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Twin Lakes (VI)

I had a long and deep sleep last night and then headed to the dining hall for breakfast with a Reformed Virginian and an American Swede. After munching down some crispy bacon (seems to be how they eat it in Mississippi) and french toast, we gathered again for the conference’s final worship service, this one led by Ken Pierce and with Derek Thomas preaching “The Benediction” from 2 Corinthians 13:14.

It was Martin Luther who reintroduced the benediction as a liturgical act of bringing a worship service to a close and since the Reformation this verse (2 Corinthians 13:14) has had pride of place in many services. But we may have lost a sense of the usefulness of a benediction. It is more than just a farewell or a prayer, but is meant to be a blessing (which means you should be looking up, not looking down with your eyes closed). This particular benediction functions covenantally, indicating the twin themes of blessing and cursing, the way of the Lord and the way of the world. At the end of the service it is appropriate to declare to the people which is the way to true joy and happiness. When using this benediction, every service ends with God, His Word and His covenant. It reminds us of the faithfulness, character and immutability of God. It also serves as a prooftext reminding us of the Trinity, of what He is in His being and essence. It is a constant reminder to us of the essential truth of this doctrine and reminds us how important it is that the rest of the service is also trinitarian.

Thomas then expounded on each of the benediction’s three points, the grace of the Lod Jesus Christ, the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit. Sadly, my notes on this sermon left a little bit to be desired (actually, they left a lot to be desired) so decided it would be best to just leave things like this, as only a brief summary. The sermon was meant to uplift pastors who are so often burdened by their work, and who are tired and sometimes worn out or beaten down. This benediction serves as a reminder to them of these three wonderful principles that should minister to the hearts of those who minister to others.

And this was a recurring theme at this conference, that ministers so often face extraordinary difficulties and that they come under attack from within the church and without as they attempt to bring the Word to God’s people. I could quickly see that this conference, this fellowship, serves as an opportunity for pastors to escape, for just a few days. It is an opportunity for them to hear some teaching and to offer worship to the Lord. But most of all it is an opportunity for them to fellowship with other ministers, to relax and to unwind, whether than involves quiet Bible study under a tree, endlessly casting a line into the lake and hoping that there is a fish in their worth catching, or using a handgun to obliterate the threat posed by marauding haybales conveniently covered in concentric circles.

I’m not really sure how one becomes a member of this fellowship, but I do know that many ministers would benefit from it. The grounds of this conference are unique and uniquely beautiful. It is an amazing place to be and wherever I go I hear people saying how much they love this time and how much they love to meet here with their brothers in the Lord and brothers in the ministry. The flavor is southern and southern Presbyterian in particular. But even as a Canadian and a Baptist I felt welcome and felt at home. It has been a grand week.

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