As Time Goes By

"You must remember this
 A Kiss is just a kiss, a sigh is just a sigh.
 The fundamental things apply
 As time goes by
  --Herman Hulfeld

There has been speculation that the kiss may not survive the Coronavirus pandemic. Not the romantic kiss that comes at the end of a wedding ceremony, or in the final seconds of a Hallmark movie-- but the pecks on each cheek, a common greeting in European countries. Total strangers, exchanging two, three, or even four light kisses upon meeting each other. It is a custom that I came to rather late in life, but one that I have grown to enjoy.

It's a bit too risky now--agreed. But will it be back one day, along with hugs and handshakes?

I did not think so, until I found out how deeply ingrained this kind of kiss is in our culture. It goes back to pre-Christian days, the Roman Empire, and feudal France. It survived the Black Plague in the 14th century, after all, and the flu pandemic of 1918. People refrained for a while, but quickly picked up the habit again. We are social beings who long for the warmth of personal touch.

Last week I absentmindedly hugged my neighbor upon the occasion of her commissioning as an Ensign in the United States Navy. I had been asked to walk over and deliver the Invocation for the outdoor ceremony. Everyone was socially distancing in the yard and into the street just fine. But then I forgot myself and gave Sarah a gentle embrace of pride and congratulations.

Old habits--I'm a pastor, and that's what we do.

No--the handshake, hug, and kiss will be back. I really think that that is what we are missing most by not having church services in our building these last months. Our people are getting good music, testimony, and a sermon online--with pictures of familiar faces--and great discussions in zoom Bible studies. What we all miss is the touch on an elbow and the warmth of an embrace.

Paul told the Corinthian Christians to "Greet one another with a holy kiss" (2 Corinthians 13:12). Perhaps he put the stress on the word "holy,” as theirs was a rather licentious culture. Let there be no confusion. But that rather obscure command never really meant much to me --until now. I guess I took it for granted.

Maybe we all took for granted the great privilege of worship gatherings. This is the longest period in my entire life that I have spent my Sundays pretty much alone, except for Audrey. It only makes me long all the more for that day when we can regather on King Street.

And when finally the time is right, certainly not the first few weeks back, a kiss on the cheek (or something like it) to express our deep love for each other.

"It's been a long, long time.

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