On most Saturdays Jesus attended a Sabbath synagogue service that ended with this benediction from Numbers 6:24-26:
May God bless you and keep you.
May God’s face shine upon you and be gracious to you.
May God look upon you with kindness and give you peace.
Did the priest ever feeling like closing with something different: “May God look upon you with a look that says ‘I’m watching you’”?
The Sunday morning benediction at the churches of my childhood went like this:
The nursery workers asked me to remind you to pick up your children as soon as this service is over. Youth, don’t forget to bring a sweet or salty snack to the ping pong party on Friday. Anybody got anything else? We’ll see y’all back here at 6:00.
On my first Sunday as a college student far from home, the minister offered this benediction:
May the Lord Christ walk ahead of you to prepare your way.
May Christ be beside you as companion on your journey.
May Christ be beneath you to support you when you fall.
May Christ be within you giving peace and joy.
May Christ be behind you to finish what you must leave undone.
May the Lord Christ be over you, watching, calling, guiding, challenging now and forevermore.
I had never heard such a thing in worship. I learned to look forward to this weekly reminder of Christ’s presence.
What would be the reaction if a minister offered this Irish blessing?
May your glass be ever full.
May the roof over your head be always strong.
And may you be in heaven half an hour before the devil knows you’re dead.
Would worshippers be amused if this were the benediction?
May those who love us love us and those who don’t love us, may God turn their hearts. And if God doesn’t turn their hearts, may God turn their ankles so we’ll know them by their limping.
A few years ago I heard a prayer and scribbled a rough, paraphrased version on the back of an offering envelope. I tried unsuccessfully to find the source, but used it many times before a seminary student recognized it as part of a Franciscan prayer:
May God bless you with distaste for superficial worship so that you will live deep within your soul.
May God bless you with anger at prejudice so that you will work for justice.
May God bless you with tears for those who sorrow so that you will share a word of comfort.
May God bless you with enough foolishness to believe that you can make a difference in the world.
This is the benediction I will offer most Sundays at Plymouth because I need the reminder to live deeply into God’s blessings—and think you might, too. One Sunday I may add:
May God bless you with dissatisfaction at just hearing a benediction so that you will truly feel God’s blessing.