As I was growing up, the churches I attended didn’t call the part at the end of the service a benediction. In fact, they didn’t even offer a benediction. Usually there was an altar call, a prayer, some announcements, maybe a song, and then we left. We knew the drill. We knew what we were supposed to do when we left.
I don’t remember what church (or denomination, for that matter) I was attending when I was first introduced to this special blessing at the end of the service, but I began to look forward to those closing words that would send me on my way each week. In part, I liked the benediction because it sounded like poetry snuck in on unsuspecting parishioners. I would listen to hear the language of Paul, the New Testament’s most prolific writer of benedictions. Our new pastor, who has been at our church just a few weeks, invites us to hold out our hands palms upward, as if we are about to receive something, while the benediction is pronounced. As I walk out of the sanctuary, I feel the blessing resting softly on my soul.
“Philosophically, then, benedictions have properties not possessed by other kinds of speech,” writes seminary professor Dr. Douglas Groothuis on his blog. “The act of pronouncing a benediction invokes a future in which goodness dwells. Beyond wishing, it commends goodness to the one receiving it.”
The words spoken in benediction aren’t ordinary words. They have the power to bless: both for the giver and the receiver. “The benediction is an act of faith,” writes Pastor Lee Eclov. “These words must be pronounced by someone who is confident that they are true.”
As our emphasis shifts here at the High Calling, and I, along with many others, leave my editorial role, I have many things I could say: favorite articles to recommend, moments together by the Frio to recount, lessons learned to share. I could reiterate our organizing belief that all work matters to God. I could tell you about circumstances only God could have orchestrated to lead me to this little community on the web.
But when my time here is over, this work will continue, and just as importantly, your work will continue, too. You have children to raise and companies to lead and tractors to drive and books to write. Your work at school and at the office and at home will continue. And the people you minister to and employ and feed and teach—well, they are still counting on you. I have a few of them counting on me, too. I want that work we do to be filled with goodness. I want YOU to be filled with goodness.
So, instead of “goodbye” I offer these words of benediction, a blessing for all of God’s goodness to rest in you:
The Lord bless your heart and mind, as you come to know the heart and mind of Christ.
The Lord bless your work and your rest, as you remember Christ’s work and rest for you.
The Lord bless your hands and feet, as you become the hands and feet of Christ to others.
And finally, from Numbers 6:24-26:
The Lord bless you and keep you;
the Lord make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you;
the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace.
Originally published at The High Calling on August 25, 2015. Image by Laura Boggess.