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ONE ANOTHER / GREET

Updated: Aug 22, 2022


Speaker: Leslie Emmett



GREETINGS

In Thailand, it's done by placing the palms of the hands together, with the finger tips touching the nose, and a bow of the head.


In Tibet, you stick out your tongue.


In New Zealand, the traditional Māori way is to rub noses.


And in other cultures, it's a kiss on the cheek... or one each side, repeated a few times.


How we greet each other, and how we have greeted one another, varies throughout our world and its history.


Our series of ‘one anothers’ leads up to and culminates in the big one, ‘love one another’, without which we can’t really expect to fulfil all the others. The first step in this ‘love one another adventure’ is, however, to ‘greet one another’.


In Romans 16 Paul gives us an indication of how important greeting one another is as he takes time to greet by name many of his friends in Rome, and to send greetings from some who were with him in Corinth, from where he was writing the letter. Perhaps surprisingly for our Western mindset, he then writes in Romans 16:16, ‘Greet one another with a holy kiss’, at which point we might think, ‘Whaaaaat?!?’


It’s important for us to remember cultural context whenever we read our Bibles, and that’s the case here, too. A kiss of greeting was a common custom at the time Paul was writing, as it still is in many parts of the world, whereas in some cultures there is no kissing at all.


For us here in the UK, a handshake, or a hug or kiss on the cheek amongst family and close friends, are perhaps what we expect. The main point for Paul is that we greet each other with a ‘holy’ greeting.


But what picture, what thoughts come into our mind when we think of that word ‘holy’ in the context of greeting each other?


HOLY

When we think of the word ‘holy’, so often a whole lot of negative ideas and ‘don’ts’ can come into our minds, along with some ‘do’s, but the ‘do’s are very much designed to limit and to confine us. But, as Brian Zahnd says, ‘When attempting to talk about the holiness of God, make sure that when you're done you've described Jesus and not an omnipotent Pharisee.’


Holiness can summed up in Jesus, what he’s like, and so a ‘holy’ greeting can be powerful, meaningful, profitable, and personal.


We can upgrade our greetings from just the normal, the mundane, into something that is holy, and when it comes to the ‘one anothers’, the ultimate goal is in the words of Jesus, to ‘love one another as I have loved you’ (John 13:34).


Perhaps we can rephrase that and turn it into ‘greet one another as I have greeted you’.


We can then also apply that principle to all the other ’one anothers’, encouraging one another in the same way that Jesus has encouraged us, being kind to one another, forgiving one another even as Christ has forgiven us (Ephesians 4:32), accepting one another as Christ has accepted us (Romans 15:7).


So let’s greet one another, and to make our greetings powerful, meaningful, profitable, and personal, we need to know that God has already greeted us in just that same way.


We can find some hints at this in Romans 16 in the list of people that Paul greets, not just those in Rome but also some from the church in Corinth, a church which had faced its problems in its past. We don’t know much about many of the people he mentions, but they range from the important-sounding ‘Erastus, who is the city’s director of public works,’ to the perhaps more lowly ‘brother Quartus’ (16:23).


God greets us all, and that’s the example he sets before us to follow.


CALLED BY NAME

Paul wrote his letter to the believers in Rome from the city of Corinth. The church in Corinth had faced problems - fellow believers had been snubbing each other and were so divided that Paul had written to them, rebuking their behaviour. But in the list of greetings we read in Romans 16, from verse 21 on, we see that not only were the director of public works, Erastus, but also ‘our brother Quartus’ and others too joining together to greet the Roman church. The church had changed for the better!


‘Whosoever’ may be an old fashioned word to many today, but it’s important in God’s vocabulary, because whatever our status in society, he greets us all, whether we’re ‘important’ or somebody that nobody takes much notice of. God takes notice of each one of us as he greets us today, telling us that we’re special to him, and encouraging us to greet one another in the same way, irrespective of our differences in background, upbringing, social standing, education etc


Paul didn’t personally know all the people mentioned by name in Romans 16, but he’d taken the trouble to find out about them from Priscilla and Aquila. In Isaiah 43:1-2 God tells us, ‘I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.’


Yes, God knows us individually. He calls us by name. Do we take the trouble to find out about each other? Do we even know the names of those we meet with regularly for worship on Sundays? God does, and He greets us all.


There are a number of times in the Bible when God calls somebody by name, and names them twice: in the Old Testament we find God calling ‘Abraham, Abraham’, another time it’s ‘Jacob, Jacob’, when Jacob is confused as to whether he should go to Egypt or not. Another time it’s ‘Moses, Moses’, at the burning bush. Another time it’s ‘Samuel, Samuel’, when God calls the young boy. In the New Testament there’s ’Martha, Martha’, when she’s all flustered, then ‘Simon, Simon’, when Simon Peter has assured Jesus that he’ll follow him even to death, only for Jesus to tell him that he will actually deny him. Then finally, there’s ’Saul, Saul’ on the road to Damascus. Saul, who was zealous in his persecution of the believers was told he was actually persecuting Jesus himself.


