The Lord said to Moses, Say to Aaron and his sons,
Thus you shall bless the people of Israel: you shall say to them,
“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.”
So shall they put my name upon the people of Israel, and I will bless them.
To bless someone is to “put the name of God upon” them. There is something beautiful and intimate in this image. When a benediction is spoken it is as though God bends down and tenderly kisses us on the forehead. In this moment we are like a child enfolded in her mother’s arms. We are comforted and assured that God is for us and that God loves us.
For over 40 years, I have been privileged to bless my congregants by putting God’s name upon them. At the end of every worship service, I raise my hands and repeat the words of either Numbers 6 or II Corinthians 13.
When I first started out, the benediction was just something that I was supposed to do. “My pastor did it when I was a child,” I reasoned, “so I should do it too.” But with the passing of time this simple act has taken on a deeper and deeper meaning.
Now when I pronounce the benediction, I try to make eye contact with every single person in the room. I want people to hear and see just how much God loves them. At that moment I have an almost a physical sense that God’s blessing is flowing through me and into the lives of the people I love. That is a holy moment for me. I want you to be blessed by God; and in blessing you, I also am blessed.
Giving a benediction has become so important to me that I now do it every chance I get, not just at the end of a worship service. I give a benediction when I sit by a hospital bed or visit a shut in. I give a benediction at the end of difficult board meeting and when I have just enjoyed sharing someone’s company.
I will be retiring in two more months and one of the things that I am going to miss is giving a weekly benediction. I will continue to hold you in my heart and whisper my benedictions from afar. However, I won’t have the weekly opportunity to put God’s name on you. So between now and then, I want to be channel of blessing that connects you to God.
The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God
and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you now and forever.
(II Corinthians 13:14)