2 Corinthians 13:11-13 (NRSV)
11Finally, brothers and sisters, farewell. Put things in order, listen to my appeal, agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you. 12Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the saints greet you. 13The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with all of you.
This greeting of Paul expresses the essence of Christ’s ministry to love God and love one another. In so doing we listen, we work for each other’s betterment, and we seek peace. In this time of COVID-19, our “holy kiss” may need to be with raised hands in the form of the traditional Aaronic blessing. An ancient tradition associates that greeting, too, with an ailment. According to that tradition, the martyred St. Peter had Dupuytren’s contracture. I have Dupuytren’s contracture as well. My fingers contract to my palm without my permission. That’s supposedly why Peter raised two fingers in the benediction. We adapt to our conditions and a time of social distancing. God accepts us as we are and loves us unconditionally. Peter figured it out, and we and our brothers and sisters can figure it out too. That is why I end each sermon with: “The Grace of the Christ, the love of God, and the community of the Holy Spirit be with you all.” Thus, the sermon always ends in gospel—Good News.
Loving and peaceful God, help us listen more and speak less. Help us seek peace and avoid hostility. Help us embrace community in whatever form it comes—even if that is physical distancing for the well-being of our sisters and brothers. Finally, grant us ways to adapt to each day and each situation in which we find ourselves. In your name we pray. Amen.