To bless is to be. To bless is to be fully who we are as our Creator has created us to be. To bless another is to know how we are blessed. To offer someone a blessing is to offer a powerful gift. This is because a blessing is not our gift to give. A blessing is a gift from God, that multiplies through us in our receiving and our giving. To speak true words of blessing to someone is to invite them open to the Spirit of God, that Spirit which can humble is, sanctify us, transform us, open us to truer relationship with each other, truer relationship with God. A sincere blessing can open the horizon for someone to a much greater Realm, a Holy Realm, of what is possible when we live open to the reality of God. This movement of blessing is an important part of what it means to live as we are alive in Christ.
So, blessing one another is a spiritual practice.
And like any good spiritual practice, it can be simple. Just wishing someone “peace,” or saying “Be well,” or “God bless you.” And like any spiritual practice it can become rote, we can do it without thinking or feeling or even bothering to even invite God or Jesus into it. The practice of blessing, in a sincere way, is simple but deep: It asks us to touch in with our soul, and with our soul’s living relationship with the living God, which we know through Christ. And from that place within ourselves, the practice of blessing leads us to touch in with the soul of the one we are blessing and to invite that soul, to harken that soul to its living relationship with the living God. This all can happen in an instant, when we simply are being earnest about what we truly wish for this person, what we truly pray for them and for the state of their soul. Like any spiritual practice, we just need to practice it. We do this every time we gather for worship. We “Pass the peace of Christ.” This is an act of blessing each other. We can do this in our daily life, when we’re parting with anyone, whether it’s our beloved partner, or our not beloved boss, or the clerk at the grocery store: with everyone we encounter in the day, there are opportunities to offer a little blessing. Even just “have a good day,” can be said in a way that is truly a blessing. And like any spiritual practice, it’s good for the soul to do it even when we don’t feel like it.
Jesus taught, “Bless those who curse you.” The Apostle Paul urged this too. And it was a strong feature of the early followers of the Way of Jesus: they were known as holy fools who answer a curse with a blessing.
When we find ourselves just clenched in fury with someone, or gnawing on some long resentment, what would it be like to pray for them, to pray a blessing upon them, in the light of God’s strength and mercy?
This does not mean praying against our own safety. I want to be clear about that. Be safe. Be of good courage to fight for what is true and good and just. Praying for our enemy does not mean praying for someone’s success in being a jerk. This means sincerely praying that they may be liberated from their jerkhood – because jerkhood is a form of suffering too. May they allow themselves to feel some mercy from God, who created them and who can destroy them. This means putting justice in God’s hands, not ours. This means praying for their humanity, for the wellness of their souls. Praying for our enemies means freeing our own souls from being constricted and defined by them, and by our conflict with them. To bless is to once again to the blessings that we receive.
Offering a blessing is also a powerful practice when we encounter someone suffering in a way that just tears at our hearts. Compassion compels us to do what we can to ease that suffering. But sometimes, many times, what we can do is not enough. Offering someone a blessing for what you sincerely wish for them, grounding that blessing in God, letting the Peace of Christ breathe into that blessing, this is something we can always do for someone who is suffering, near or far. This is a great practice for looking at the news. When we make a practice of blessing in whatever way, day by day, we will find it can be quite powerful for those who offer the blessing, and for those who receive it. This is another way to just deepen our experience of the living God, the presence of the Holy Spirit, the power of Christ’s peace.
So allow me to offer you a blessing, a Scottish Blessing:
May the blessing of the light of Heaven be on you – light without and light within. May the blessed sunlight shine on you like a great peat fire, so that stranger and friend may come and warm themselves at it. And may light shine out of the two eyes of you, like a candle set in the window of a house, bidding the wanderer come in out of the storm. And may the blessing of the rain from Heaven be on you, may it beat upon your Spirit and wash it fair and clean, and leave there a shining pool where the blue of Heaven shines, and sometimes a star. And may the blessing of God’s good earth be on you, soft under your feet as you pass along the roads, soft under you as you lie out on it, tired at the end of day; and may it rest easy over you when, at last, you lie out under it. May it rest so lightly over you that your soul may be out from under it quickly; up and off and on its way to God. And now may the Lord bless you, and bless you kindly. Amen.
Readings: Numbers 6:24-26 May the Holy One Beyond Name bless you and keep you. May the God turn Their face to shine upon you, and be gracious to you. May God lift up Their countenance upon you, and give you peace.
Readings from the Christian Scriptures Luke 6:27-28 “But I say to you that listen, ‘Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.’”
2 Corinthians 13:11-13 And now, friends, goodbye. Aim at perfection; take courage; be in agreement together; live in peace. And then God, the source of all love and peace, will be with you. Greet one another with a sacred kiss. All Christ’s people here send you their greetings.
(Delivered Sunday, February 17, 2019, at First Congregational Church of Walla Walla, by Rev. Nathaniel Mahlberg)