Hand to Hand
Charmaine Chvala-Smith of Independence, MO, USA
Finally, brothers and sisters, farewell. Put things in order, listen to my appeal, agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you. -2 Corinthians 13:11
The service began so beautifully, led by a presider excited to be there. Three statements, which we were to complete, began the service: “Spirit, I am glad you are here because…”; then to a neighbor “I am glad you are here because…”; and then in quiet reflection “I am glad I am here because…”
Great ways to be reminded of why we were there! But something disturbed me. The second statement, “I am glad you are here because…,” turned into a bit of a free-for-all with most people greeting and affirming all within hands-reach. It was delightful to see a congregation so enthusiastically connecting with each other. As we took our seats, there was the friendly chatter common to settling back in. A dear sister, whose ministry I’ve appreciated, leaned over and shared her worry about so much hand-shaking during flu season. I was uncomfortable and flippantly said, “It is all part of being community.” I was eager to avoid this conversation. I didn’t want to be afraid of those around me, seeing them as potential plague-carriers. I became judgmental of my pew-neighbor. Ruefully, I thought, “What if, in planning our times of worship together, this kind of fear was where we began?”
The depth of her anxiety became apparent just a few minutes later. As we prepared to sing the next hymn, she uncapped a bottle of hand sanitizer! But she didn’t stop there; next she handed it to her husband, and as we began singing, she unexpectedly turned to my husband, and offered it to him. The first line of the hymn is, “Put peace into each other’s hands.” I was hesitant as she extended the bottle to me, so she encouragingly said, “Just in case.” I accepted. The song continued, “and like a treasure hold it; protect it like a candle flame, and tenderly enfold it.”
I realized something else was going on! She wasn’t sharing fear; she was sharing care! The words of the hymn wafted into the air, mixed with the cleansing aroma of the lotion. “Put peace into each other’s hands with loving expectation; be gentle in your words and ways…” She was not sharing fear, but generosity!
My heart expanded as the words fell from my mouth and I rubbed my hands thoroughly with her gift. My judgmental thought was revealed for what it was, even as the symbol of her concern was passed along our pew.
“Give thanks for strong-yet tender-hands, held out in trust and blessing. Where words fall short, let hands speak out, the heights of love expressing.” The words of this hymn sank into my germy hands and heart in ways I’d not expected. I saw with new eyes this sister’s concern, her words, and especially her actions, as apt expressions of Jesus’ peace.
“Reach out in friendship, stay, with faith, in touch with those around you. Put peace into each other’s hands; the Peace that sought and found you” (“Put Peace into Each Other’s Hands,” Fred Kaan, \xc2\xa9 1989 Hope Publishing Company, Community of Christ Sings 309).
“The glory of God is the human person fully alive” (St. Irenaeus).
Enter a time of prayer and hold St. Irenaeus’ quote in your heart. How do your mind, body, heart, and soul work together for your aliveness in God each day? What does it mean in your life and ministry that God desires for each of us to be fully alive?
Today’s Prayer for Peace
Engage in a daily practice of praying for peace in our world. Click here to read today’s prayer and be part of this practice of peace.