“Greet one another with a holy kiss” –Romans 16:16
I was starting to get very nervous. The preacher kept talking about the significance of the holy kiss as a symbol of unity, of how to those in the New Testament the exchange of air was a sharing of your very soul. I was waiting for the preacher to do take the cultural turn stating that the equivalent action in our context would be a handshake but he didn’t go there. I was getting very nervous. The sermon concluded and I turned the page in the worship bulletin and there second from the top I saw the words “The Holy Kiss” and I almost bolted out of the sanctuary. But I’m glad I didn’t.
What the pastor invited us to do and then modeled for us was for those who desired to come forward, to stand before a baptismal font, to say their name, and then a sentence about what God is doing in his/her life or a prayer request, the person on the other side of the font would take his/her hands, pour water over them as if washing them, and then remind the individual of his/her baptism, then the two would kiss each other on the cheek alternating three times. As I watched and then participated I was profoundly moved by what was occurring. In these actions a community of individuals became united, we expressed prayers and praises, we were assured of our true identity which the world around us erodes on a daily basis, and we expressed our love as brothers and sisters in Christ in a profoundly counter-cultural way. This was not a rebaptism but a reminder of our baptismal identity; it was not a Sacrament but rather a sacred time. And it took time to do; each person being ministered to and then ministering to another, but those present relished the holy opportunity.
As I reflected on this worship I wondered about how significant such an act would be to a community that regularly worshiped together, to meet at the font young and old, white and black, friends and foe. In essence we do that every time we come together in worship but sometimes we need to enact a spiritual reality to really get it. We are united, we are one.
In your congregations how have you used symbolic actions to point to spiritual realities?