This week Rebekah and I are here at Stetson University for the school’s annual pastors’ conference. I’ve taken the opportunity to get some serious writing done in the library, but I did join Rebekah for the opening worship service in the beautiful chapel in Elizabeth Hall.
Thirty-seven years ago, when Rebekah was a senior here, getting ready for graduate school that fall in Atlanta, she was told – in no uncertain terms – that her call to ministry was invalid. That’s why I couldn’t help but pull out my camera when she was invited to sit on the stage Tuesday evening during worship, and to read the Old Testament scripture, with her name in the bulletin as “reverend” as it could be.
She read the classic benediction from Numbers 6:24-26:
“The Lord bless you
and keep you;
the Lord make his face shine on you
and be gracious to you;
the Lord turn his face toward you
and give you peace.”
BENEDICTION: We have a family story that goes with this passage. Back in 2007, just a short while before our daughter Naomi’s wedding to Craig Campbell, it was obvious that Rebekah’s dad, Bob Alexander, would not be able to attend the ceremony. So Naomi and Craig drove over to Winter Garden to see him.
It was a hard visit. Bob was not doing well, and communication was pretty much zero; Naomi wasn’t even sure her grand-daddy really knew that they were there. So, painfully aware that it would likely be the last time, they hugged goodbye and headed for the door.
“Wait,” Bob said. Then he held out his hand and recited, with perfect clarity, “Naomi and Craig; The Lord bless you and keep you: The Lord make his face to shine upon you, and be gracious to you: The Lord lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace. Amen.” (RSV)
What an amazing blessing on which to build a new life together! What an affirmation of the power of the promise that God intends to shine on us, and through us, and that it is God’s delight to turn God’s face toward us and to give us peace.
It’s really all I could think about during the balance of the service yesterday evening. I thought about the gracious and generous and abundant blessings that define the way God relates to us; and I thought about how privileged I am to live as a child of the Living God, and a Follower of The Way; and I thought about how we are all called – each and every one of us – to be conduits of God’s rich blessing in every aspect of our living.
So, good readers, may God’s potent blessings flow into you, and through you, this day; may you be aware of God’s face being turned in your direction; and may you experience the Jesus quality of peace – DEREK