Our not-that-early Sunday morning class has grown a bit over the past couple of months; this week we actually had all the chairs around the conference room table filled, thanks to a visitor who came to check things out because he had SEEN OUR NEW CHURCH WEBSITE. This caused major excitement; we had to tell the individual who has been most dedicated to making the website happen over the course of the past year or so. [“Wisdom is vindicated by her deeds!”]
In worship, there were a couple of comments about how long it was taking us to “pass the peace.”
Admittedly, “passing the peace” goes on a long time at our place. People get up and walk around the sanctuary. We’re a small enough congregation that everyone can just about say “Peace of Christ” to everyone else, and sometimes we exchange additional words, for instance to catch up with people who have been gone a couple of Sundays or to follow up on something that came up at a meeting the week before, so it can take some time for everyone to get back in their seats and get situated for the prayer of illumination and the first scripture reading.
We have tried things like playing music after some period of time to get people to wrap it up. But we keep drifting away from that …
A lot of us seem to like the idea that part of worshiping God is reminding everyone in the room that they are very welcomed, in the name of Christ.
Including, most definitely, anyone who comes and checks out the congregation, because they have seen the new website. [“Peace of Christ!”]
The sermon was mostly on Isaiah 58:1-12:
Is not this the fast that I choose:
to loose the bonds of injustice,
to undo the thongs of the yoke,
to let the oppressed go free,
and to break every yoke?
Is it not to share your bread with the hungry,
and bring the homeless poor into your house;
when you see the naked, to cover them,
and not to hide yourself from your own kin? (Isaiah 58:6-7)
In that connection [which sure seemed to echo the text from Matthew 6 … INTERESTING how that happens so often] our pastor pointed out that God cares how we treat other people. “We are moral agents, the consequences of our choices matter to God, we are participants in God’s life.” If we are trying to do what God wants us to do, we will attend to that.
In particular, we will not dehumanize people – “pointing the finger, speaking evil” – but instead will build up people’s sense of somebody-ness, in the words of Martin Luther King, Jr. We will treat people like they are somebodies. Somebodies who matter, intrinsically, and to God, and for that reason, also to us.
Passing the peace might take a long time, but it does remind people they are somebodies here.