Redimete Diem!

Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise,
making the most of the time, because the days are evil. (Eph. 5:15-16, ESV)

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The Issues and Elements of Worshipping God

Part 12 - Benediction

 

            It may surprise you but the most personal expression a minister has in the entire service of worship is found at the last, in the dismissal of the congregation, or what we call the Benediction.

            Itís true that if the minister designs the entire service, and especially if he leads it, he is putting a lot of himself into it.  And yet, that doesnít mean it is personally an expression of his own making.  The form of worship generally comes from our Reformed heritage and tradition as it is drawn from the Word of God.  The Psalms and hymns and Scripture songs we sing are words composed by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit or the man-made contributions of others.  The prayers in formal worship are to be corporate expressions and the minister, as he leads the people in them, recognizes that by bringing their confessions and petitions before Godís throne.  Even the sermon, while obviously written by the minister, is still the Word of God being declared and the people are moved, not by the minister himself, but by the Spirit of God.

            But the Benediction is different.  It is the last word, the statement of blessing, the sending forth of the people of God into the world, the voice of the pastor who calls down nothing but the best for a people to whom he is committed, for whom he sacrifices and serves.

            I avoid writing my own words for a Benediction.  That would only threaten to make it trite and, from time to time, the words might even be regarded with suspicion.  There are many wonderful statements of blessing to be found in Scripture with which to offer in the name of Christ Ė all are true, all would serve you well.

            Youíve probably noticed that I have a favorite.  It is found in Jude 24-25.  Over the years I have adopted these verses and they have become the theme that represents my entire ministerial career and effort.

            Every time I preach I am aware of the weight of my words.  I realize that on any given Lordís Day I may succeed in drawing some in Ė cementing their relationship to Christ Ė or of driving someone else away Ė being convinced that they have heard quite enough of me!  So I close my preaching with Jude 24-25 as a way of expressing the point that Ė for all I may have said so stumblingly, inaccurately or even harshly Ė the God of all grace still calls you and will perfectly secure your pilgrimage until you stand before His presence.

            There are different points of view on how you should receive the Benediction.  One view is that you should stand tall, look up and receive it as a gift of God placed upon you.  Another view is that you should bow humbly and let the blessing be prayerfully conferred over you.  The way you receive it should be as personal as well.  Do as you feel led to do.

            The only way to receive a benediction incorrectly is to do so with impatience as you wait to get out the door, or with distraction as you begin to think about what other things you are about to do, or with boredom because ďPastor Barker always says the same thing!Ē

            If you are one of the ones who look up as you receive the benediction, youíll probably notice that I tend to look down.  The reason for that is simple: for as many years as I have said these verses out loud, I simply cannot commit them to memory!  It isnít that Iím lazy about doing so, Iíve tried!  I think it is just a mental block the Lord has put into my mind so that the words I recite do not become mere rote and meaningless to me as well as to you!

            As I gaze upon Godís word in that very familiar place, I am reminded of the truth of this blessing every single Lordís Day.  And it has remained one of the richest, most personal parts of the entire worship service for me, and hopefully, for you.

            May God bless you as we seek to worship His name together.

David G. Barker, 2003

 

David G. Barker
david.barker@ncpres.org