Blessed are We

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                             Sermon July 17, 2022

“Notice how the lilies grow. They don’t wear themselves out with work, and they don’t spin cloth. But I say to you that even Solomon in all his splendor wasn’t dressed like one of these.” — Luke 12:27

                   Psalm 148

Praise the Lord from the earth,

          you sea monsters and all you ocean depths!

Do the same, fire and hail, snow and smoke,

          stormy wind that does what God says!

Do the same, you mountains, every single hill,

          fruit trees, and every single cedar!

Do the same, you animals—wild or tame—

          you creatures that creep along and you birds that fly!

Do the same, you kings of the earth and every single person,

          you princes and every single ruler on earth!

Do the same, you hung men—young women too!—

          you who are old together with you who are young! — Psalm 148

                                       Blessed are We

“Notice how the lilies grow,” Jesus tells us in Luke’s Gospel.  “I say to you that even Solomon in all his splendor wasn’t dressed like one of these.” — Luke 12:27   It’s summertime and I think we’d all agree that this is a season when it is easy to enjoy the many blessings that God has bestowed upon us through the beauty of nature.  All of our senses come alive in this season-if we are not too distracted, and it is a season when we are given permission to just pause and enjoy the moments of the day.  We are focusing on Blessings over these summer months in our Worship each week, especially the ways in which a ‘blessing’ has been understood through Celtic spirituality.  The word blessing has become commonly used and it’s one of those words that can lose its meaning or be misunderstood.  What do we really mean when we say that we’re blessed? Do we mean that God has favored us in some way? What about those who feel that God has not favored them or their prayers have gone unanswered? Are they without blessing? This morning, let us pause and reflect on blessings as we pray, O Holy One, you share many gifts with our world.  Help us to be attuned to your generosity and the beauty of your creation.  May we slow down, pause, and give thanks for the blessings which you share freely with us.  Amen.

We may wonder if blessed has become some overused that people interchange it with “lucky,”, perhaps with a little holy flair? Why would we consider something a BLESSING and not just chalk it up to good fortune or just a nice turn of events? Historically, the terms blessed/blessing really did have religious meaning: Sanctified by

a religious rite — as in, the blessing of a home; or made holy — as in a marriage blessing.  The roots of this word are interesting; it comes from Middle English, blessen. And before that, bletsian. Before that, blodsung, which referred to a blessing with a blood mark or sacrifice.

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Over time, the spiritual connotations of blessing were expanded to include an assumption of God’s favor when things were going

well, as in a nation blessed with peace.  In her book on Celtic Blessings, author Beth Richardson writes about the expanded understanding of “blessing” that the Celts (those who have inhabited the islands of Ireland and Britain since prehistoric times) developed in their prayer poetry.  She writes, “Christianity took root in the fertile culture of the

Celts. The resulting spirituality kept a strong Celtic personality; Celtic Christians acknowledged God’s presence in every aspect of living–from waking to sleeping, from birth to death, from mundane chores to momentous celebrations. They perceived God’s creation as a holy gift (12).” (Beth Richardson’s book, Christ Beside Me, Christ Within

Me: Celtic Blessings.)

And so “blessing” can be understood as the very stuff of life, not something necessarily favored, good, special or extraordinary–but all of life as a gift. What if we were able to live with that belief, that all of life is a gift?  How do we take life as it comes, the challenging and joyful moments, and all the moments in between and consider them as blessings in our lives? 

          This man, Tim Hansel, decided to write a book on parenting and so he asked his young sons, “Boys, how do you know Dad loves you?”  He thought they might say “Daaad, remember how you took us to Disney World for ten days? They didn’t say that, so he thought he wasted all that money.  Or he imagined they’d say, “Daaad, remember all the great gifts you gave us at Christmas?” They didn’t say that either.  They said, “Dad, we know you love us when you wrestle with us.”  He remembered a couple of times when he had come home late, hungry and tired and out of energy.  But they were yanking on his pant legs and wanting his attention.  So he played with them on the floor for a while even though he had other things to do.  “And then it hit him. In the middle of that very ordinary, boring, mundane experience, real life was happening.  Unfeigned joy, love, intimacy, connection, grace, sacrament-the really good stoven- all woven into the commonplace.”  And he almost missed it.  (Rev. Terry Hershey, This Is the Life, p.184)

As we heard in our Sermon last week and as we know this in the deepest parts of our hearts and souls, God is present in the commonplace, the weak, the flawed, the compromised.  The profane is not the antithesis of the sacred, but the bearer of it.  And the light of God, the blessings of ordinary, humdrum daily lives, spills out in all of these sacred moments, if only we have eyes to see it.

One of the ways we notice the blessings of our lives is to simply delight in the “small things.” Everyday objects from our coffee cups to our pets and everyday activities like washing dishes or taking off our shoes can become occasions of blessing. Moving through our day with the mantra “Bless to me my ____” is a Celtic practice that slows us down and may help us focus on the beauty of the gifts of life. I know that it would be unrealistic to do that at every moment of the day, but maybe we could begin to focus on something in our lives that is important to us each day, something simple and yet which gives us joy or peace, an object or an activity that is part of our daily routine.  Often the things we choose for our daily living are in fact the very things or companions that are truly the ‘stuff’ of our lives, a favorite cup, a beautiful flower in our garden, fresh herbs at dinner, a friend who stops by to chat…these are indeed blessings from God for which we are grateful.  And like the dad wrestling with his young sons, we may also become more aware that the precious and most ordinary moments of our days bring us comfort and joy and speak to us of God.  In his book, The Untethered Soul, Michael A Singer writes “Staying open is what the great saints and masters taught. They taught God is joy, God is ecstasy, and God is love. If you remain open enough, waves of uplifting energy will fill your heart.”