“Would you please pass the bread?” Seated with friends and family at the dinner table, we suddenly notice that a basket of fresh bread has landed near our place at the table. We comply with the request to keep it moving by passing it along to the person next to us, who in turn sends it along to the next person. This simple action is repeated by all at the table until everyone has been served.
There is a powerful lesson in this simple ritual of table fellowship. A meal in which all are nourished depends on the rhythm of giving and receiving. Should one person hoard the bread, or eat more than their share, the harmony of the meal will be destroyed. Receive and pass along, receive and pass along: when this pattern is in place the meal does more than feed the body. It feeds the soul.
There is a ritual that is sometimes used in Christian churches to help us get into our muscles the importance of being good receivers and good givers. We call it the Passing of the Peace, and when it occurs in the midst of worship it provides an opportunity for each person in the sanctuary to reach out to others nearby with a handshake and the words, “may the peace of Christ be with you.” Through this action and these words we pass along to others the grace and peace with which we have been received by God, friends, families and strangers. We receive, and we pass along, and all are nourished in body and spirit.
On Sunday, December 3, we will include a time for the Passing of the Peace in our service of worship. As we do so, I pray that we will deepen our love and care for one another, and strengthen the bonds, visible and invisible, that unite us. And when we leave the sanctuary may we do so with the assurance “that the peace of God, which passes all understanding, will keep our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:7)