In the typical order of worship, there is one moment we all look forward to: the benediction. Come on, you know you do! It means the service has been completed, the message has been delivered, the songs have been sung, and the prayers faithfully prayed. It signals that the irritation of 1. trying to keep your kids quiet; 2. sitting next to someone who put on WAAAY too much perfume or aftershave; or 3. the loud whisperer behind you catching up on gossip is finally over and you can go home. Even pastors like the benediction. Trust me, we look forward to it, too. It means our week’s work is finished and for better or worse, we have offered our labor to the Lord and now get to catch our breath before starting all over again.
You know that in pastor-time, Sunday comes every 4 1/2 days, right?
Today we are reading Paul’s benediction to the people in Corinth. I love his happy goodbye as he is leaving people whom he loves:
2 Corinthians 13 (The Message)
11-13 And that’s about it, friends. Be cheerful. Keep things in good repair. Keep your spirits up. Think in harmony. Be agreeable. Do all that, and the God of love and peace will be with you for sure.
That is a sermon in itself.
Be cheerful. No matter what your daily trials are, we all have eternity to look forward to at the benediction of our lives.
Keep things in good repair such as your house, your family, and especially your soul.
Keep your spirit up! Don’t let the small stuff get you down. By the way, it’s all small stuff.
Think in harmony. This one sentence is a whole sermon series. It is a great reinforcement of the fact that God desires unity in the body of Christ. That can only happen when we lay down our individuality, our differences, and we work to THINK in harmony.
Be agreeable. If you do these things, you will experience the peace and love of God all week. Sermon done, right there in the benediction.
Then comes this little challenge:
Greet one another with a holy embrace. All the brothers and sisters here say hello.
Reading this verse in a pandemic, or in flu season, or when people are doused in too much perfume, presents a bit of a stumbling block for us. Other translations go even farther and translate this as “greet each other with a holy kiss.” The lack of social cheek-kissing in America as you might experience in other countries makes this even more alarming for American readers.
This way of salutation was practiced in eastern countries during Paul’s time. Paul was encouraging them to greet one another in an affectionate manner, and treat each other with kindness and love. The use of the word “holy” here serves to remind us that Paul intended it as an expression of Christian affection and not as an improper contact.
While we probably won’t adopt a practice of kissing per se, it would serve us well to be holy in our approach to each other, and greet each other with the kindness and love befitting a Christian community…and not just at church.
When we do that, it will be easier to be cheerful, keep our spirits up, and keep our souls in good repair. And when that happens, the love and the peace of God will be with us for sure.