I grew up in Youngstown, Ohio and attended Mahoning United Methodist Church. My Mom and Dad sang in the choir, Mom assisted as church treasurer and Dad would lead various classes and assumed leadership roles. And much to my sister and my chagrin, we were usually one of the last ones to leave each Sunday! But I have a lot of wonderful memories of the church.
One memory was how each service would end. The acolytes would go the alter, light their candlelighters with the flame from the alter candles. They would then extinguish the alter candles flames and carry the light toward the back of the church, symbolizing taking the light of Christ out into the world. Oh yeah, my sister was an acolyte for several years. I remember watching her reverently practice bringing in the light and carrying it out. It was a beautifully symbolic tradition.
Another tradition we observed each week was singing the Doxology. Actually we sang two different doxologies. The first one we sang was the Gloria Patri:
I have vivid memories of singing this at my Grandparents church. My grandfather played the pipe organ and when it came for the Gloria Patri we all rose to our feet as my grandfather belted out the Gloria on that magnificent pipe organ.
The second Doxology was sung after the offering was taken. While the Doxology was sung the collection plates were placed on the altar. As a child watching this each week, it was a meaningful symbol of people giving their offerings out of awe and reverence to God.
Another wonderful tradition that occurred at the end of the service was the benediction. The pastor would stand before the church and speak sacred words over the congregation. Most often, the benediction was straight from scripture as one final message of truth and blessing to the congregants before they left the sanctuary to return to the world. I love our contemporary worship services now, but I also miss some of those meaningful traditions!
Doxologies and Benedictions! Two great traditions I remember. One was meant to praise God and the other to speak God’s blessing on His people.
Why this trip down memory land you might ask? I was reminded of benedictions and doxologies this week as I was listening to the audio Bible app called Dwell. One of the playlists on the app is called Benedictions and Doxologies. I like this app because you can set a time of quiet meditation between each scripture reading and you can alternate different voices and versions of the Bible. As I was listening to these verses, I was struck by their tone and message. In these verses, the Biblical authors all seem to be ending a critical point in their teaching with a highly impactful and short summary. It as if the author comes to a point in his writing that he is either inspired to break out in a moment of praise or led to bless his readers with the amazing truths of God’s love for mankind.
Listening to or reading these scriptural doxologies and benedictions can be a great spiritual practice. The verses are short but impactful. They can also be easy to memorize. Below is an exercise you can try. You will be presented with a verse and after you read the verse take moment and reflect on what God is communicating to you or what you can communicate to God. A verse may be God blessing to you and another may encourage you to praise and thank God. Take a deep breath and enjoy these words of the Lord.