July 18, 2013
Dr. Paul R. Fetters (right), former dean of the Huntington University Graduate School of Christian Ministries
The word for today is “benediction.”
In the early Christian church, Zachariah’s song of praise for God’s blessing was identified in Latin as the Benedictus (Luke 1:68-79). In Latin, bene means good and dictus means word. Therefore, in English benediction is translated “a good word.”
At 16 years of age while yet a new convert to Christ, I was asked to “pronounce the benediction.” Little did I know what a benediction was or how to pronounce one. So, I just offered a closing prayer. Later, it was explained to me that a benediction is the last word at the close of the worship service–a blessing from God. God has the last word, and it is a good word.
Having taught this explanation in many college and graduate classes, I am discovering that not all worship leaders have been so instructed in this Christian liturgy of worship. Presently, could our familiarity with the Divine have caused us to ignore–even forget–this blessing from God?
Often, at the close of worship, I now hear the last word, “Have a good week.” I am sure those who leave a casino or race track may hear the same. Those leaving the pub, local restaurant, beauty parlor, barber shop, or auto dealership are encouraged by “Have a good week.” Or others hear its shortened form, “Have a good one.”
On occasions, I have heard a benedictory prayer. Then I hear the really last and seemingly the most important word that trumps all other last words:
“Be sure to stay for the money raising cookout in the parking lot.” Or, “Purchase your tickets for the Tin Caps ballgame at the Welcome Center.”
Personally, I prefer to leave worship with a good word from God ringing in my ears. Ministers ordained by God are privileged to offer God’s blessing upon the people. Benedictions? Yes! The Scriptures offer many.
“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 give you peace. Amen.” (Numbers 6:22-26, NIV)
“May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, be with you all. Amen.” (2 Corinthians 13:14, NIV)