Passing of the Peace: Whats up with the fork?

October 1, 2010

 During the very first moment of our worship, the Passing of Christ’s Peace, we stand, and extend the hand of fellowship, welcome and peace to others that have joined us in our worship.     We are reminded that each of us is as much a part of the Kingdom as the person sitting next to us.

It is the passing of the peace that moves us from the hustle and bustle of our day to day lives and to do lists, and joins us together as one family, with one purpose.    It’s like slamming on our brakes on the world outside the church’s doors, and taking a breath.    We take a breath, and realize that the moment is now. We all take a breath and share in Jesus’ promise.

Sometimes (all too frequently for that matter), we lose sight of that promise.   Many of us, might not know what that promise is.

The promise is simple and beautiful.   The promise is that when we chose him, he will never leave our side.    The promise is that there is no place that he is not.    There is no place too dark, too stormy, or too hopeless, where he is not present.   His promise is simple, that nothing, not even death, will separate us from him.
There is a story, that I have pastors tell a dozen times.    It is the story of an older woman, named Emily, who in hopes of not burdening her family too much outlines her final wishes with her pastor.   They talk about the order of worship, the scripture to be read, and the hymns to be sung.  She outlines the wake, the procession, even the type of flowers to grace the sanctuary.

Years later, when she passes, the Pastor makes sure that everything is exactly as she wanted it, without exception.

Everything was planned and implemented without a hitch.    Yet, several at the wake felt oddly uncomfortable with one of the arrangements.  

During the open casket viewing at the funeral home, the woman’s body was beautifully made up, and she was wearing a beautiful new white dress.   No one noticed either, because of her hands.
Her hands were interlocked on her stomach, and there between the two was an ordinary, if not beat up, everyday fork.    It was a fork taken straight from her silverware drawer and placed between her palms.  

The pastor smiled each time someone approached the casket to say there final goodbyes, and he saw their reactions as each one noticed the fork.

Per her wishes, he said nothing until it was time for a particular moment of the worship.

At that moment, the pastor reached into his pocket, and read a letter in her own handwriting, written several years later.   It read:

Friends, family, loved ones.

I have been a part of this church for years. For me the greatest joy came from the times we shared a meal, be they at meetings or at fund raisers.   We are Methodists, and God knows we like to eat.

In all my years of attending those church suppers, I always remember that when the dishes of the main course were being cleared, someone would inevitably lean over and say, ‘keep your fork.’

It was my favorite part because I knew that something better was coming, like velvety chocolate cake or deep-dish apple pie. Something wonderful, and with substance!

So, now that my journey has ended, I wanted each of you, the people I love more than anything else in the world, I wanted you to see me, peaceful in that casket with a fork in my hand.

I hoped as you did, you would ask; ‘What’s with the fork?’

I hope you all see me, and that old fork and remember the final advice and the promise that I have embraced this last day;  

‘Keep Your Fork .. The best is yet to come.’”

All my love,  Emily.

I have asked those in my church that when my time comes (hopefully on my 115th birthday) that they not only give me a fork like Emily, but they find the biggest honking fork they can.   I want a huge barbeque fork.   I want the fork that is hanging in the Barone’s kitchen on “Everybody Loves Ramond”.   I want the biggest fork imaginable, because…simply…what’s coming is that big.

That’s the promise we recognize, pass along, and celebrate in the passing of the peace moment.   Keep your Fork, for with Jesus, the best is yet to come.

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