Greetings: what do they mean?
July 20, 2009
by Pastor Orval Wirkkala, Apostolic Lutheran Church, Kingston

“Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.” John 17:20-21

“By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.” John 13:35

The intended result of Jesus’ prayer (17:20-21) for His body (the universal church) is that we would be one in and with the Father and the Son so that by indwelling of the Holy Spirit within His body, the world may believe that God sent His Son to this world.

The second verse (13:35) reveals to us that we will be recognized as His disciples within His body through the evidence that we have God’s love to another.

By these verses we could conclude that mission work begins within the church, through the evidence of love that is experienced, shared and demonstrated between those who are in the body of Jesus Christ as well as with those who are without the body of Christ. That which we are within the body of Jesus Christ is the foundation of our witness to the world.

Within the Laestadian tradition, it is customary to greet one another with the greeting of “God’s peace,” when we meet, as well as when we part. As God’s children, we possess the peace of God through the knowledge and experience of the saving grace of Jesus Christ and as a result of having this peace, we not only acknowledge this peace in our hearts with one another, but we also desire to extend this peace to all we come in contact with.

As is true with many customs, regular and continual practices can, over time, become ritualistic, losing their meaning and significance to us. This happens not because we do it too much, but rather, because we tend to forget the meaning of it as well as the intended purpose of it.

Christians in Russia, with whom we have fellowship, often add two words to the end of their greeting, saying, “God’s peace to you!” By adding the two words, “to you,” they not only acknowledge that they have the peace of God, but they also extend that peace to the one that they greet.

Greetings are not meant to be extended without meaning. They only become commonplace and lacking in meaning if we use them in a ritualistic manner or as second nature.

We recognize that these are good traditions to uphold and to practice, but always with the awareness of the danger of the custom or ritual becoming a trademark or an identifying mark of a tradition that in an unintentional manner, may be used to exclude rather than to include others.

May we today thank Him for the renewed and ever-growing awareness of that which He has done for us, is doing for us today, and promises to do for us in the future; through His Son, Jesus Christ.

For the experience of being united with Christ is evidenced by our oneness within His body, the church, and is demonstrated by our desire and willingness to extend this peace to all people.