Put peace into each other’s hands

sharing the peace, King of Peace church, Kingsland, Georgia, USA

Today’s hymn from Sing Praise is “Put peace into each other’s hands” by Fred Kaan. Although found in the “God and the world” section rather than the “Holy Communion” section, it is presumably inspired by the practice of sharing the peace before the breaking of bread at the Communion / Mass.  

The words of the hymn offer several approaches to the Peace. “Protect it like a candle-flame, with tenderness enfold it” reminds us that there are those in the congregation who are hurting physically or emotionally and need to be treated with tenderness. Likewise, “Give thanks for strong, yet tender, hands, held out in trust and blessing” is a signal that those hands held out to meet ours may look strong, yet may actually be a sign of needing affirmation from us.

“Be gentle in your words and ways, in touch with God’s creation” might be understood as seeing God in the other person: that hand you are touching, as Teresa of Avila reminds us, is Christ’s hand on earth.

“Look people warmly in the eye, our life is meant for caring” calls us to more than merely shake hands and mumble “peace be with you”. It has been said that this has become a mere ritual of shaking hands with as many people as possible, ‘quantity not quality’ and that the time would be better spent with just one person, getting to know someone a bit better or talking to someone you have been avoiding because of some disagreement. That takes more effort but it’s worth it, as you can then approach the actual communion feeling that the words “we being many are one body” have a real resonance in what you have just done.

The last verse begins “reach out in friendship, stay with faith in touch with those around you” and reminds us that the peace and fellowship we share should extend beyond Sunday worship and our lives should be shared throughout the week whether in group meetings or individual friendship. It ends by saying that the peace we offer each other is nothing less than “the Peace that sought and found you”. It is not merely contentment that we offer, but the Peace of the Lord, the ‘shalom’ or wholeness and integrity of life in God.

1 thought on “Put peace into each other’s hands”

  1. I confess I had not seen that this was a hymn about “The Peace” (i.e. the part of the Communion service when we share “The Peace”) until Stephen said so – I suppose I thought it was more generally about the kinds of things exhorted by Paul in Romans when he said “If possible, insofar as it lies in your power, live in peace with everyone” (Romans 12:18), and similar verses. So I hadn’t spotted that it particularly was about peace between Christians. Maybe I was misled by it being in the “God and the World” section.

    Of course, the nub of the exhortation is the “if possible, so far as it depends on you” in Paul’s letter, and the whole problem with putting the hymn into practice is that it ducks the question of whether it is legitimate ever to come to the conclusion that it isn’t possible any more (at least, not in the present circumstances). Paul dealt with real situations which required excommunication if there was no change (e.g. Galatians 2:11-14, 1 Cor 5, 2 Cor 6:14-end, 2 Thess 3:14).

    I suppose the other thing about the phrase “Put … into each other’s HANDS” is that it is a very English way of doing “The Peace”. The liturgical rite is based on Romans 16:16 which is a kiss rather than a handshake. Should he have written “Put peace onto each other’s lips”? If he had done, would it have still qualified for inclusion in this hymn book?

    (By the way, at St Luke’s we share “The Peace” at all services, not just Holy Communion ones! I think Common Worship made a great mistake in not including it on page 24 as well as page 25 of the black Sunday book.)

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