Carbonated water has become the beverage of choice these days. Some companies can hardly keep the beverage in stock. One manager remarked, “I’ve heard of people who’ve come back to work in the office, and for some reason, they’ve gotten addicted to LaCroix.” Carbonated beverages may be all the rage; but wait till you taste carbonated benedictions!
What is a benediction? Why not just say at the end of our worship services, “Buh-bye, we’re done, you can go now. See you next week!” I mean, why have a benediction? Do benedictions matter? What is a benediction, exactly? I want to know. How about you? Well, here’s what I’ve found out so far.
A benediction is not a prayer. Nor is it a christened “Cheerio” or nicely disguised command. “Benediction” comes from the Latin words for “good” and “to speak.” Most people define a benediction as a blessing pronouncement that originates with God himself. OK, so what’s the big deal?
Although the word “benediction” is not found in Scripture, the concept is present throughout both testaments. We find benedictions pronounced by parents to their children (like when Jacob blessed his sons in Gen 49) and by ministry leaders to congregants (like when “Aaron lifted his hands toward the people and blessed them” in Lev 9:22). In all instances, the pronouncement of God’s blessing on his people is his way of commissioning them. Thus, benedictions are empowering and prophetic; they send us on God’s mission.
“Of all of the actions that are part of the ‘sending,’ the blessing, or benediction, is arguably the most important and the least understood. It is so important because it sends worshipers on their way with a parting word of God’s grace and blessing. This is much more fitting to the Christian gospel than ending either with a command, which can imply that the Christian life is only about working hard to earn God’s favor, or with merely a well-wish, which fails to convey the beauty and power of God’s promise to go with us” (Worship Sourcebook: Benedictions).
Yes, there’s beauty and power in benedictions.
So, what should we do at the end of the service next Sunday if we hear, “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)?
1) Remember that benedictions are not prayer requests. They are bold pronouncements from God to us at the end of a worship service. Benedictions make sure God gets the final word—on everything.
2) Grasp what God is declaring to you in the benediction. “My blessing is upon you! I’m constantly watching over you—and my face beams with love and grace! My presence will give you peace.” What? This is stunningly beautiful and powerful!
3) Receive the prophetic nature of the benediction. Let this brief portion of the service shape and reform your identity in Christ and direct you through the rest of the week. After all, you’re being sent!
And all God’s people said, “Amen. Alleluia.”