My worship notes for our weekly ritual of passing the Peace of Christ with one another reminds me and our liturgist to allow 30 seconds for people to greet one another. It probably should say allow a couple of minutes. We observe this ritual immediately following our confession of sin before God and one another. For a few minutes we seem to forget and forgive one another of any disagreements, smile at each other, offer a blessing to each other and shake hands. In my dash up one aisle and down another, I manage to touch at least a quarter of the congregation.
My title for this Sunday’s service is a pun based on that ritual. The Apostle Paul had perceived a disunity among Christians in Rome over the practice of eating meat. One group refused to eat meat, eating only vegetables, perhaps because it was not butchered according to the rules for keeping Kosher or because that the meat in the market had been sacrificed to idols. The other group perhaps saw that the source of the meat was meaningless under the grace of God made manifest in Christ Jesus. Paul advised them:
Those who eat must not despise those who abstain, and those who abstain must not pass judgment on those who eat; for God has welcomed them.
— Romans 14:3 (NRSV)
Hence the pun in my sermon title and the title of this post.
But Paul does not argue for accepting one position over the other, but for generously accepting that both positions —eating meat or eating only vegetables— are intended to honor God.
Similarly when we pass the Peace of Christ each Sunday, I do not expect people to shed their differences of opinion about deeply held positions and find some middle ground. Instead I rejoice that for a few minutes we can accept that each of us are doing the best we can to honor God.
I will have more to say about Romans 14:1-12 on Sunday, September 17th, at Temple Terrace Presbyterian Church.