While we’re singing the closing hymn, my pinky finger is subtly tucked between pages 12 and 13 of the hymnal, holding the place where the charge is printed. The charge, in my church, is the penultimate thing the preacher says in the worship service, right before the benediction. The benediction I got. My charge needs work.
I like to use this one that says things like, “support the suffering” and “return no one evil for evil,” but I don’t do it quite right; last Sunday I heard my colleague do it and she said parts of it that I don’t. Hearing that filled me with a sense of professional negligence that I have to remedy.
Fortunately, there’s a service outline in the very front of our glossy purple hymnals, and, sure enough, the full text of that charge is printed right there:
Go out into the world in peace;
hold onto what is good;
return no one evil for evil;
support the weak;
help the suffering;
honor all people;
love and serve the Lord,
rejoicing in the power of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
The organist hits the final not on the hymn and I nonchalantly slide the hymnal onto the table in front of me, open to page 13, and Nail. The. Charge. The transition to the benediction puts the final punctuation mark on the service.
“And now may the . . .
. . .
. . .
“How does this go again?”
In focusing on the charge, I lost the benediction. “And now my the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit go with us all today and every day. Amen.” I’ve said it dozens and dozens of times over 15 years of ministry and never forgotten it. Yet today all it took was some concentrated focus on the charge to forget it entirely.
This is how it starts, right?