Why Do We Do What We Do in Worship? #2 - The Call to Worship and the Benediction
Scripture is clear: God is the author and finisher of our faith (Hebrews 12:2). As our creator and our judge, God has the first word and the last word in our lives. Therefore, why would we want our worship of Him to reflect anything different?
And so our service of corporate worship on the Lord’s Day has as its “bookends” the “Call to Worship” and the “Benediction”. In other words, the service officially begins when God calls us to worship, and it ends when He dismisses us with his blessing.
The call to worship serves to remind us that just as God takes the initiative in salvation, He also makes the first move when it comes to our worship of Him. When we enter God’s presence to worship, it is always at his gracious invitation. By having a call to worship we acknowledge that we are not here because of our own idea, on the basis of our own authority, or somehow through the qualifications of our own “righteousness.” In other words, we don’t just show up. God calls us, and we respond to His call.
The call to worship comes in the form of a warm and robust reading of a fitting text from God’s Word (e.g. Psalm 95:1-7a; 96:1-9; 100). Through the call to worship, God Himself invites and commands His gathered people to worship. The call to worship serves to make a clear transition from everyday life (worship in the broad sense) to corporate worship on the Lord’s Day (worship in the narrow sense).
The benediction, on the other hand, serves to remind us that just as God calls us in He also sends us out. The word benediction comes from the Latin word for “good saying.” In keeping with the worship practices of the priests in the Old Testament and the Apostles in the New Testament, the historic Church has continued this practice of concluding worship by pronouncing God’s blessing upon His people.
The benediction is not so much a prayer or a charge as it is a declaration. A biblical benediction, such as what is found in Numbers 6:24-26 and 2 Corinthians 13:14, is a pronouncement of God’s blessing upon His people so that they will be reminded that their salvation and relationship with Him is not based on what they have done but rather on account of what God has done. Additionally, the benediction reminds God’s people that their future is not conditioned upon their plans but rather determined by God’s purposes and promises.
By having the “Call to Worship” begin the service and the “Benediction” conclude the service we are reminded week in and week out that God is indeed the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end of all things, including the worship that He alone deserves from His people (Revelation 21:6, 22:13).