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Why a Benediction?

Christian worship is no secret. The Church is not a private society with our own clandestine practices. We are a family trying to grow, and our family ways may be strange to some. With love and truth being at the core of who we are, we do well to have reasons ready (1 Peter 3:15). But as it goes sometimes in a family, we get too familiar with each other and our practices. To some, our gathered worship could be strange. Some people are completely new to Christian worship. While others may come from another tradition or from a more “freely” expressed style of worship. Whatever the degree of unfamiliarity, we the family should know why are the way we are and do the things we do so we can be all the more hospitable and thoughtful when we do them. So for starters, what is the ditty at the end of the service often referred to the ‘benediction’?

 Simply broken down, benediction is ‘a good word’. It means ‘blessing’ and is especially a blessing given to others  in the context of a religious service. When you reply to someone’s sneeze, technically, you’re giving them a benediction. But spiritually, it’s not true at all. It’s just a common courtesy which probably even has a superstitious origin. Maybe it’s just best to say gesundheit; unless, of course, you want to turn a ‘God bless you’ into a jarring  evangelism opener. =+)

It also differs from a doxology which is a liturgical formula of praise to God.  You see the difference?

Biblically speaking, there is no mandate on churches or their worship leaders to give a benediction at the end of a worship service. The words of benedictions are often found in the Scriptures, but the practice, per se, is not. That, however, has not stopped churches over the majority of the Church’s history to employ these spiritual “formulas” as public pronouncements or prayers. The benediction is not merely a signal that the worship service is over. If we think of a benediction like movie credits, then, we’ll check out or leave. The benediction isn’t a sermon recap or even a continuation of the sermon. It’s more like the liturgical echo to the ‘call to worship’ (at the beginning of the service). This ‘sending blessing’ from God is offered by the minister topping off the congregation's tank as they scatter to their diverse vocations as Gospel ambassadors. Mike Cosper in his book Rhythms of Grace nails it this way: “The benediction has a centrifugal force to it— spinning us out from the gathering to our scattered lives where worship continues as before, but in our varied corners.”

 

The Bible has several benedictions that  are less obvious in the Old Testament than they are in the New Testament letters. While there is no strict formula for a benediction, you will notice language of conferral or wishing (“may…”); or, matter-of-fact, direct statement of God’s promises and presence. And often, they are trinitarian. The two most well-known biblical benedictions are:

  • “The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the LORD lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace” (Numbers 6:24-26, ESV).
  • “May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ [Son], and the love of God [the Father], and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all” (2 Corinthians 13:14 NIV).

 It also isn't uncommon to paraphrase a biblical benediction or to even fuse a couple together, but it should be done carefully,  respecting their original contexts. This benediction based on Philippians 4:7 comes from Anglican and Presbyterian traditions:

  • “The peace of God which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in the knowledge and love of God, and of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord; And the blessing of God Almighty, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, be among you and remain with you always. Amen.”

 

Again, no hard and fast rules on the ‘who’, but most of the time, the benediction is offered by the elder who has just preached or officiated the communion sacrament.  He will often do so with an arm (or both) outstretched over the congregation as a symbol of priestly service and shepherd-like generosity.  So then, it isn’t uncommon or inappropriate for congregants to respond to the benediction by reaching out their hand(s) as a visual way of receiving the blessing.

Would a congregation somehow be less blessed or slighted if the minister didn’t offer a benediction from God on their behalf? Probably not. We have all the blessings we need in Christ (Ephesians 1:1-4). The value of a well-planned benediction is worth the  extra minute in the worship service. You’re not just leaving a worship service week after week.

Just think about this: You're not just leaving a worship service week after week; you are being sent. You have not just earned your weekly church attendance badge. Brothers and sisters, you are King Jesus’ servants being recharged and receiving a blessing for the road; a road that for you winds  Monday through Saturday and leads right back every week to the blessedness of Lord’s Day gathering.

 “Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.”

-Hebrews 13:20–21 ESV

 

(See the article length version of this post here

Posted by Will Pareja with

Sometimes, Our Apologies Stink Bad

Have you ever been turned off by someone's attempt at rectifying a wrong with you? All of us offend someone at some point in our lives. It's probably a given that it's happened this week. Instead of judging too quickly someone's lackluster apology, why don't you plan on giving a meaningful (that is, sincere and full) apology the next time you are aware of offending someone or somebodies? Do you know how to apologize?

Jimmy Dodd, the founder and CEO of PastorServe, recently sent me a letter that was super helpful on the theme of apologizing: "The Nine A's of Confession." He said this: "... we make mistakes [and we sin]. We must apologize. Personally, when I apologize, I take a deep breath and think through the Nine A's. Each one is critical."

Read this prayerfully with an open heart and start right away with someone. Throughout this list, I've put brackets around my own additions or tweaks.

  1. Address everyone involved. When you hurt with words or actions, address EVERYONE impacted.
  2. Avoid "if, but, and maybe." This is essential! Using the word "if" declares that you are not fully taking responsibility for your actions or words. The phrase "if I hurt you" says that your actions may or may not have inflicted pain. The word 'but' conveys that you believe you were justified in your actions.
  3. Admit specifically. Just admit what you did! This is where the vast majority of apologies go horribly wrong. Don't justify your behavior. Don't beat around the bush. Just admit what you did or said. It's not rocket science. If a video tape shows you punching  a woman— don't be so foolish as to say, "Everyone who knows me can confirm that I have the highest respect for women." In reality, that statement only confirms that you are an immature, narcissistic, blame-shifting individual; [not to mention, a liar].
  4. Acknowledge the hurt. Acknowledge the pain you caused. Use words like, "I know my actions caused deep pain." Make sure the other party is satisfied that you understand the depth of hurt your words or actions inflicted upon them.
  5. Accept the consequences. Yep. There are consequences to careless words and actions. Accept [humbly] what is coming your way.
  6. Alter your behavior. Commit that [by God's grace and Holy Spirit's power] you will never do this again. Tell the offended party that you will diligently work to change your behavior. [Even ask for and submit to some extra accountability like a fellow church member or counselor to hold your feet to the fire and encourage you in any progress you're making.]
  7. Allow the other person to share their emotions. Ask the offended party what else they need you to know. Often, there is deeper hurt than we ever realized. Practice active listening! Don't defend yourself, just listen!
  8. Ask for forgiveness. So basic but often overlooked. Every apology must include the words, "I am sorry. Will your forgive me?" [And if you've offended a family member, spiritual or biological, I'd add: I sinned against you on this.]
  9. Allow time for final reflection. Don't rush the apology. Sometimes, people need time to reflect, further acknowledge the hurt and ask questions to confirm that you understand the pain you caused. [Give them that space and keep the door open for them to "come in" and elaborate further on the hurt.]

For another helpful read about cultivating a church culture of healthy confession, check out John Lee's post "Confessing Sin is Always Awkward, Sometimes Costly and Absolutely Worth It".

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