A holy kiss
“These are my granddaughters – I haven’t seen them for 14 weeks.”
“I thought it was good seeing him on Facetime, but actually seeing him – I just started crying, I was so happy.”
“This is the first time I’ve been out for a walk with my daughter since lockdown began.”
“My grandson came to visit me yesterday. I didn’t cry but it felt very emotional.”
These are the sorts of comments I’ve heard – and you may have heard – over the past few days.
It would seem there is no substitute for physical presence, even though the technology has helped enormously to keep us in touch with family, friends and work colleagues besides making it possible to engage in worship.
The apostle Paul travelled extensively on what are known as his “missionary journeys”. Add to that his periods in prison, and we understand his need to keep in touch with the newly formed congregations. Especially when they had got the wrong end of the stick, in which case they got the sharp edge of his tongue.
The Galatians are a good example. “You stupid Galatians! … Answer me one question: did you receive the Spirit by keeping the law or by believing the gospel message? Can it be that you are so stupid? You started with the spiritual; do you now look to the material to make you perfect?” (from chapter 3, verses 1-3)
But here’s another side to Paul: in four of his letters (to the Romans, 1st and 2nd Corinthians, 1st Thessalonians) towards the end he urges his listeners to “greet one another with a holy kiss”.
If you are missing the worship, fellowship and service of your own congregation, perhaps you have thought about what it will be like when we are permitted to return to Church. If the social distancing rules are no longer in place by then, how will we greet one another? Group hugs, tears, huge grins, talking nineteen to the dozen all at the same time? Will we abandon our usual seat in order to sit right next to someone else, cherishing closeness rather than our own space?
Imagine the celebration of Communion, and that moment when we are invited to “share the peace”.
And what of a “holy kiss”?
What is that exactly?
What did Paul mean?
And how might we interpret it for our own times?
I leave these questions with you, for you to ponder …
And if you can, give someone a hug!