No matter what we may be going through in any situation and at any given time, God sees us and calls us by name. He wants us to have the same care for each other in our lives together.


There’s a power in remembering somebody’s name. We’re valuing them as God values us, showing we appreciate them for who they are.


POSITIVES

It’s noticeable in the list of names we read in Romans 16 that Paul often adds a positive comment about them, e.g., ‘Mary, who worked very hard for you’ vs 6; ‘Andronicus and Junia, outstanding among the apostles’ vs 7; and ‘Apelles, whose fidelity to Christ has stood the test’ vs 10, and so on.


If he can find something positive to say about what they’ve done, or what they’re capable of doing, he’ll put that in as well.


There’s something about positive input. Think about Gideon in Judges 6. He’s threshing wheat in a winepress, but secretly for fear of the Midianites, when the angel of the Lord appears to him and says, ‘The Lord is with you, mighty warrior.’ Not what Gideon had expected to hear, no doubt! But God sees beyond what we just see on the outside, and if we can start to be a little bit more like that, it will make a big difference as we greet one another, so long as we make our greeting positive, helpful and encouraging.


A positive, encouraging greeting can have such a positive impact on each other as well as on the people we meet from day to day.


The angel Gabriel greeted Mary in a way she would certainly remember for the rest of her life, ‘Greetings, you who are highly favoured! The Lord is with you.’ (Luke 1:28) It’s no wonder that Mary ‘wondered what kind of greeting this might be’ with the news the angel had brought her! When Mary received that greeting, something happened in her that she was able to then pass on.

Some time later she visited and greeted her pregnant cousin Elizabeth, and we read that ‘when Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit.’ (Luke 1:41) If we can only pass on the greeting that God gives to us, we will be greeting one another even as he has greeted us.


SCATTERING GLOOM

The old hymn ‘Thine be the glory’ contains the words ‘Lo! Jesus meets us, risen from the tomb; lovingly he greets us, scatters fear and gloom’, and reminds us of those times when Jesus greeted people.


The women at the tomb on Resurrection Sunday had mixed feelings of joy, fear, confusion, and excitement as they ran to pass on the news the angel had given them. They’d certainly had a religious experience encountering the angel, but they, and we, need more than that.

They, and we, need an encounter with the risen Lord Jesus Christ. And that encounter made all the difference for them, as it will for us, too, ‘Suddenly Jesus met them. ‘Greetings,’ he said.’ (Matt 28:9). Jesus greeted them, and his greeting scattered their confusion, their fear, and their gloom, so that they could do what he asked them. We can greet one another as he has greeted us. There are other examples of Jesus greeting his disciples after his resurrection.


In John 20:19 Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you!’


Peace, shalom, nothing missing, and when we feel afraid, like they did, when we’re faced with a daily diet of bad news, we need him to come to us and say, ‘shalom, nothing missing, you won’t lack anything’. When Jesus says ’peace’, it happens, and to some extent we can share in that imaginative, inventive, creative kind of greeting and say to one another, when it’s appropriate, ‘nothing missing, God’s with you, don’t be afraid, God’s on your side’.


When Jesus sent his disciples out in Luke 10, he told them to say ‘Peace to this house’ whenever they went into someone’s home, offering the blessing of God, nothing missing.


In John 20:26, a week on from Resurrection Sunday, the disciples were together again in the house, but this time with Thomas, doors locked. Doors still locked, because the resurrection on its own wasn’t enough to transform their lives, they had not yet been baptised in the promised Holy Spirit who would transform them at his coming. Jesus again came and greeted them with ‘peace, shalom’, nothing missing, so that even Thomas said to him, ‘My Lord and my God!’


In John 21 Jesus came to his disciples a third time, this time on the shore of lake Galilee. He called out to them, ‘Friends, haven’t you any fish?’, then invited them to come and share breakfast with him.


God’s greeting and invitation always includes his provision for us. At our communion meal together, remembering all that Jesus has done for us, he spreads a table for us ‘in the presence of our enemies’, confusion, fear, doubt, frustration, offering us clarity, courage, purpose, faith, and hope.


God’s calls us to ‘greet one another’, and in a world full of confused, fearful, doubting, cold, empty, and frustrated people, we can share the greeting we have received from Jesus. Let’s greet one another in a way that’s imaginative, inventive, creative, holy, powerful, and meaningful. Our mission is to ‘scatter fear and gloom’.

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