Posted in coaching

carbonated benedictions (2 corinthians 13:14)

Do benedictions matter? In many churches today, there are usually 3 songs, 3 announcements, a 3-point sermon, and 3 ways to give. But there’s no benediction. Why? After all, there are many benedictions throughout the Bible. Poor little benediction. Why has it been tossed?

Constance Cherry suggests that “this is often the case in services that use the twofold format of extended time of singing followed by a lengthy sermon. If the sermon is viewed as the most important part of the service and the response to the Word has not been included, the dismissal tends to be more of a functional matter of business. This is an unfortunate development … It is not a matter of ‘ending’ but of ‘sending’” (The Worship Architect: A Blueprint for Designing Culturally Relevant and Biblically Faithful Services).

So, yes, singing, preaching, giving, and benedictions matter (announcements are, well, more like a toleration ;).

Since digging into this subject, I’ve learned that there’s a difference between doxologies and benedictions. Doxologies give glory to God within the flow of worship—often after confession of sin and the assurance of pardon. Benedictions are blessing pronouncements from God that send us into the world at the conclusion of worship. Simply put, doxologies are offered to God while benedictions come from God.

Let’s take a pop quiz. For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.” Is Romans 11:36 a doxology or a benediction? If you said, “doxology,” you’re correct!

How about 2 Corinthians 13:14? The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.” Benediction, right? So, what is the meaning of this blessing pronouncement at the end of our worship services? Notice the specific reference to all three Persons of the Trinity. Each member—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—are the source of one aspect of blessing.

1. “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ (be with you all).” The Lord is declaring: “You are covered in grace. Bathe in it, walk in it, and dish it out. For it’s from my fullness you have all received, grace upon grace.” So, get ready for a FULL week. “When grace happens, truth happens” (NT Wright).

2. “And the love of God (be with you all).” Although it may be popular to say, “love is love,” it’s not true. “God is love”—which makes love sacred. In this benediction, God wants us to experience his Father-heart throughout the week ahead. But be prepared for change. When love happens, sanctification happens.

3. “And the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.” What a lovely way to say, “Dance with me.” The triune God who dwells eternally as a fellowship of loving exchange invites us into his relational life! So, buckle up all week. When fellowship with the Spirit happens, people dance!

Benedictions like 2 Corinthians 13:14 send us off to dance with the Father who—without stopping—will twirl us into the gentle arms of the Son who—in keeping with a rhythm—will backspin us into a cha-cha with the Spirit!

And all God’s people said, “Amen. Alleluia.”  

Posted in coaching

carbonated benedictions (romans 15:13)

Last week we learned that benedictions are not prayers or a churchy way to say, “See ya!” Benedictions are blessing pronouncements that are designed to send us on God’s mission. Regrettably, the benediction is excluded in many churches today. Whatever the reason, it is unfortunate. Giving a benediction at the end of worship is an old tradition in the Bible and one of the high points of the worship service.

“I love this moment in worship,” says Hilary Ritchie, Minister for Worship and the Arts at Hope Church. “Almost all of my planning is working towards this moment of sending. Because we’ve communed with God and each other, we can boldly face the world and live as God’s people for another week. Gathered worship is so important because it roots us in our identities as God’s people and equips us to go out and live our everyday lives of worship day by day.”

Some of you are wired to see silver linings no matter how awful the situation. “It could be worse,” you say. Others of you require a stress-free, cloudless sky, and a certified Vikings win to be filled with hope (yes, Aaron Rodgers is a hope killer in MN).

What about the apostle Paul? His life was one continuous hardship. He was whipped five times, beaten with rods three times, shipwrecked, threatened by thugs, deprived of sleep, food, and warm clothing (2 Cor 11:24-27). And yet he pronounced this benediction: “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope” (Romans 15:13).

So, what is the meaning of this blessing pronouncement at the end of our worship services?

Three things.

1) Remember, this is not a prayerful positive spin on life. God is declaring: “I am Hope.” Whoa. He is Hope itself! God puts a capital “H” in Hope.

2) Hope (God) is not static. Hope fills. Trust in infinite, boundless Hope and He’ll see to it that we’re filled with “all joy and peace.” Hope without a capital “H” can’t do that. Little “h” hope only sets us up for a big drain.

3) This is benediction is not a piddly “Ta-ta, see you next Sunday.” Notice the “so that” Holy Spirit power-packed sendoff. “So that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.” “The sending is a time,” says Constance Cherry, “when God blesses us to bless the world in Christ’s name, and commissions us to live in a particular way as a result of having heard the Word as a community” (The Worship Architect: A Blueprint for Designing Culturally Relevant and Biblically Faithful Services).

Benedictions are blessings with a purpose. The God of hope fills us so that hope will abound and spread to the people we encounter throughout the week.

And all God’s people said, “Amen. Alleluia.”