus, to begin living into the forgiveness and acceptance we receive from God in Jesus by extending it first to those around us.
This moment is the pivotal move toward Holy Communion. We are now ready to come to this holy meal as a family that, collectively, is a sign of God’s hope and purpose for the whole world. It is, in the moment of the sign of peace [kissing or handshaking or hugging – your choice] we begin to truly become the church, which is the living embodiment of the love of Christ in the world. For one, brief, moment we should be able to look around us and think, “This is a bit of what heaven is about.”