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Blessed to Be a Blessing

February 11, 2019

For I am the least of the apostles and do not even deserve to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am.” (1Corinthians 15: 9-10a).

A blessing is a prayer asking for God’s favor and protection.  When I married a man of Irish descent almost four decades ago, I learned a bit about Irish blessings.  One of Bob’s favorites, and perhaps the best-known Irish blessing is this one:

May the road rise to meet you, may the wind be always at your back, may the sun shine warm upon your face, the rains fall soft upon your fields and, until we meet again, may God hold you in the palm of His hand.

Blessings are second nature to the Irish, but the truth is that we all seek God’s blessing. We all want to be loved, cherished, protected, at peace. We ask God to bless our food, our families, our church, our friends.  We ask God to bless us with love, peace, happiness, work, children, good health, and a happy home.  The theme running through all four Scripture texts for next Sunday is how God blesses his children.[1]

Jeremiah preached that blessings flow from an abiding trust in the Lord.  When you trust in the Lord, you connect to a deep well of living water that never goes dry: “But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him. They will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit” (Jeremiah 17: 7-8).  Jeremiah’s ministry spanned about 41 years from about 627 to 586 B.C.

The first chapter of the book of Psalms is estimated to have been written about 444 B.C.—over a hundred years after the end of Jeremiah’s ministry—but the author echoes Jeremiah’s words: “Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked . . . whose delight is in the law of the Lord, . . . That person is like a tree planted by streams of water which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither—whatever they do prospers . . . For the Lord watches over the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked leads to destruction” (Excerpts, Psalms 1: 1-3, 6).   The psalmist confirms that those who trust in the Lord will continue to be refreshed and renewed throughout their lives—in sad as well as in happy times.  The well of God’s love and the source of his strength never runs dry—it continues to renew and strengthen us as long as we dip our buckets into the well of living water.

Jesus confronted the problem of suffering head-on when he preached to “a great number of people from all over Judea, from Jerusalem, and from the coastal region around Tyre and Sidon, who had come to hear him and to be healed of their diseases” (Luke 6: 17-18).   He told them that they may be poor, hungry, weeping, hated, and insulted during their lives on earth, but God will bless them in heaven where they will be filled with love and laughter: “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. Blessed are you who hunger now, for you will be satisfied.  Blessed are you who weep now for you will laugh. Blessed are you when people hate you, when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil because of the Son of Man. Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven” (Luke 6: 20-23).

And Paul summed up the greatest blessing that we have received from God: “that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures . ..” and that he appeared to Peter, to the disciples, to more than 500 people, to James, to all the apostles, and finally to Paul (1 Corinthians 15: 3-8).  None of us have done anything to deserve God’s blessings in this life or the blessing of salvation.  It is by God’s great love for us and by his grace that he extends his blessings to us.  Paul, the most learned apostle, who wrote 13 of the 27 books of the New Testament, wrote, “For I am the least of the apostles and do not even deserve to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect” (1 Corinthians 15: 9-10).

Like Paul, we have all sinned.  We have all fallen short of the glory of God.  We are all in need of his redemptive grace and love.  And we are all assured of his abundant blessings when we put our trust in God.  And God expects us to pass the blessings we have received onto others.  Father Tim, the Episcopalian priest-protagonist in the Mitford novels by Jan Karon, prays every morning when he arrives at the office: “Father, make me a blessing to someone today, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.”  We read in Proverbs 11:25b: “He that watereth shall be watered also himself” (King James Version).  You are blessed to be a blessing when you give of yourself to others for the joy of giving.  You don’t need to find the cure for cancer or write the great American novel to be a blessing to others.  You can experience the joy of being a blessing by doing little things with love, grace, and good humor.

God’s well of living water never runs dry.  He is always there for us.  He will continue to love and strengthen us as long as we continue to drink from the well.  His blessings will continue to flow to us throughout our lives on earth and through eternity.  That is the promise of his blessing to all believers—not just to the Irish:  “The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace.” (Numbers 6: 24-26).

Diane Cieslikowski Reagan

Prayer: God to enfold me, God to surround me, God in my speaking, God in my thinking.  God in my sleeping, God in my waking, God in my watching, God in my hoping.  God in my life, God in my lips, God in my soul, God in my heart. –Gaelic Grace

[1]The Scripture texts for the Sixth Sunday After Epiphany are Jeremiah 17:5-8; Psalm 1; 1 Corinthians 15:1-20; Luke 6: 17-26.

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