I was thinking recently about how we approach the Benediction in worship. I find myself using it simply as a sort of indicator that church is over. But of course, the Benediction is much more than a closer. It is actually a beginner, if you will. It is a jump-start to moving out of the church and into the world with the word of peace and love and comfort from our God.
The original and traditional Benediction comes from Numbers 6:24-26: “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.” It is spoken by Aaron, brother of Moses, as a way of placing the name of the Lord upon the Israelites. It was a way of God saying, “You are mine and I will take care of you.”
In Paul’s letters, we find new versions of the Benediction, such as:
May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 15:5-6).
Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen (Ephesians 3:20-21).
Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him (Colossians 3:16-17).
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).
For me, these benedictions from Paul highlight starting points that are helpful and practical for me to hear right now: seek harmony, let God do his great work, focus on Jesus, stay equipped with God’s will.
These are the good words that God has to give us as we go out and serve him. Don’t let the Benediction ever become rote. Let it be a rallying cry to get up and get going. The benefits will be beautiful.