Benediction. It literally means a good word, a blessing. Today at the end of worship, we offer a blessing for Ryan and Mia and Bates and Elsie Wilson. In a few days they will leave Dallas and head east. Ryan will become Minister of Spiritual Formation and Administration at Wake Forest Baptist Church in Wake Forest, North Carolina, near Raleigh.
We all wish we could do this in person, face to face. And yet our blessing and sending forth are no less real, no less heartfelt, no less Spirit-led.
It’s hard for me to believe it’s been 50 years since Myron Madden’s book, The Power to Bless, was published. Madden was pastor of St. Charles Avenue Baptist Church, Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at Louisiana State Medical Center and Director of Pastoral Care at Southern Baptist Hospital in New Orleans, Louisiana.
Perhaps now this book is dated and the language obsolete. But when I read this as a young 30-something minister in the 1980s, I consumed it like someone drinking iced water after a day in the Texas sun. Too much of the theology I had caught was focused on eradicating a curse instead of celebrating the blessing of God upon my life. I needed a gospel word and a way of reframing who I was in light of God’s grace. I needed a word of blessing.
Somewhere in a sermon by Stephen Shoemaker I read an affirmation of this notion that went something like, “Before there was original sin there was God’s original blessing. God breathed and God said, This is good.”
And so, we the people of Wilshire bless the Wilsons and we send them forth with our prayers and our love. “We wish for you a good life, not an easy life.”
As the Pierce Pettis song says, “God believes in you.” And so does Wilshire.