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Greet One Another
Romans 16:1-16; I Peter 5:14; 1 Corinthians 16:20; 2 Corinthians 13:12-13
“Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the churches of Christ send greetings.”
Romans 16:16
Today we begin a Lenten series based on the “One Another” passages found in the New Testament. As I have been praying for you, and for so many others who are associated with The Seed, the Lord has put it on my heart to look at those passages that call us to be a community of believers. One of the questions that I have wrestled with is, “How do we have community when there is so much dis-unity?” I believe that with the advancement of all the electronic devices, our busyness of life, our divisive political world, our racial struggles, economic trials and religious differences, we have lost a real sense of connection with “One Another.”
The New Testament writers wrestled with some of the things we struggle with today. In fact, many of the letters that were written in the New Testament were written to churches that were struggling with some of the exact things we struggle with today. Over the next seven weeks, we will dive into the deep end of the pool, learning what the early church struggled with and how they were encouraged to …
Greet One Another --- Romans 16:1-16
Honor and be Devoted to One Another --- Romans 12:9-21
Submit and Serve One Another --- Galatians 5:13 & Ephesians 5:13-33
Live in Harmony with One Another --- I Peter 1:3:8-22
Teach, Admonish and Accept One Another --- Romans 15:1-7; Colossians 3:12-17
Bear with One Another – Ephesians 4:1-10
Love One Another --- John 13:1-34
An early “So what?” question is, “Have you ever thought about how we greet one another, honor one another, are devoted to one another, submit and serve one another, live in harmony with one another, teach, admonish, and accept one another, bear with one another and love one another?”
Before we turn to God’s Word for us, let us come to the throne of grace and seek God’s blessing. “Lord, God of all love, mercy and grace, show us your truth as we open up Your Living Word and fill us with Your love so that we learn how to greet one another in love. Amen”
We will look at several passages!
Romans 16:1-16
I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a servant of the church in Cenchrea. 2 I ask you to receive her in the Lord in a way worthy of the saints and to give her any help she may need from you, for she has been a great help to many people, including me.
3 Greet Priscilla and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus. 4 They risked their lives for me. Not only I but all the churches of the Gentiles are grateful to them.
5 Greet also the church that meets at their house.
Greet my dear friend Epenetus, who was the first convert to Christ in the province of Asia.
6 Greet Mary, who worked very hard for you. 7 Greet Andronicus and Junias, my relatives who have been in prison with me. They are outstanding among the apostles, and they were in Christ before I was.
8 Greet Ampliatus, whom I love in the Lord. 9 Greet Urbanus, our fellow worker in Christ, and my dear friend Stachys.
10 Greet Apelles, tested and approved in Christ.
Greet those who belong to the household of Aristobulus.
11 Greet Herodion, my relative.
Greet those in the household of Narcissus who are in the Lord.
12 Greet Tryphena and Tryphosa, those women who work hard in the Lord.
Greet my dear friend Persis, another woman who has worked very hard in the Lord.
13 Greet Rufus, chosen in the Lord, and his mother, who has been a mother to me, too.
14 Greet Asyncritus, Phlegon, Hermes, Patrobas, Hermas and the brothers with them.
15 Greet Philologus, Julia, Nereus and his sister, and Olympas and all the saints with them.
16 Greet one another with a holy kiss.
All the churches of Christ send greetings.[i]
I Peter 5:14
“Greet one another with a kiss of love. Peace to all of you who are in Christ.”[ii]
I Corinthians 16:19-24
The churches in the province of Asia send you greetings. Aquila and Priscilla greet you warmly in the Lord, and so does the church that meets at their house. 20 All the brothers here send you greetings. Greet one another with a holy kiss. 21 I, Paul, write this greeting in my own hand. 22 If anyone does not love the Lord—a curse be on him. Come, O Lord! 23 The grace of the Lord Jesus be with you. 24 My love to all of you in Christ Jesus. Amen.[iii]
II Corinthians 13:12-14
Greet one another with a holy kiss. 13 All the saints send their greetings. 14 May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.[iv]
I Thessalonians 5:26-28
Greet all the brothers with a holy kiss. 27 I charge you before the Lord to have this letter read to all the brothers. 28 The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.[v]
Many years ago, a doting groom penned a love letter to his bride. Stationed at a California military base thousands of miles away from his wife, James Bracy's link to the lovely woman waiting for him to come home were their love letters. But this letter didn't get delivered. Somehow it was lost, lodged between two walls in Fort Ord's mailroom in San Francisco. The letter was lost in the shadows, with its romantic affections of a youthful marriage, sealed with a kiss. A half century later, James and Sallie Bracy had just finished celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary and were relaxing in the living room when "Once in a While," their song, began to play on the radio. Sallie remembered affectionately the 1950s song and how she used to get calls and letters from the man who owned her heart. They joked together knowing there would be no letter or phone call this time because James was at her side. Meanwhile, a construction crew was dismantling the old post office at Fort Ord, and they discovered a long-forgotten letter from a young army corporal. The crew turned the letter over to Bob Spadoni, the postmaster in nearby Monterey. Spadoni began the process of delivering that letter, tracking down the Bracys through post office records and phone books. Just a few days after hearing their song, the letter, dated January 28, 1955, was delivered to Sallie Bracy. The letter sent her heart aflutter, tears welled, and she again became a love-struck 22-year-old. "It meant a lot to me then," said Sallie. "It means even more now."[vi]
Many years ago, God wrote his love letter to us. It's always waiting to be delivered! It’s always waiting to be opened! It’s always waiting to be read at just the right time. It meant a lot then, and it means even more now. Why? It was sealed with a Holy Kiss of love.
