Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Thanksgiving and Advent are upon us. It is a good time for us to be thankful to God! With that in mind let’s take a moment to think about a part of the liturgy that we have said together many times, but often goes overlooked. It is called the Benedicamus, which is Latin for “Let us bless.” It is said at the end of the liturgy, after we have had Holy Communion, just before the Benediction. It goes like this:
Bless we the Lord. Thanks be to God.
Over the years I have had a number of people ask me about this part of the liturgy. It usually goes something like this. They know how much God blesses them, but they wonder why it is that they are told to bless God. “What kind of blessing can I give to God?” they wonder. “I need Him to bless me!” Indeed we do need God to bless us, and He does. He blesses us in every way in Christ Jesus, our Lord. But we are privileged to speak a blessing to God, and it is a joy to do so together as His people.
When we bless God, we are speaking the way the people of God spoke in the Old Testament, specifically how they spoke to God when they gathered for worship. You can see this in 1 Chronicles 29:20, Nehemiah 9:5, Psalm 68:26, and Psalm 96:2. It also is the way that the Psalms. Look up Psalm 16:7, 26:12, 34:1, 103, and 104:1. As a body of believers and in individual prayer, they would bless God and thank Him for the many blessings He had given them.
In fact, God had commanded them to do so. We read this in Deuteronomy 8, which is the traditional reading for Thanksgiving. In this chapter Moses is reminding the Israelites of all that they had endured on the way to the Promised Land. How they had hungered so that they could learn to trust God who provided them with manna. Moses then tells them of the blessings God will give them in the Promised Land:
For the LORD your God is bringing you into a good land, a land of brooks of water, of fountains and springs, flowing out in the valleys and hills, a land of wheat and barley, of vines and fig trees and pomegranates, a land of olive trees and honey, a land in which you will eat bread without scarcity, in which you will lack nothing, a land whose stones are iron, and out of whose hills you can dig copper. (Dt 8:8-9)
After all they had endured in the wilderness during the Exodus, they longed for these blessings.
And how were they to respond after God blessed them? “And you shall eat and be full, and you shall bless the LORD your God for the good land he has given you” (8:10). This helps us understand what it means to bless the Lord. It means to acknowledge His gifts and to thank Him with a humble heart. To bless the Lord is to know in our hearts that He has given us life and every blessing freely, not because we earned it, and to thank Him with a joyful heart. When we bless the Lord, we thank Him for all He has given us, and for all that He will give us, even during a time of need or trial. It is thankfulness combined with faith, humility, and joy. There is a lot packed into blessing the Lord!
But Deuteronomy 8 goes on to warn the Israelites to be careful. God warns them that when they have gone into the Promised Land and are blessed with flocks, herds, homes, fields, vineyards, and all that they need, they will be tempted to forget that it is God who gave them these things. They will be tempted to think it was because of their own wisdom and strength and power. “Beware lest you say in your heart, ‘My power and the might of my hand have gotten me this wealth’” (8:17). Being proud in your heart, thinking that the blessings you have are because of your own ability, is the opposite of blessing the Lord.
So when we are in Church and have been forgiven by God, have heard His Word, and have had Holy Communion, then we pause. We pause to remember that God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit has blessed us in countless ways. We pause to remember that we have peace with Him by Jesus’ blood. We pause to remember that we are confident that we will be in the Promised Land of Heaven. We remember that these things are not ours because we have been good or because we have been holy. These are gifts, free gifts, from God. And we bless Him. We bless God for saving us. We praise Him with one voice, for He has redeemed us.
So, dear friends, let us bless the Lord! Thanks be to God!