Our Liturgy –12
We begin the service by being greeted in the Lord’s Name; we end by being blessed in His Name. Usually we use the “High Priestly” blessing of Number 6:24-26 in the morning and the blessing of 2 Corinthians 13:14 in the afternoon.
Luke tells us, in Luke 24:50ff, that as the Lord Jesus Christ ascended to heaven, he had his arms stretched out over his disciples blessing them. He has ascended to heaven as our great high priest. We live under His blessing, and every Sunday we are sent into the world blessed by Him. Through the minister, the Lord blesses us. In our tradition, as in many, the minister raises his hands to symbolize how we live under the outstretched and blessing hands of Christ.
It is good to reflect upon the solemnity of the words spoken over us. Just as the votum and greeting at the beginning of the service is not a “rap of the gavel” to indicate that the meeting has begun, similarly the blessing at the end is no mere indication that the meeting is over. Rather, solemn, beautiful words are spoken to us–words of peace. The peace we enjoyed and experienced as we were gathered for worship carries us along for the coming week.
And we see that our entire Lord’s day liturgy is framed by God’s greeting and blessing. God welcomes us with words of grace and peace, and He sends us out with words of grace and peace. We do not end the service with a command, which can imply that the Christian life is about working to earn God’s favour. Neither do we end with a well-wish or a farewell. We end with a benediction, powerful words of blessing from God.
The “Amen” that is said in response belongs to the congregation. Some congregations have the practice of speaking it in unison. Some sing a short three-fold Amen after the benediction. Something to think about.
This brings to conclusions the little series on “Our Liturgy.” Undoubtedly, more could be said, but twelve instalments seem to be a goodly amount. I hope you enjoyed them.