When we read the closing of these letters, it is interesting that the letters end with a greeting to so many different people. In the letter to the Romans, Paul includes the names of twenty-eight individuals. Twenty-six are mentioned by name and two are said to be Rufus’ mother and Nereus’s sister. There are five different groups, seventeen men, nine women, two couples and two households. There were also five slaves mentioned and some of profound influence. Aristobulus was thought to be the grandson of Herod the Great and friend of the Emperor Claudius. Narcissus was likely a well-known freedman who exercised great influence on Emperor Claudius, and Rufus was possibly the son of Simon the Cyrene, the man who was asked to help carry Jesus’ cross to Golgotha.
What I found interesting in my study were the thoughts on Nereus. The most interesting name in this final collection of names is Nereus. William Barclay, a pastor and commentator, provides intriguing information. In A. D. 95, two of the most distinguished people in Rome were condemned for being Christians. They were husband and wife, and their names were Flavius Clemens and Domatilla, the woman who gave her name to the earliest Christian graveyard in Rome. Flavius was executed. Domatilla was banished to the island of Pontia, probably because she was of royal blood. She was the granddaughter of Vespasian, a former emperor, and the niece of Domitian, who was the reigning emperor. The name of this couple’s chamberlain, a personal steward who handled his master’s finances, was Nereus.
We do not know for certain if this is the same Nereus, but it could be that this was the very person through whom the gospel of God’s grace entered this prominent Roman household and eventually led to the martyrdoms that doubtless shocked and troubled Rome.
What is fascinating is that many of the names of these people are lost in history. Yet through their faithfulness and love of the Gospel, the Good News of Jesus was proclaimed from generation to generation. I believe that the lives of all these saints were sealed with a Holy Kiss from God.
A Japanese couple, who recently arrived in the States, were getting married. Despite their limited exposure to western customs, the American-style wedding went well. But when the minister invited the couple to kiss, nothing happened. Surprised, the minister turned to the bride and said, "How about a little kiss?" Not wanting to offend, she shyly leaned forward and kissed him![vii]
A grandmother was watching her 5-year-old granddaughter play with her dolls. At one point, the little girl "staged" a wedding, first playing the role of the bride's mother who assigned specific duties, then suddenly becoming the bride with her "teddy bear" groom. Then the little girl picked up the little teddy bear and said to the "minister" presiding over the wedding, "Now you can read us our rights." Without missing a beat, the little granddaughter became the minister who said, "You have the right to remain silent, anything you say may be held against you, you have the right to have an attorney present. You may kiss the bride."
Holy Kiss! That is not the kind of kiss that Paul is talking about. In their culture, even the men would kiss the cheek of men and women would kiss the cheek of women. Justin Martytr, who lived around 110-165 AD, wrote in one of his letters that after communion prayers were said, the people shared a holy kiss. They greeted each other with the love of Christ’s forgiveness and grace. In their day and culture, they greeted one another with love. It was most likely their way of passing the peace.
I remember arriving in California in 1999. Jac and I had grown up in the modest Midwest. There was lots of hugging in the church but not much kissing. All that changed once we started ministry in Southern California! The people in the church would hug and kiss us every single Sunday! They’d grab us in a friendly hug and kiss us on the cheek! I remember thinking to myself, “What have I done? Are these people okay? What’s all the kissing about?” I want to share a brief story about Ruthie, VOTS—Voice Of The Seed! Ruthie was the person who picked Jac and I up at the airport on our first visit to the Ontario airport. Jac and I thought we were renting a car, so we let the entire plane deboard. Those were the days when you could wait for your loved ones at the gate as they deboarded. Can you imagine Ruthie waiting for the entire plane to deboard? She’d seen my picture but I have to laugh at this scene: I bet lots of people got a holy hug that night! If you know Ruthie well, you know that she loves to hug. In fact, her email is hugheshugs ….
On the men’s grace weekends that I serve, I get to teach the men about passing the peace. I try and get the men used to greeting one another. Teaching men to greet one another is difficult. I introduce this part of the weekend by using a Spanish word for hug called “abrazo.” Have you ever noticed how men hug? There are several different types of hugs. There is the across the room hug where two men wave their arms at each other. There is the bro hug with the one arm chest bump. Then there is the one arm paper hanger hug. There is the a-frame hug and then there is the helicopter hug. Our culture has changed tremendously from the time of early disciples and the customs of the early church. They were a hugging people.
