Want to know a secret? When I was a kid, I would pretend to be sick, just to be able to stay home and watch The Price is Right. To this day, it is a special treat when I am at the doctor’s office or at the mechanic’s and I get to catch at least a few segments of the daytime game show. Every episode, Bob Barker (before the era of Drew Carey) would end the show by saying, “Have your pets spayed and neutered.” I grew up with a rotating cast of pet fish—but not cats or dogs. I honestly had no idea what “spayed and neutered” meant growing up, but clearly it was important—since Bob Barker said it every day.
It’s interesting to reflect on all the ways that shows are ended with ritual phrases. Walter Cronkite was known to say, “And that’s the way it is” after the evening news. And heck—Jerry Springer actually ends all his shows saying “Take care of yourself and each other.” How we end our interactions and conversations matter.
In today’s New Testament Scripture, the book of Jude ends in a powerful way. In church language, we call it a benediction—a holy blessing or a sending out. The book of Jude is a small, scrappy letter. I’ll admit, I never studied Jude in seminary. According to Wikipedia (yes, sometimes even ministers look there, too) Jude is described as “combative, impassioned, and rushed.” I don’t know about you, but that could also summarize me on my best days.
And yet, despite a quick and truncated letter, the author of Jude ends with a blessing:
“But you, dear friends, strengthen yourselves in your holy faith—pray in the Holy Spirit. Stay true to God’s love and embrace the mercy of our Savior Jesus Christ, which leads to eternal life. Reassure those who have doubts. Rescue others by snatching them from the fire. With still others, show them mercy tempered by fear—so much that you’d hate even to touch their clothing, so polluted are they by the flesh. But there is One who can prevent you from falling and make you stand pure and exultant in the presence of eternal glory. To God, the only God, who saves us through Jesus Christ our Sovereign, be glory, majesty, authority and power—who was before all time, is now, and will be forever. Amen.”1
A phrase we say a lot in our home is, “That’ll preach.” And this benediction entirely preaches. What would the world be like, feel like, or—better yet—become, if at the end of every encounter we encouraged and empowered all we meet with a blessing akin to our brother Jude? What if we reminded each other in every interaction that the God of all things is with us, loves us, and wants to be in relationship with us? If I heard Jude’s words regularly, I’d feel a little more prepared to face the world each and every day.
In the era of self-help books and 5-step lists to doing everything, personal mantras are often turned into memes. “Make it work.” “No regrets.” “Keep calm and [insert whatever is trending that day].”
But, what about a personal benediction? What unique blessing is God calling you to share in this tragically beautiful world? It probably won’t be the same exact phrase every time in every interaction—that would just be creepy or indifferent. But, the message of love and compassion should always be present.
I think back to Bob Barker, and the amazingness that is a sick-day when you aren’t actually sick. I had no idea what Bob meant by pets being spayed and neutered. Yet, a few weeks ago, when my husband and I adopted a rescue dog, one of my first questions was, “Is he neutered?” I had learned something important about animals through repetition, from a kindly face and a game show.
Today, we all are called to speak the benediction on our hearts. We are called to end every interaction with love, compassion, and hope, so that these blessings too will become known, embodied, and lived out throughout God’s amazing world.