David E. Gray
Parson’s Porch, 112 pages
David Gray has written a helpful book that explores the art of a carefully written “good word.” Not only does Gray examine the various uses of blessings in Jewish and Christian scriptural traditions, he also briefly describes the Reformed understanding along with other church traditions. Why so much attention to a brief liturgical gesture? Gray is persuaded by psychological studies that the first and last words in any spoken event have the most influence on the listeners. It is particularly true for the last word, which is remembered more than any other. He wants worship leaders to pay careful attention to the charge and benediction because people will remember this word throughout the week. The benediction is critical because it sums up the entire worship service in a crisp manner that is portable. In addition to the well-known blessings found in the New Testament epistles and sprinkled through the Old Testament, there are other poetic possibilities. For instance, “Be kind to one another for everyone is fighting a battle” comes to mind. Gray believes that the well-placed benediction begins when the pastor pays attention to its importance, not simply considering it as an afterthought. Yet, he also commends those who listen to the Spirit and deliver a concluding benediction that arises in the moment, summarizing the worship and sending the people forth with God’s blessing. Remembering the blessing of Jesus, I say, well done, good and faithful servant.