A Good Word

A Good Word

A Good Word – that’s what the word Benediction means.  Literally, it comes from the Latin words for “well” and “to speak.”  It is a blessing – a good wish – as our time of worship comes to an end.  Ending the service with a good word for everyone.

Our brand new Presbyterian Directory for Worship calls for our worship to end with a two-part benediction: a charge and a blessing.

First – a charge to all of us to go out into the world to serve God and others.  That would be something like Jesus’ Great Commission:

Go into all the world and make disciples, baptizing them in the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey all that I have commanded you.

Or simply,

Go in peace, to love and serve the Lord.

Or portions of or all of Paul’s charge to the Roman Christians:

Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with God’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited. Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.

That’s way too much for one benediction.

By the way, the Directory says that it is fitting for a deacon or a ruling elder to deliver the charge, because deacons are responsible for the church’s caring ministry, and the elders are responsible for the church’s faithfulness to God’s mission.  I confess that I have not been diligent in delivering charges, so that will become a regular part of our worship.

The charge comes either before or after a blessing.  The most common blessing is the so-called Aaronic Blessing from the Book of Numbers – which contains a lot more than numbers.  God gave it to Moses to teach to Aaron and his sons:

The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you; the LORD turn his face toward you and establish peace with you.

A number of other Scriptures make good blessings.  All of Paul’s letters have a blessing somewhere near the end.  The most popular is from II Corinthians:

May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God,

and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.

And his shortest comes from I Timothy:

Grace be with you.

Just four words.  I don’t use that benediction, because you would feel you didn’t get your money’s worth.

But the most powerful blessing is from Jesus Himself – delivered to His disciples on the mountain as He was about to be taken into Heaven.

He first gave them the Great Commission – which was a tough assignment.  They were to get the message of Jesus to “all the world.”  I’m sure they were looking at each other as He said that, wondering how they could possibly get to all the world.

And they were to baptize the new believers and then disciple them.  That was an even bigger job.  Teaching people how to follow Jesus takes a lot of time and often individual attention.  Jesus had spent more than three years working with them; how could eleven guys do that for the whole world?

That was the charge – a seemingly impossible task.  But then Jesus delivered the perfect blessing:

I am with you always, to the very end of the age.

Dwell with those words for a minute.

I am with you always, to the very end of the age.

Jesus is telling them – and He is telling us – that we won’t be alone in doing this.  Jesus Himself will be with us.  Jesus – the One who said that His yoke is easy and His burden is light – He will do the work with us.  He will always be there to help – as daunting as our task may seem.

That is the perfect model for ending our worship: first reminding us of our responsibility to share the Good News, to disciple new believers, and to help those in need – then reminding us that Jesus is right here, right now to help us do it.

That is a good word.