10th Sunday after Pentecost, Lectionary 21
August 21, 2011
The Dance of the Liturgy: Blessing and Dismissal
We are at the end of the liturgy. It is time for the wrap up. What is the end? A blessing and a response to all that has happened in the time we are here.
We have entered God’s holy house with reverence, and gathered out of the world. We are an unlikely band. We are not rich, not powerful in the grand scheme of things. We are only beautiful and loveable to our families and to each other, in spite of the fact that we don’t really share exactly the same beliefs either theologically or spiritually. We come because we have been called together by God’s Spirit to become a sacred community – Jesus’ hands and feet in the world, bringing in God’s kingdom.
We have acknowledged our sin, our lack of love and failure to be what God has called us to be. Like all God’s people we need God’s forgiveness to come into God’s house, and to be received. We came together to hear God’s word and to experience the presence of Jesus, God’s Word, in our midst. That Word lifts our hearts, tells us our special place in this Body of Christ, and encourages us as we prepare to go out again to be Jesus in Prineville Oregon.
We prayed for the world that breaks our hearts, lifted our voices together in affirming our trust in God and God’s story. We sang, breathing together as one, living the truth of our call to unity in Christ. We shared the peace of God which grounds us in a world of chaos. We shared tastes of bread and sips of wine that placed us at God’s own table and became Jesus’ presence in our mouth and heart. We have stepped out of time, and joined God’s Spirit on a journey of truth about who we are, and practiced our joy at being God’s people. And now we are ready to go depart. We are ready to go back into our real work in the world. We bow our heads and wait to hear God’s final words us, God’s blessing on our time together and on the work to which we are about to go.
“The LORD bless you and keep you, The LORD’s face shine upon you and be gracious to you, The LORD look upon you with favor and give you peace.”
These are the words God gave to Moses, that Aaron and his sons should use to bless God’s people. “[The priests] will put my name on them, and I will bless them.” God says in Numbers (6:24-26). So this blessing names you as God’s own.
God tells Abram that he will bless him to be a blessing, “all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” (Gen 12:2-3). And we are here to receive the blessing which began so long ago for those who trust in God’s salvation.
Or today: God all mighty, God most merciful, bless us, keep us, and grant us peace. Amen.
This blessing is your entry back into the world in which we live, your entry back into the world’s time. It is yours to carry through the days of your work of being God’s people here. God’s blessing comes as God’s invitation comes, just because God loves you. You don’t earn it. You can’t make it happen by anything you do. It is there for the taking. It is a gift of Jesus who came to be God with us, and to set us free from guilt and striving and sorrow. It is our trust that God has done all we need to be forgiven that makes it possible for us to share the love which we have received.
So after we lift our voices in song one more time, we respond to the blessing and all that has happened in our worship. We are dismissed by the words: “Go in peace,” and encouraged in our work, “remember the poor,” “serve the Lord.” We cry, “thanks be to God,” as our affirmation that we have received our marching orders and are ready for the world. It is appropriate to hear God’s peace offered to us once again. it is the same peace which has threaded through the whole of our time together. Liturgies begin “In peace let us pray to the Lord…” We share the peace of the Lord before we offer our gifts and come to God’s table for communion. We are dismissed from communion, “depart in God’s peace.” And now we are sent out in peace. It is the greeting used by Jesus himself, and in all the writings of the Apostles. That peace is our final blessing. It is our assurance that God is with us where ever we go. It is the promise that nothing can separate us from God’s love. It is the guarantee that all God’s promises are true through the death and resurrection of God’s own son, Jesus the Christ. So we are sealed with God’s Spirit in the bond of peace with God and with each other. May you go forward this morning blessed with God’s peace, stepping back into the work for which you are entrusted in the world that God loves so much.
May the peace which passes all understanding guard your hearts and minds and keep them in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.