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The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face to shine upon you, and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace. – Numbers 6
There is a man, seasoned in years, who is a member of my congregation who is generous in his blessing. Leaving or entering the sanctuary he reaches out his hand and looks you in the eye and says “God bless you.” At first I did not understand the gift that he was offering, but now, I come to lean on his blessing and find my soul nurtured in it each Sunday as I robe up for the worship ahead. He blesses anyone that walks through our doors. Each person he speaks the words of Number 6 over and reminds them of God’s blessing upon their lives. I want to be like this man.
I used to roll my eyes when someone would sign their email Blessings, and now I find it to be a comforting word of faith and prayer. Maybe it’s because it’s too easy to see despair and the political headlines don’t make it easier. Maybe I’m far reaching this, but it could be that the one sending the email really does indeed wish goodness unto their recipient and Blessings, is an appropriate form to communicate this quickly.
Jesus was abundant in his blessing. Oh boy did he love to bless people. In Matthew chapter 5, Jesus and his friends, march up the mountain and he proclaims blessings over the loners and the forgotten. Eugene Peterson in The Message says it this way:
You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule.
You’re blessed when you feel you’ve lost what is most dear to you. Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you.
You’re blessed when you’re content with just who you are—no more, no less. That’s the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that can’t be bought.
You’re blessed when you’ve worked up a good appetite for God. He’s food and drink in the best meal you’ll ever eat.
You’re blessed when you care. At the moment of being ‘care-full,’ you find yourselves cared for.
You’re blessed when you get your inside world—your mind and heart—put right. Then you can see God in the outside world.
You’re blessed when you can show people how to cooperate instead of compete or fight. That’s when you discover who you really are, and your place in God’s family.
You’re blessed when your commitment to God provokes persecution. The persecution drives you even deeper into God’s kingdom.
Matthew uses this word μακάριος (makarios). Blessed, Happy are you, God’s fortune is upon you, God’s provision, μακάριος. Blessed.
This past weekend I was in the beautiful farming country of South Eastern Minnesota with a bunch of good Lutherans keynoting at their conference. I asked these questions to these good farming Lutherans How can you lead your church in blessing people? When were you a blessing to someone? When did someone bless you? What does it feel like to bless somebody you might not normally bless? How can the church bless in a time of political turbulence?
I love Lutherans. They were able to name so many different ways God blesses and the way the church is being used by God to bless others. There is something to that old phrase “count your blessings” for when you are doing that you are neurologically increasing serotonin in your brain which is increasing your overall satisfaction and hopefulness. Imagine if the church increased the world’s serotonin levels? That’s quite a bit of hope right there. That’s our job, church, hope.
Next month I am preaching on a three part sermon series on blessing. What does it mean to say we are blessed? What do we do when our family/church has refused their blessing to us? What does it look like to bless God? If you’re in New York City this summer, I would love to welcome you to worship at West End Collegiate Church as we seek to actively bless each other and the good world that God has created.
Dear Twelve reader, you are blessed by God. Yes, you. Go and be a blessing to just one person this week. See what God will do.