Blessed to be a Blessing!
What does it mean to be a blessing? For that matter what does it mean to receive a blessing? These are not easy questions to come up with a simple answer for. We can all probably can tell when we are being blessed, most of the time. In church during worship we experience a series of blessings: we are blessed during the absolution of our sins after the confession; we are blessed through the singing and the prayers; we are blessed when we reach out to greet one another during the sharing of the peace; we are blessed in the words of the closing benediction as we are being sent forth. Most profoundly we are blessed as we participate in the Sacrament of Holy Baptism, as we re-affirm our baptism and in the taking of bread and wine in the Sacrament of Holy Communion. So, what is a blessing? One simple answer to this is that it is an experience of God’s presence; it is a moment when we sense God’s promises coming to fulfillment in our lives; it is a moment when we accept God’s commitment to us and we affirm that commitment in some way.
In Holy Baptism the candidate for baptism (or his/her parents) are asked to make a series of promises: to bring the child to worship and see that the child becomes an active part of the faith community, to see that the child gets immersed in the Holy Bible, to teach the child to be able to recite by heart the Lord’s Prayer, the Creed and the 10 Commandments and to be a model of Christian faith for the child. The parents, sponsors and congregation are asked to affirm these promises with the words – I DO. And in that affirmation the child is blessed through us; and we are blessed through the making and affirming these promises. And as we all continue to grow in the Lord throughout our lives, we get to experience the many times when this child begins to accept and acknowledge his/her faith and in that we experience God’s blessings. So too in our affirmation of baptism, making the sign of the cross, dipping ones fingers into the water of the font, confirmation, marriage and even at funerals, we are reminded of God’s promises, of our promises in response and we experience God’s love and commitment to us.
A couple things to be said about blessing: 1. God creates through blessing! Genesis 1 gives us a series of blessings as God calls life into being, names it and pronounces it good. When we experience failure or loss, when it feels as though things are broken, God’s blessings brings forth new life. Which leads to points #2 and #3: Blessings are leaky and Blessings are stubborn. Think of a blessing from God like blue dye, it is hard to wash it off! For God’s blessings stick to us and color us and define us. And not only that, but God’s blessings are leaky, they have this tendency to affect everyone in the vicinity. When we as a community experience and observe (for example) the blessing of children at baptism, students at confirmation, couples in marriage, and the blessed dead in funerals, the blessings pronounced and experienced might be aimed at specific individuals, but they splash on to us as well. And we can leave a wedding with a sense of joy and renewed commitment to our own marriage; or we can leave a funeral with a sense of peace and assurance of God’s victory over the powers of sin and death. Blessings create; Blessings are leaky; Blessings are stubborn.
For the remained of the fall, I invite you to think and pray about blessings. During worship we have been including some extra blessings – the Blessing of the Backpacks (Sept. 9); the blessing of teachers and students; the blessing of safety and emergency workers (police, fire, prison guards and EMT) on St. Michael’s Day (Sept. 29/30); the blessing of the animals for St. Francis day (October 7). Perhaps you might like to experience a personal liturgy of blessing. Our worship book provides for Individual confession and absolution, the blessing of a home, the blessing and anointing of the sick, among others. From these experiences, I hope that you will recognize that as you experience, observe or receive a blessing you are called to be a blessing for others – to allow the blessings you receive to leak and affect others. We are called to be Christians round the clock 24/7. So how are you a blessing? How are you an experience of God’s presence in your everyday lives?
May God bless you now and always! SBD+
I attended the Liturgical Institute Conference held at Valparaiso University last April and the theme was Blessing. This article is a reflection on many of the ideas and speakers which were presented at the conference.