It seems to me that the world needs A Blessing.
God Bless You friends.
And keep reading.
For the world is in a state of disarray. Pandemic, social and cultural division, world wide migration of families seeking a better life, border issues, and the list goes on...
As a pastor without answers, I often rely on God's Holy Spirit to speak divine words of promise in the midst of my own human frailty. I pray daily for guidance in the words to verbalize in a world experiencing disarray. I need words to share with you today about how we are to love God and our neighbor in these days.
Mark 12:28-34 is a standard scripture that I can point to for clarity. When Jesus is questioned by the religious leaders and those responsible for interpreting the Torah, he is asked, "What is the Greatest Commandment?" Jesus responds with familiar words in the Hebrew culture. Basically to love God above all else and to practice life-living with God's love in mind. Jesus adds the other part of his answer with a question: to emphasize that loving God is most often practiced by loving one's neighbor. And if you search the scriptures for a definition of neighbor, you find that in the Judea-Christian teaching A NEIGHBOR OFTEN INCLUDES A STRANGER.
Loving God, Following Jesus, and Building Community is a phrase I often use with my parishioners to simply express my faith and my understanding of my call to discipleship. And to further explain that simple statement in times such as these, I turn toward the act of giving blessings. When I say this I am speaking about a verbal blessing with words of encouragement, direction, affirmation, power, and so on. In Christian terms, I mean speaking in the life-affirming ways of Jesus.
In the book, "The Power of Spoken Blessings" by Bill Gothard, the author defines his understanding of a Spoken Blessing. He says that it should be modeled in the way that YHWH blessed Abram saying, "I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing. And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee; and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed." (Genesis 12:2-3)
"The Lord bless thee..."
Gothard explains that four distinct aspects make up the blessing.
First, the divine blessing comes when the human recipient bends the knee in prayer. Kneeling to be blessed comes from the Hebrew word barak meaning to kneel, to praise, to pray to, to greet, to bless, or be blessed. In the letter of James, chapter 4, verse 6, we hear "God resists the proud, but gives grace unto the humble." A divine blessing begins when humans submit to God and ask in humility for a blessing.
Second, Gothard uses the old Germanic root of the word bless in the word blood. "To consecrate with blood, sprinkle with blood" is the action related to this meaning. Redemption is the gift of grace we Christians know in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The blessing I speak of today involves God's gift of grace and mercy. It shares the notion that God has redeemed and is redeeming humankind with the blood of Jesus, the Son of God.
Third, a blessing involves a covenant, a promise. From the Hebrew word beriyth meaning to cut covenant, blessing involves the promise of God in the life of a human recipient or group when that person or group of persons experiences the promise of God in their daily love of God and neighbor. In other words, to be blessed with a divine promise is a gift and that gift is best expressed in humanity through mutual sacrifice and love for one another. To be blessed involves blessing others.
Fourth, the Greek word for bless is eulogeo. It means to speak well of another. Together its parts mean good or well and word. Good Word. This root of this same word addresses how good words are shared in the Good News of Jesus, in the proclamation of the gospel. SO to receive a divine blessing is to share a human blessing in the promise of divine love - the Good News of Jesus.
There is much more of this explanation of BLESSING and I recommend the Gothard book as a resource. I also find John O'Donohue's writing of blessings to be very helpful. Look for "Bendictus: A Book of Blessings."
I think the world is in need of a blessing. I invite you to join me today in kneeling before God, asking for words to share, words of healing and grace. And I hope to see you Sunday October 3 for World Communion Sunday. We will be wrapping up our sermon series in the Letter of James with a conversation about Healing Prayer (James 5:13-20).
May you receive the blessing of grace and peace this day.
Pastor Paul Harris
Along the Way
Author: Paul E Harris
Journal posts from a pastor and spiritual friend