I’m back in the pulpit this week. On Saturday my four weeks of paternity leave will be up and I will be astounded that I have an almost three year old boy and a one month old girl. Life is good, thanks be to God.
With that said I still have to put time into my sermon this week so it is not all play, rest and diapers this week. This is ascension Sunday and is the bookend of the season of Easter. We enter the last 7 days of the Great 50 Days. Here we witness the disciples, in Luke’s gospel, watch their friend and their risen Lord be carried up into heaven. What I like about this text is that as he is departing them he is blessing them. He didn’t bless then leave, it is a continual motion; a blessing while departing. This means there is no end to this blessings, this benediction.
This got me thinking about our benedictions in service. I always vary mine and try to pull in what I preached about and reminding them of the Triune God we worship. This is usually the only extemporaneous piece I do during the service, except for the prayer after the sermon. I usually say it standing in the middle of the church with my arms out and hands at a 45 degree angle. Yes a 45 degree angle because as my worship professor up it, “in order for the laser beams of God’s blessings to come down and hit the people.”
One of the benedictions that stick in my head the most is the UMYF benediction I said for years as a youth and as a youth minister.
The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious unto you; the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace, Amen.
The Book of Worship says the dismissal with blessing or the benediction is to send people into ministry with the Lord’s blessings (p.15). The Dismissal with Blessing, often called the Benediction, is given by the pastor, facing the people. It is addressed to the people, not to God, and the pastor and people appropriately look at each other as it is given. For this reason, it should be given from the front, not the back, of the sanctuary. (p.31)
Christ leaves this earth while departing a blessing but this isn’t a blessing of abundance like many Prosperity Preachers might claim. This is a blessing into action. Just like our weekly benedictions bless people into the work done between Sunday at 12pm and the following Sunday at 11 am, Christ’s benediction is one into service.
Christ blesses the disciples there but they don’t stay there. They go back to Jerusalem with great joy. Luke then continues the story in Acts and we see the work that was done because of this blessing. This blessing sets us up for the bestowing of the Holy Spirit that will happen on the day of Pentecost.
What benediction do you usually use to end your worship service? Do you follow the Book of Worship and do it from the front and do people look back at you or close their eyes? What is your favorite benediction?