Blessed Holds You Together
This week’s Gospel reminded us of the Beatitudes, all the “Blessed are theys…” When pastors and teachers focus on the Beatitudes, they typically focus on the second part of each line. They reflect on what it means to be “poor in spirit,” to “hunger and “thirst,” or to be “meek.” But on Sunday, Pastor Jim considered what it means to be “blessed.”
At one point, he said the following: “Blessed" holds you together.
I’ve always thought of my blessings as the things I’m grateful for, the things I’m fortunate to have. Counting my blessings is like re-enacting Thanksgiving dinner, the part when everyone goes around and says something they are thankful for. In the context of the Beatitudes, I’ve always interpreted “blessed” to refer to the last part of every line. Those who mourn are blessed by being comforted, those who hunger and thirst are blessed by being filled, etcetera, etcetera.
But Pastor Jim’s words suggest something radically different.
“Blessed” holds you together.
If that’s true, then our blessings aren’t just our reward. Our blessings aren’t just the roof over our heads, the food in our stomachs, or the money in our pockets. Our blessings aren’t just those things we remember to say “thank you” for when we are satisfied, cared for, and content.
If “blessed” holds us together, then we are blessed when we are tired, blessed when we are overwhelmed, and blessed when we are frustrated. We are blessed not just when we find the solution to our problems or experience the healing of our wounds: We are blessed as we endure them.
As I reflect on this idea, it occurs to me that I have never prayed for God to bless me.
“God, bless me,” sounds so selfish. It sounds like, “God, give me more.” But that’s the exact prayer our God invites us to pray because we need more. We need God. To call a prayer for God’s blessing selfish is to shy away from the relationship our God wants with us. Would we call a spouse selfish for asking something of their partner? Would we call a child selfish for asking of their parent?
In this season of Epiphany, Pastor Jim has highlighted Christ’s invitation to follow him in serving those whom society has shoved into darkness. Although the ways to follow are many, they almost always require us to engage with people who look different, sound different, or think differently than we do. Following often requires us to learn new skills and meet new people, which inevitably results in some amount of failure, frustration, and embarrassment on our part.
So ask. Ask to be blessed. Pray, “God, bless me.” Because “blessed” holds you together.
And it holds us together. If God’s blessing can keep us going back to the hungry, then they will be fed. If God’s blessing can keep our arms open to those who mourn, then they will be comforted. If God’s blessing can keep us walking into darkness, then we will bring light. In this way, the prayer that begins as “God, bless me” starts to bless others, and those blessings become the bonds of relationship and community.
So I pray, Lord, that we might be so bold as to ask for your blessing. And let us not hoard that blessing. Let us hold it loosely, so that the gifts of your joy, healing, and peace might move through us quickly and generously to others in our community, your kingdom. Amen.