My mom used to tell the story about one of her best childhood friends, Ruth Eckblad. Ruth’s father was pastor of the Willerup Methodist Church in Cambridge, Wisconsin for a few years in the early 1900s. One day when Ruth was a little girl, she got tired of sitting in church and being quiet for what seemed to be an awfully long time. Finally she stood up on the pew and said loudly enough for her father who was at the pulpit preaching (and the whole congregation) to hear, “Amen, Papa, Amen.”
Mom told that story often enough that “Amen, Papa, Amen” became a family expression that meant, “That’s enough for now. Let’s move on to something else.”
Well, it’s about that time of the year to say, “Amen, Papa, Amen” to 2015 and to welcome a new year.
Last Sunday’s hymn in the devotional book, Near to the Heart of God: Meditations on 366 Best-Loved Hymns was “The Lord Bless You and Keep You” composed by Peter C. Lutkin. As you read the words below, I’m sure many of you who have been members of church choirs will hear this benediction being sung in your mind as a beautiful choir anthem, especially the 7-fold Amen at the end.
The Lord bless you and keep you
The Lord lift His countenance upon you,
And give you peace, and give you peace;
The Lord make His face to shine upon you,
And be gracious, and be gracious;
The Lord be gracious, gracious unto you.
Amen, Amen, Amen, Amen, Amen, Amen, Amen.
The reflection for the day was on benedictions. The word benediction was defined as a “Latin-based term meaning a concluding prayer of blessing.” The author, Robert J. Morgan, cited several different benedictions given in the Bible. His favorite benediction is from Hebrews 13:20-21, “May the God of peace … equip you with everything good for doing his will.” (NIV) His wife’s favorite is Romans 15:13, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” (NIV)
My favorite benediction is the one Pastor Jeff says at the end of every service at Messiah:
May God go before you to guide you;
Be behind you to encourage you;
Above you to watch over you:
And beneath you to support you.
But may you discover the presence of God within you,
And know that God will always be your friend.
As I was drafting this blog post, Floey came up to me and asked, “What are you doing, Mom?”
“I’m writing my blog post, and it’s kind of a benediction as we move on from 2015 and into a new year.” I read to her what I’d written so far.
“I like that, Mom. It’s good to think about God blessing us as we move into a new year. I especially like Pastor Jeff’s benediction. I like being reminded that God is guiding me, encouraging me, watching over me, supporting me, being within me, and being my friend.”
“Yes. Isn’t it comforting to know that God is with us as we begin the new year,” I replied.
“It sure is, Mom. I was going to offer to help you write your blog this week, but you’re almost done. Can I blog with you next week? I want to blog about our special words for 2016. I’m so excited. I can hardly wait to tell you what my new word is. You’ll never guess it.”
“Great! We’ll work on it together next week. I’ve chosen my special word for 2016, too. We’ll check with Mim to find out her new word, and we’ll reveal them to everyone next week!”
Meanwhile, it’s time to move on to something else – just about time to begin our New Year! Amen, Papa, Amen!