All Saints Anglican  All Saints’ Church
Greenville, SC REC Reformed Episcopal ACNA Anglican Church in North America Parish 1928 BCP 1928 Book of Common Prayer Divine Hours Daily Offices Breviary terce sext compline prime vespers

Week 21

Liturgical Note: remember that the movements and actions within the service serve three fundamental functions.
  • First, they serve to clearly underscore and communicate the theology (or the aspect of the Gospel) central to that portion of the service.
  • Second, they prompt and guide your individual response to that portion of the service.
  •  Third, they join your devotion to the devotion of the entire congregation, thereby giving a unified and corporate expression to worship.

Liturgical Location: the meal is over. We have thanked our host and are preparing to depart His house. As we do so it is vital to remember that the focus of the entire Post-Communion portion of the service is to assure you and to send you out into the world. [Remember the flow: in the Ministry of the Word you are instructed. In the Ministry of the Sacrament you are equipped. In the Post-Communion ministry you are sent.]

The Peace of God, which passeth all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in the knowledge and love of God, and of His Son Jesus Christ our Lord: And the blessing of God Almighty, the father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost be amongst you, and remain with you always. Amen

As we prepare to leave God’s house and return to our daily lives, our Host gives us His blessing. As He does so, the Closing Blessing assures us that the presence and favor of God that we have enjoyed at the Table go with us throughout the week.

Importance: just as the Lord’s Table is not a bare memorial, neither is it a weekly fix of grace. Instead, the Lord’s Table, in the Lord’s house, with the Lord’s people is the most comprehensive expression of the new life that is ours in Christ this side of His return (the Lord’s Table is covenantal). As such, the Lord’s Table is an actual renewal that promises continual renewal throughout the week.  In other words, as we commune at the Table with Christ, we are assured of His ongoing presence with us throughout the week. Likewise, as we are fed on the signs of Christ’s onetime sacrifice, we are assured that the very grace given at the Table is at work in the specific of our lives throughout the week. The Closing Blessing then serves to make this assurance explicit.

Notice then: the Closing Blessing contains two parts. The first part is taken from Philippians 4:7
Philippians 4:7 And the peace from God, which surpasses all comprehension,
shall keep (guard/protect) your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

The Closing Blessing begins by assuring us that the peace of God (that is, God’s abiding presence and favor) goes with us as we depart His house. Not only that, notice the way the first part of the Blessing underscores the active nature of God’s grace. God presence with the believer is never an indiscriminate charm. Rather, God’s grace renews the believer, keeping a true love for God in his heart and keeping a true knowledge of God in His mind. Furthermore, God’s grace fortifies this love and knowledge beyond human ability or strength amid every situation. In short, the first part of the Closing Blessing assures the believer of God’s faithfulness throughout the week.

Next, the second part of the Closing Blessing is taken from the blessing given to the believer at Confirmation.
The blessing of God Almighty, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, be upon
you, and remain with you forever. Amen.

Importance: remember, Confirmation teaches that every believer has been called and equipped to serve God with the whole of his life (Confirmation has been aptly described as the ordination of the laity). Thus, the Closing Blessing renews this call for the week ahead. Second, Confirmation teaches that those God sends He also equips and accompanies. Therefore, the Closing Blessing assures the believer that God’s grace will enable him and God’s presence will be with him amid all that he faces.

In the end, the Closing Blessing sends you out to serve and provides you with the assurance that God’s ongoing favor and grace go with you. The God who sends you is for you and will always be with you.

Closing Hymn and Procession:
Finally, notice how we respond to the assurance that God’s ongoing presence and grace are ours throughout the week: first, we respond with praise and thanksgiving as we sing the final hymn of the service. Second, we respond with renewed dependence and obedience as we follow Christ out into the world to share in the work of His reign.

Importance: remember the movements and actions of the service are given to prompt and guide your own responses. Therefore, by bowing as the Cross is carried out of the sanctuary, you are literally joining your heart to the procession. In other words, as Christ leads His people out into the world on His mission, your bowing says, “I too follow and I too join myself to this work”. As such, the procession renews your commitment to the Gospel mission of God’s people and leads you with them out into the world.

Bottom line: the procession is far more than a fancy way to end the service. Rather, it is a profound enactment of a central aspect of the Gospel. Here God’s people are sent out into the world under Christ’s banner to live and witness in Christ’s name.

Closing Remarks:
As we stand outside the doors of the Church, it may seem obvious that the meal and the service are over. However, there is another even more real sense in which we never leave the Table at all. Rather, its reality goes with us, enveloping, defining, and encompassing our lives more and more completely each day, until one day, when Christ returns, the fellowship and grace already enjoyed at the Table will fully define every aspect of creation. We will stand in a new cosmos, in the full presence of God, as new creatures, who have been fully completed by His grace. In other words, we never move away from the Table but are drawn ever deeper into its reality.

One Last Word: Over and again we have stressed that the liturgy is active. It is the work of the entire people of God (not just the priest). You will not remember every detail of this study and every point we discuss. Therefore it is vital that you remember this one single governing theme:

At every point in the service you are to be doing something.

Not only that, if you will listen and observe, the service will tell you what that something is (be it “let us pray”, “let us confess our sins”, or “let us hear and receive the reading of God’s Word”). 

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