Friday 27 January 2017

Blessed and Blessing

How are you?

I think I know what’s going through your mind.  First, you might be wondering why I’m asking.  Then you might think, hey, this is a minister’s column so it might be a trick question of some kind.

“Fine,” you’ll say, because anything more might be too much trouble.

Do you feel blessed?

Now I bet you’re really worried.  That’s definitely a trick question.  I better say yes, you might think.  That’ll stop him asking more.

Neither of them is a trick question.  And they are related.

I’ve often found myself saying “hi, how are you?” as a greeting.  I usually get “fine” as a response, though people are sometimes more creative.  But basically, the response is short, generic and ideally suited to a passing greeting.  That’s not a bad thing, because sometimes I’m on the way somewhere - or they are - and there just isn’t time for a more full response.  That’s too bad, so I’ve got to stop that.  There should always be time for a real answer.

I’ve often thought that it would be a great thing if people always answered honestly when you ask how they are, but you might not agree.  Especially if things aren’t “fine.”  Maybe you don’t want to share how things really are, and that’s fair enough.  But sometimes I wish that people might take a moment before answering to wonder about it.  Maybe you’re having a really great day.  Maybe things are going very well and you’re very happy.  Maybe they’re not.

Fine.  Maybe you really are fine, but maybe you just don’t want to say or, more significantly, maybe you just don’t know.  Take a minute.  I’ll wait.

Asking if you feel blessed is maybe a little similar.  I’m sure that we do feel blessed sometimes, when we stop to think about it.  I don’t doubt that.  But I suspect that there are lots of people who aren’t feeling blessed.  They’re feeling down, maybe, gray like the weather.  Maybe they’re grieving.  Maybe they’ve been sick.  Maybe they’re disappointed about a job or lack of one or worried about the political situation.  Maybe they feel put upon or uncared for or maybe they’re lonely.

So bless them.  Bless them with a little bit of your time to listen or help out.  Bless them with a thought or a prayer.  Show them what is, that they don’t see or know: that they are blessed.  It can be so hard to know that.

In Matthew 5:3-12, Jesus shares what we know as The Beatitudes, blessings on those we might have considered to be not blessed at all.  These are the vulnerable and the hurting, the weak and the overwhelmed.  But Jesus says they are blessed and reinterprets their vulnerability as strength in that blessing.

It seems so easy for us to hear these blessings as being outside of us.  That’s not me, but perhaps, if it were, I would feel blessed.

No, you wouldn’t and that’s just the point.  Jesus isn’t suggesting that if only you would be this way, you too would be blessed.  I don’t think that this moment is a call to vulnerability, it’s recognition of it.  Jesus looked around and saw that he was surrounded by the vulnerable and offered words of assurance and encouragement.  It’s not teaching how we should be, but recognizing how we are.  It’s also recognizing how hard it is for us to see that we are blessed when we feel vulnerable.  We need to hear it and see it.  And that’s hard.

So is offering support to those in need.  Maybe it doesn’t feel like we can be any help, that we’re not making things better and we’re not the “blessing” they need.  Yes, you are.  If you are offering love, empathy and compassion, you are.  That’s another moment of vulnerability, too, that maybe we can’t “make it all better.”  But the blessing there is you, your presence and your love, just as Jesus proclaims in these beatitudes.  Every blessing is about being in the presence of God, in our hearts and in heaven.

Rejoice and be glad.  Blessed are you.