It turns out that if you kiss a Banana Slug, your lips will tingle. Yep, tingle. And if you go through with it, your reward is to become a member of the Banana Slug Club. The mystery becomes clear when you find out that slugs’ skin secretes an anesthetic that keeps would-be slug eaters away. Hence the tingling. All this I learned while on a recent trip to southeastern Alaska, where Banana Slugs abound. And, it also turns out that you can kiss an iceberg for the promise of long life.
Paul writes in a letter to the Corinthians: “Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the saints greet you.”
When you kiss a slug, your lips tingle. When you kiss an iceberg, you expect long life. When we greet each other with a holy kiss, all the saints join in with us in that embrace. Kisses can be fraught with tension, danger, betrayal. When do I kiss him? When do I let her kiss me? The affront of an unwelcome kiss. Judas kissed Jesus to identify him to the arresting authorities.
Years ago, a friend and her husband expressed their love to each other physically and emotionally in a way that to my friend brought them closer together than ever. And then, very soon after that, my friend’s husband committed suicide. One could argue that their lovemaking was a goodbye, but my friend didn’t know that. One could argue that it was a betrayal. To engender that bond of closeness and then to leave.
But Paul is talking about a different kind of kiss: a holy kiss, the kiss of peace. The kiss of life. How do we greet each other with that kind of kiss?
Many Christian congregations exchange the peace during the service celebrating the Eucharist. We greet those whom we know and love, of course. But we can also exchange the peace with those we don’t know as well or at all or maybe have had conflict with before. We can look the store clerk in the eye and ask him how he is before conducting our business.
On my trip, I received this holy kiss from one of our guides. I was contemplating taking another cruise to the Galapagos Islands and wondered aloud to her if I could go on my own and how it would work since I’ve never snorkeled before — a primary activity on the Islands’ expedition. As we talked, she listened to me, supported me in the idea and encouraged me to go and have a good time. Traveling by myself? No problem. Don’t know how to snorkel? A guide will teach you.
And so it goes. When we exchange the kiss of peace with others, the air shifts as God, along with all the communion of saints, bend to give us the kiss of peace as well. That beloved holy cloud of witnesses stands with us, surrounding us all with the love of God. And all creation rejoices: from Banana Slugs in Alaska to wonders awaiting in the Galapagos Islands.