WORSHIP SERVICE October 3, 2021 “The Benefits of a Blessing”

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MARK 10:13-16        The Benefits of a Blessing

Why did the parents want to bring their children to Jesus?  Was it because they wanted him to heal them? Was it to teach them?  The Bible says that they wanted Jesus to touch them. Were the parents hoping their kids would get some kind of spiritual power from Jesus because he was a religious leader?

The disciples want to shoo the children away.  They don’t think that Jesus has time for pesky kids. They think he has bigger or more important things to do. Yet Jesus does take the time. He tells them to stop pushing the kids away and let them come to him. Then it says that he placed his hands upon the children and blessed them.

He blessed them. Blessing is from the Greek word eulogeo.  It can mean to give praise or to celebrate someone.  It can mean to consecrate something, to make it holy, to acknowledge that ultimately it is God who can work for their benefit.  The word literally means to speak well of someone or speak the truth about them. When Jesus is blessing the children, he is asking God to work for their benefit.  He is lifting them up and speaking well of them even when society at the time said children were basically like property and had no rights.  Even though much of the world might act as if they don’t matter and want to shoo them away, Jesus is speaking the truth that they are loved by God and have a God-given potential.  He is saying that the sacredness of God dwells within them.

Blessing is a powerful thing in the Bible.  Sometimes it can be associated with material rewards, but many times it is more about receiving spiritual strength so that God’s people can be reassured of God’s presence and live into the calling of who God wants them to be.

We see this at the very beginning of the Bible in the book of Genesis where right after God has made human beings, the Scripture says that God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply.” Notice that God is not blessing them as a reward for their good work, but rather God blesses them first and then sends them out to be fruitful and work to take care of the creation.

Again, in Genesis chapter twelve we hear God tell Abraham, ‘I will make of you a great nation and I will bless you. I will make your name great and you will be a blessing.’  It is only after this blessing that Abraham then has the courage to answer God’s call to pack up his family and his  belongings and travel to a new land.

In the first reading we heard today how Moses, in the book of Numbers, passes God’s word on to the priests of how they are to give a blessing to the people.  While the people have just entered into the wilderness and have not done anything great yet as a nation, the priests are to give God’s blessing to the Israelites.  It is not a promise of material goods, but rather asking that God’s light, God’s grace, and God’s peace be upon them.  They are to be empowered by spiritual strength to continue to be God’s people even when they are in the wilderness.

Sometimes when we are feeling that we are in the wilderness, what we need is a word of blessing as well. Leadership consultant, Richard Blackaby writes about a pastor he met once who was doing a fantastic job with his church. But as Blackaby spent time with the pastor, he noticed something: the pastor kept seeking his approval. He rehashed problems he had overcome and opposition he had faced. He shared his victories. The consultant kept assuring him that he was greatly impressed by how God had worked through the pastor. Yet this pastor still seemed starved for approval. Blackaby finally asked what the pastor’s father thought of his ministry. The pastor instantly became serious. His parents were divorced. He rarely saw his father. On one occasion, his father visited his church. Afterward, his father told him, “What I can’t figure out is why you are wasting your life on something like this.” That statement devastated him.

The consultant realized that the pastor viewed him as a father figure in his life, as he longed to hear words of encouragement. The words of affirmation were like pouring cool water onto dry, parched ground. The pastor gobbled them up. People are designed with an innate desire for blessing. Yet many people never experience it.

Perhaps much of the unrest, anger, and confusion in the world is due to an absence of blessing.  The good news is, as people of faith we can be a conduit to speak a word of blessing into the lives of those who need to hear it.  We have the incredible opportunity to see who God made people to be. We can look to see potential in people who may not recognize it in themselves.

The key, of course, is not to say inspiring things that are untrue. Blessing is about far more than sentimentality or wishful thinking. It has to be based on truth. But if we have been closely observing someone and notice their inner character and potential, we can speak with authority into their life. The fact that someone notices something in them that is deeper than the surface is an act of the blessing.

Another way to bless people is to speak words of affirmation about them and their future. Character leads to action. When you discern someone’s character, you gain a glimpse into that person’s future. For example, when you discern that someone has integrity, you can predict, that friends and colleagues will view that person as trustworthy, and that trust will inevitably lead to certain opportunities. Or you may discern that someone is always sensitive to other people’s feelings. Those who are experiencing pain or crisis will inevitably call on such a person.  This will be blessing to the person as they discover they have gifts to offer the world.

One way to break down the steps of blessing could be to see it like this:

  • Affirm a virtue you see in someone more clearly than they see it in themselves.
  • Connect this gift to their identity as a child of God
  • Connect their God-given identity to a positive future

This power of blessing all begins with the realization that we have been blessed, but we are not meant to keep it to ourselves. There is a story that reminds me of this.

It begins with a voyaging ship that was wrecked during a storm at sea and only two of the men on it were able to swim to shore to a small, deserted island. The two survivors had been good friends and not knowing what else to do, they agreed to pray to God. However, to find out whose prayer was more powerful, they agreed to divide the territory between them and stay on opposite sides of the island.

One thing first man prayed for was food. The next morning he saw a fruit-bearing tree on his side of the island and was able to eat of its fruit. The other man’s parcel of land remained barren.  After a week, the first man was lonely and he decided to pray for a wife. The next day, another ship was wrecked, and the only survivor was a woman who swam to his side of the island.

Soon, the first man prayed for a house, clothes, and more food.  Like magic, all of these things were given to him.  However, the second man still had nothing.

Finally the first man prayed for a ship, so that he and his wife could leave the island.  In the morning he found a ship docked on his side of the island. The first man boarded the ship with his wife and decided to leave the other man on the island, because he considered the other man unworthy to receive God’s blessings since his prayers had appeared not to have been answered.

As the ship was about to leave, the first man heard a voice from heaven booming and saying to him, “Why are you leaving your companion on the island?”

The first man answered, “My blessings are mine alone, since I was the one who prayed for them. His prayers were not answered so he does not deserve anything.”

“You are mistaken” the voice said, “He had only one prayer, which I answered.  If not for that you would have not received any of my blessings.”

“Tell me,”  the first man asked the voice, “What did he pray for that I should owe him anything?”

The voice responded and said, “He prayed that all of your prayers would be answered and that you would receive a blessing.”

One lesson in the story is obvious.  Don’t think that all your blessings just came from yourself as if you alone deserved them.  Remember to share the blessing you have.  But another less obvious lesson is that we have the ability to bless others in ways that can affect their lives.  The prayers of the second man brought a life-giving experience to his friend in ways he wasn’t even aware of, but that greatly impacted the friend.

I love the way Walter Brueggeman describes what a blessing is.  He says,

“A blessing is an act, gesture or word whereby one person transmits the power of life to another.”  A word of encouragement, affirmation or spiritual blessing can bring life to another person.

So who in your life could you bless this week?  Is there a child, grandchild, spouse or parent who could use your word of blessing?  Is there a friend, a neighbor, a caregiver or co-worker who could use a blessing?

We have been blessed to be a blessing.  Don’t underestimate this spiritual gift.  It can be a powerful thing.  So don’t be afraid to use it. Amen.

-Pastor Erik Goehner



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