After the congregation speaks the votum, by which the congregation confesses that its help is in the Name of the LORD, the minister greets the congregation in the Name of the triune God. The greetings are taken from the opening words of various New Testament letters.
It is good to note, at this point, that our liturgy is a covenantal dialogue. The whole worship service is like a conversation in which God and we speak and respond to each other.
By way of the greeting, we are assured of God’s presence in our midst. We are not just a random group of people but a congregation of people called and gathered by God who are in covenant relationship with Him. When we hear the words of greeting, we can be totally confident that we are people of God deeply loved by Him.
The greeting speaks of grace, peace and mercy. Despite our sins and shortcomings, God addresses us with words of undeserved favour, love and kindness. We are at peace with Him. The church is an island of peace in a restless world and God blesses us with His mercy.
All of this is from God our Father who has adopted us into His family, through Christ Jesus who brought us into this good relationship with the Father by way of His obedience and his sacrifice on the cross for us, and communicated to us through the ministry of the Holy Spirit.
What a way to start the service! The sermons vary, and even if the sermon is strong on admonition, we may be assured that God loves us for the sake of Jesus Christ. We need never wonder where we stand with Him for He has greeted us with grace, peace and mercy. And no matter what, at the end of the service, God’s blessing is laid upon us.
We all come to church in our own personal conditions. Some are happy, others are sad. Some are anxious, others are feeling very confident about matters. Healthy or ill, old or young, we are all different, and yet all the same. We are children of God, loved by God, greeted by the warm embrace of God.
A few final words, yet, about the symbolism. We have our symbols: wedding rings, crosses, the sacraments. Perhaps not too many, but there are a few. The minister raising his hands for the greeting (and blessing) are also symbolic. Some ministers raise both hands for both although, I think, most ministers raise one hand for the greeting, which seems (to me at least) to be more fitting for a greeting whereas a blessing is better symbolized by the raising of both.
May we worship today in a blessed environment as people greeted and blessed by our triune God.