King David prays: „Now therefore let it please thee to bless the house of thy servant, that it may be before thee for ever: for thou blessest, O Lord, and it shall be blessed for ever.“ (1 Chronicle 17:27) The apostle St. Peter writes in his first epistle: „Not rendering evil for evil, or railing for railing: but contrariwise blessing; knowing that ye are thereunto called, that ye should inherit a blessing.“ (1 Peter 3:9)
The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you +
Dear friends of our Lord and saviour Jesus Christ + It’s something that strikes me very much as I go about my daily routine wearing a collar. People will ask me for a blessing. That’s not just at the Gym in Hatfield: „Pastor, bless my weekend!“, but also at the filling station or at the office. Seems as if the people are starting to belief that the pastors, deans and bishops have a special blessing to give. Strange really or is it?
Well, firstly me calling for a blessing does show that I myself don’t have it in my own power to just grab of have it as my own. It depends on the giver. He is the one, who gives. So it is a sign of empty hands in the first place. That’s the positive side perhaps – if there is any.
Secondly they associate the blessing with the collar rather than with my person. That’s good too, but a friend of mine – and old missionary – noticed that in some churches the bishop does throughout the service, but gets up to do the blessing at the end. That’s his special gift to the congregation. Some even receive it with the laying on of hands too. It’s supposed to be extra powerful if it comes from the bishop or archbishop. That of course is misleading. It’s not the one, who speaks the blessing, but rather in whose authority, calling and command he does it. That’s why in the Lutheran church it is emphasized: „I in the stead and command of our Lord Jesus Christ as a called and ordained servant of the Word…“ That’s not by some special character of my own, but rather on behalf and in the stead of…“ Another reason, why we Lutheran bishops and pastors concentrate on the preaching of the Word of God and the administration of his most holy and precious sacraments and the blessing is gone by the pastor loci. See, Christ calls all his faithful followers light and salt of the earth. They are a blessing to this world – not just the bearers of this or that office in the church. In the description of the office of the ministry the service with God’s Word and sacrament are mentioned. They are the instruments through which God creates saving faith wherever and whenever he wants it in those, who hear his word and receive his sacraments. They are the treasures of the Church. They are the efficacious means of grace for those receiving them – independent of the faith and status of the servant & minister. We ministers, pastors, missionaries and evangelists, teachers and bishops are just like the faithful manager, who distributes the gifts of his master at the given time. From his treasures we give freely and that which he has entrusted to us. „Gold and silver we do not have…“, that you would seek in vain from us, yet, what we do have is the Word of the Lord and his sacraments. Those are the true treasures of the Church. They that transport and deliver the forgiveness of God, his grace and good favour. His salvation from sin, death and devil. His deliverance from all evil. These are great and wonderful gifts, but not so much to be confused with the diving blessings and gifts of this world. They belong more or less into the realm of the created world, the first article of faith and not so much into the second and third article of our Justification and Sanctification.
Therefore it is crucial to remember that God gives his blessings of this created world, daily bread, preservation and flourishing to all people – good and bad. Not just Christians or those especially worthy and needy! No, without any worthiness or merit on my part. Sometimes the Christians even lack these basic blessings in this world that is a serious afflication and can be tough suffering. Many Christians are thus severely tested in their faith: Why do the godless prosper so and the faithful go through such deep waters? (cf. Ps. 37 and 73) Still, we know from God’s word that, he does all to our best and ultimate benefit and salvation. So even if we are deprived of this and that earthy, material, worldly blessing it’s not to harm us in the final analysis, but rather to strengthen our faith and trust in him, who is our all and everything. „If we have but him, we don’t ask for heaven or earth!“ and „His gracious and enduring love, grace and mercy is even better than life!“ Now, the unfaithful can never get that. They think they are but just shortchanged if they miss out on this or that – and if they have material goods in abundance, they credit themselves for it. Selfish, stupid and having seeing eyes, they are blind as moles! For God will even use the most gracious blessings against them, if they were not utlized to strengthen the saving faith in him alone, to love, trust and fear him above all else.
Many see blessings as the ultimate goal, whereas it’s just a means of God to attract us to believe and confide in him alone and more than in anything else. Wherever however the creature is more adored and worshipped than the creator, there the blessings become the noose, which hangs the recepient in the end.
Our readings this morning emphasize something else. Firstly God’s blessings truly hit home. They find their aim. They do, what he intends. Those that he blesses, will be blessed forever. And that is why our yearing for blessing is not altogether misguided. Still we should remember that God himself is the highest good. He is more than all of his creation and through this he wants to draw us closer to himself. The ultimate blessing is to be with him in eternity.
We who are called and elected by God in our baptism already, who have received the blessings of his holy Word and sacraments throughout our lives, we should not doubt, that we are very blessed indeed and that we don’t miss out so much, but rather are most priviledged and honoured, so that we can overcome hardship and enmity and even discrimination, because we are heirs of an eternal inheritance, which shall never fade and which will see us filled with joy, gratitude and peace forever. There will be no shortage whatsover and no feeling of being put to shame or being cheated ever. That’s why even now, we can already overcome the curses of our enemies with blessing and persecution and violent evil with goodness, kindness and friendliness. Where this happens God is already proving his true majesty and glory even in his most lowely servants and least acknowledged followers in this world. Let us remember to bless and not curse. It’s the will of our Father.
Thanks, praise and mercy be to him, our Lord and saviour Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns together with the Father and the Holy Spirit – one God – now and forever. Amen.
The peace of the Lord be with you always + Amen.
- Come thou fount of every blessing
Tune my heart to sing thy grace
Streams of mercy never ceasing
Call for songs of loudest praise
- Teach me some melodious sonnet
Sung by flaming tongues above
I’ll praise the mount I’m fixed upon it
Mount of thy redeeming love
- Here I raise my Ebenezer
Hither by thy help I come
And I hope by thy good pleasure
Safely to arrive at home
- Jesus sought me when a stranger
Wondering from the fold of God
He, to rescue me from danger
Interposed His precious blood
- O to grace how great a debtor daily I’m constrained to be!
Let thy goodness like a fetter, bind my wandering heart to thee
Prone to wander Lord I feel it, prone to leave the God I love
Here’s my heart, O take and seal it, seal it for thy courts above
Music: John Wyeth arranged By: Jenna Mosley