Reader: “All glory to him forever and ever! Amen.”
Response: “All glory to him forever and ever! Amen and Amen.”
Scripture: Hebrews 13:20-21
Now may the God of peace—
who brought up from the dead our Lord Jesus,
the great Shepherd of the sheep,
and ratified an eternal covenant with his blood—
may he equip you with all you need
for doing his will.
May he produce in you,
through the power of Jesus Christ,
every good thing that is pleasing to him.
All glory to him forever and ever! Amen.
Reader: “The word of the Lord.”
Response: “Thanks be to God.”
You may have heard these verses pronounced as a benediction at the end of a worship service. I have used them many times myself in giving benedictions. It is interesting that this blessing is laid out in the form of a collect. That word may be unfamiliar to some who are not of a liturgical tradition. In the pronunciation of “collect”, the emphasis is on the first syllable. It is a set form of a prayer meaning “a gathered-together prayer.” It begins with an invocation (“Now may the God of peace”), followed by an adjective clause setting the basis for the next petition (“who brought up from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great Shepherd of the sheep and ratified an eternal covenant with his blood”), the main petition (“may he equip you with all you need for doing his will”), a secondary petition (“May he produce in you . . . every good thing that is pleasing to him”), a pleading of the meritorial work of Christ (“through the power of Jesus Christ”), a doxology (“All glory to him forever and ever!”), then Amen. If you have worshiped in an Anglican, Episcopal, Lutheran, or Catholic church, you are familiar with this form of prayer. There are phrases in this passage that would harken to Jewish readers. The “God of peace” may indicate some trouble in the church as the epistle to the Hebrews is believed to have been a sermon text helping Jewish believers grasp the finality and supremacy of Jesus fulfilling the sacrificial system of worship. The last several days we’ve spent a fair amount of time with Paul and Peter both underscoring the whole idea of Jesus as the Good Shepherd. Jews looked back on Moses as the Old Testament shepherd of the people of Israel. The image is that Moses “brought up from the sea” (Is.63:11) the Israelites, that is, brought them from death to life. Here we have the same image, but it is God who brings up Jesus, the superior Moses, from the dead. He also points to Jesus’ shed blood in establishing a new covenant, again, with a Covenant Keeping God being so central in Jewish history. The charge in this benediction is that those hearing these words would, through the power of Jesus Christ living in them, produce works that are pleasing to God, works he planned for us to do. The benediction concludes with an ascription to God, as the subject of this long sentence. We see here yet again how the whole of Scripture is knit together in one single story. A working knowledge of the First Testament is essential in grasping the scope of the New Testament. Put simply, as knowledge and understanding grow under the teaching of the Holy Spirit, the impact of the Scriptures magnifies the transformation of the believer.
(Some insights from F. F. Bruce, commentary on Hebrews)
Music: “The Lord Bless You and Keep You” John Rutter
“The Lord Bless You and Keep You” John Rutter Massed Choir 900 Singers
Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, Los Angeles, CA February 17, 2008
The Mark Thallander Foundation Choir Festival
We had the opportunity to participate in this festival when I was ministering in San Diego.
Almighty and everlasting God, whose will it is to restore all things in your well-beloved Son, the King of kings and Lord of lords: Mercifully grant that the peoples of the earth, divided and enslaved by sin, may be freed and brought together under his most gracious rule; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen. ―from BCP2020-05-05