Following the Votum is the Salutation. Since its function in worship is similar to that of the Benediction we will consider them together in this post.
God has invited us to His worship and we have responded. Now God intends to assure us that we will be blessed by Him when we come into His presence by means of the ‘Salutation’. Strictly speaking a salutation is a greeting. And whenever God greets us He always does so in a manner that reminds us who we are in relation to Him.
So when Paul opens his letters with the familiar “Grace to you and peace from God…” we can be assured that when the Lord speaks to His Church He wants her to understand that she is His bride, His own possession, His beloved people by grace. Thus the Salutation is really a blessing in words, or a word of grace from our God to a people who are in desperate need of mercy.
This is important not only because we are a people saved by grace but because we need to be reminded that we are saved by grace. The Salutation might often be overlooked because it is repeated time and time again, but it is we who are forgetful, not God. Repetition in worship may cause complacency on our part but that should not make us shy away from it when it functions to bring us back to the essential reality of God’s merciful disposition to sinners as they come into His holy presence.
We read of this connection between God’s graciousness and our worship in Psalm 100:4-5:
Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, and into His courts with praise. Be thankful to Him, and bless His name. For the LORD is good; His mercy is everlasting, and His truth endures to all generations. (italics mine)
Come worship the Lord, praise His name! Why? Because He is a good and merciful God; He has condescended to us in Christ that we might have confidence to come to His throne of grace (Hebrews 2:16). Contemplation of this truth will help us to be joyful, to sing His praises being full of His grace. (Colossians 3:16)
Similarly the Benediction (or as it is titled on Grace’s liturgy “The Lord’s Parting Blessing”) functions as the giving of God’s blessing but, in contrast to the Salutation, it does not apply so much to the service itself but to the life that we enter into as we leave God’s presence. Therefore the Benediction is God’s favor resting upon us from day to day in and through from worship and not apart from it. The Benediction assures us that the Lord will be with us and bless us in all that we go forth to do for He was surely with us as we worshiped Him. It also then reminds us that as we journey on this pilgrim life we need that weekly Sabbath worship to reinvigorate and replenish us. (see Psalm 84)
One final note, regarding how we ‘do’ the Salutation & Benediction. It is common (if not uniform) amongst Reformed churches for the pastor to raise his hands as he pronounces both of these blessings. It would appear, then, that the blessing proceeds from God through a mediator. This may be troubling to those who are unfamiliar with the practice: do we not only have one mediator, the Man Jesus Christ? (1 Timothy 2:5) Why would Reformed people receive a blessing from God through a fallible, sinful minister when the scriptures tell us we should come to the holy, sinless Christ? (Hebrews 7:26)
To answer that question we need only point out how, in this objection, the pronouncement of the minister is being misinterpreted. Even the mediatorial high priest Aaron was instructed to tell the people that the blessing is from the Lord (Numbers 6:23ff.) and yet imparted that blessing through the raising of his hands (Leviticus 9:22). Indeed the blessing is from God and does not depend upon the efforts, merits, words or any other work of the pastor in order to come to pass any more than the Call to Worship or Votum comes from himself. Rather the minister, having been appointed to proclaim the gospel, is a chosen representative of Christ to bring this message (Romans 15:16). The raising of the hands of the minister should be looked upon as symbolic, that is representing to us the blessing that we receive through Christ alone, who is our High Priest (Luke 24:50)
 Certainly we are always in the presence of our omnipresent God (Psalm 139:7-9) but the corporate gathering of God’s people in worship is distinct unique to the Christian life as is indicated in our first post on Liturgy.
Next post: Liturgy – Songs of Praise