A pastor friend of mine shared an insight he received from one of his church members. He had asked what his members most appreciated in the worship service. The liturgy? The hymns? The sermon? The lessons? Communion?
Members had various answers.
One woman answered, “My favorite part is the benediction because you smile when you say it.” The smiling benediction won her heart. It pleased her to close each service with a blessing from God emphasized by the smile on the pastor’s face as he spoke the blessing.
“Benediction” means “word of blessing” or “to speak a blessing.” The most common blessing of Christians is the same one the Lord gave Moses for the blessing of Israel. The Lord wanted the high priests of Israel (Aaron and his sons) to speak the great word of blessing over the sons of Israel.
He should say, “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” (Deuteronomy 6:24-26).
For 3,400 years from the days of Moses till now, the people of God have heard his blessing. The blessing communicates this blessed thought: the triune God loves you. Receive the blessing of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.
On Sunday, the Christian Church celebrates the festival of the Holy Trinity. Many churches that share a liturgical tradition have set aside the Sunday following Pentecost to acknowledge and proclaim the one God in three persons, the Holy Trinity.
Christians coined the term triune to explain the teaching of Bible passages that express the unity of God in the plurality of persons. Namely, God reveals himself as one God in three distinct persons, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.
In many places the Bible expresses the unity of God. Every Israelite learned the confession, “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one” (Deuteronomy 6:4). The Old Testament Hebrew word translated “one” describes a unity rather than a succession of numbers (1,2,3…).
Holy Scripture also reveals the plurality of God. “God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, in our likeness’ ” (Genesis 1:26). Here the Hebrew word for God expresses plurality (literally “gods”) but the verb expresses unity (“he said” rather than “they said”).
Jesus expressed the clear teaching of the Trinity in his institution of baptism. He said, “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19). Note the one name (not names) and the three persons connected with the one name.
In four clear ways the Bible teaches that each person of the triune God is God. Father, Son and Holy Spirit share the same divine names and titles, the same divine attributes, the same divine works and the same divine honor.
Father, Son and Holy Spirit all receive the titles Lord and God. Scripture reveals each as holy, eternal, almighty, knowing everything and present everywhere. Each person created the world, performed miracles, and raised the dead. Glory, honor, worship and praise belong to the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.
Most blessed of all, the triune God devoted himself to rescuing this world of sinners. God the Father loved the world and sent His Son. God the Son, Jesus Christ, earned righteousness for all, died for all sins and rose from his grave to bring God’s peace to the world. The Holy Spirit uses the good news in the Bible and the sacraments (baptism and communion) to lead people to trust in Jesus for salvation.
The New Testament has the apostolic blessing to match the Aaronic benediction of the Old Testament. “May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all” (2 Corinthians 13:14).
Joel Iver Nitz is the pastor of Messiah Lutheran Church