Summary: The farewell sermon delivered by Dr. Pittendreigh to the Sunrise Presbyterian Church, after over 7 years of ministry with them.
The Rev. Dr. Maynard Pittendreigh
August 17, 2003
The Final Sermon Of Dr. Pittendreigh As The Senior Pastor Of Sunrise Church
22 The LORD said to Moses,
23 "Tell Aaron and his sons, ’This is how you are to bless the Israelites. Say to them:
24 "’ "The LORD bless you and keep you;
25 the LORD make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you;
26 the LORD turn his face toward you and give you peace." ’
27 "So they will put my name on the Israelites, and I will bless them."
And so it comes to this.
My last opportunity to preach a sermon to the Sunrise Presbyterian Church as its Senior Pastor.
My last word!
There is in the worship service a time each week for the minister to get in the “last word.”
It is the Benediction.
Now, ministers are not the only ones who give Benedictions. Most of us give them all the time.
When my son was younger and I would drive him to school, I would always tell him as he got out of the car – “Be good.” A Benediction.
My wife, as many of you know, has already gone to Georgia because she had to start work several days ago. We talk on the telephone every night and we always end the conversation with “I love you.” A Benediction.
I believe I may have mentioned my mother’s favorite Benediction that she would give to me when I was in high school. As I would leave the house she would say, “Now don’t forget who you are.” To which I would always love to reply, “Aw Mom, how could I forget a name like Maynard Pittendreigh?”
Of course, she was not afraid that I would forget the name, but rather that while I was out there at school, or in the ball park, or with a crowd, or alone on a date, that I would forget my values.
“Don’t forget who you are” – A Benediction.
I remember that as a Seminary student and then as a newly ordained minister, many things made me feel uncomfortable as I entered the ministry.
I remember the first several times I did a Baptism – I was so uncomfortable. I wondered, what would happen if I drop the baby? Or worse, what if the diaper is loose and that baby tries to baptize me back?
I remember how silly I felt the first time I put on a pulpit robe. It took a while for that to feel natural.
And I also remember the first time I gave the Benediction!
I lifted my hands up in the air – and I felt silly.
The Benediction is the only time in a Presbyterian service that we are called upon as ministers to do something physical, besides stand, sit or speak.
If I were Roman Catholic or Episcopalian or Lutheran, there would be all sorts of liturgical actions.
When the minister in the Episcopalian Church receives the offering from the ushers, he or she takes it, raises the plates into the air as a prayer is said.
In leading certain prayers, the minister will turn with the back to the congregation and face the altar.
In reading from the Old Testament or the Epistle, the minister will read from one side of the chancel, but when reading the Gospel, the minister will walk to the other side of the chancel.
But in our tradition the only time I have to do anything with my hands is at the Benediction.
And if you think that wearing a pulpit robe feels silly the first time you wear one, try giving the Benediction and doing THIS…
In fact, when I was in seminary some of us felt so awkward about giving the Benediction that we tried to use humor to dispel our discomfort. We watched other ministers give the benediction and we produced a lengthy catalog of the various ways to hold our hands while delivering the benediction
You are probably familiar with these styles.
There is the STORM TROOPER.
The BOY SCOUT.
The ever popular STICK ‘EM UP.
And the lesser-known FRANKENSTIEN.
And there was one we called the GIVE ME A HUG Benediction, which now that I’ve been to Sunrise Church, I think I would now call the MARY ANN ENGEL BENEDICTION.
I suspect, however, that there was more to it than that. Students of ministry feel embarrassed when asked to deliver the Benediction early in their career, not just because they have to hold their hands in a certain way, but because they are called upon to say words that have a very special meaning and power.
“And the word of God to Moses…
and to those of us in the ministry today…