A disclaimer … I am not asking you to hug or kiss. In fact, I want to respect each and everyone’s own personal space. For some of us, being hugged is too much. I always recommend that before you hug anyone, you ask them for permission. And—you have the right to stick out your hand instead! I remember the first time Jac and I flew back home after living here in Southern California. It was for my mom’s funeral. Jac and I had been away from Rochelle for three years. Over 1,000 people attended my mom’s funeral. One of Jac’s really good friends, Elizabeth, attended and when Jac saw her, Jac hugged her and kissed her cheeks. Elizabeth laughed and said, “Jac, you just kissed my cheeks!” Oh, you California people have surely affected us modest Midwesterners!
So what? The Greek word for “greet” is “aspazomi” and in this context it is an imperative verb which is really a command. “Aspazomi” means “welcome kindly, receive one another, embrace, be happy about, bid welcome, salute or greet.” I wonder what our world would be like if we really greeted each other. What would happen if we welcomed one another kindly? If we received one another with love? What would happen if we showed others just how happy we are to see them? That’s what our New Testament writers are talking about. Greet each other with God’s love. Salute one another—give one another a friendly gesture of respect, homage, and recognition. In today’s culture, it doesn’t have to be a hug or a holy kiss, but a hearty smile, a friendly fist pump, or high five can simply say, “I’m happy to see you today!”
In his beautiful TEDx talk, John Sutherland, an officer in London's police department, explains a principle in Forensic Science called Locard's Exchange Principle. Developed by Dr. Edmond Locard, known as the Sherlock Holmes of France, this principle has a simple premise: every contact leaves a trace. In other words, every criminal leaves a trace behind him. One forensic expert put it this way: Wherever he steps, whatever he touches, whatever he leaves, even unconsciously, will serve as a silent witness against him. Not only his fingerprints or his footprints, but his hair, the fibers from his clothes, the glass he breaks … the paint he scratches, the blood … he deposits or collects … This is evidence that does not forget. Sutherland explains how this principle applies not just to forensic science but to all human relationships: Every time two people come into contact with one another, an exchange takes place. Whether between lifelong friends or passing strangers, we encourage, we ignore, we hold out a hand, or we withdraw it. We walk towards or we walk away. We bless or we curse… And every single contact leaves a trace. The way that we treat and regard one another matters. It really matters.[viii]
The other day Jac and I went out to eat at Farmer Boys. As we went to find a seat, Jac noticed an older gentleman with a Veteran’s cap. He was in a wheelchair. She stopped and said, “Thank you for your service.” Without blinking, the older veteran saluted her from his wheelchair. “My pleasure, mam. Serving was my pleasure.”
My “so what” this week is for us to step out of our comfort zone. Greet one another—and not just here but at home, at work, wherever you go. I’m not recommending that you go hug everyone out there but…you can greet one another with a smile. Just smile at someone and see what happens. Take out your headphones and greet the person next to you at the grocery store. Call your checkout person, waitress or waiter by name. Maybe even bless someone with a wave and a “have a great day!”
I’ve been doing ordained ministry for over 20 years. It’s a full-time job. I’ve learned one thing that opens a door to a person’s day. “How’s your day going?” I ask it everywhere I go: the post office, the grocery clerk, the server at the restaurant. I encourage you to ask that question, too, as you go about your way until we meet here again. I don’t ask, “How are you?” because that almost always results in a “fine” but when you ask someone, “How’s your day going?” you know what? They tell you. When they tell me they are having a bad day or a hard day, I tell them, “I’ll pray for you.”
Okay, repeat after me: Greet one another. (Greet one another.) How’s your day going? (How’s your day going?)
I may not tell you often enough, but I love being called to be your pastor. With every handshake, or abrazo, you have greeted me (welcome me, received me, embraced me, welcomed me, saluted me and have been happy to see me) with God’s great love. May we as a church community always greet one another with God’s great love!
Let us pray …
The Seed Christian Fellowship
Rancho Cucamonga, California 91701
March 10, 2019
Pastor Dave Peters
[i] The Holy Bible: New International Version. (1984). (Ro 16:1–16). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.
[ii] The Holy Bible: New International Version. (1984). (1 Pe 5:14). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.
[iii] The Holy Bible: New International Version. (1984). (1 Co 16:19–24). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.
[iv] The Holy Bible: New International Version. (1984). (2 Co 13:12–14). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.
[v] The Holy Bible: New International Version. (1984). (1 Th 5:26–28). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.
[vi] Drew Zahn, assistant editor, Leadership Journal; source: "After 46 years lost in post office, love letter finally arrives," Jefferson City News Tribune (4-25-01)
[vii] Steven Poole, Seattle, Washington. Christian Reader, "Rolling Down the Aisle."
[viii] John Sutherland, "Every Contact Leaves a Trace," London TEDx (6-22-17)
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