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Devotion: #Blessed

NLC tenor, Tony Spain, shared this devotion with the choir prior to rehearsal on October 20, 2015. The title of this year's All Saints concert is "Blessed Are They."

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what it means to be “Blessed.” I think it was brought on by my recoiling anytime someone on Facebook ended a post with #blessed. 

“New promotion at work! #Blessed”

“Look at these pictures of our brand new house! #Blessed”

“Look at this cute thing my happy, healthy, well-provided-for kids did! #Blessed”

The new "blessed" language seems at odds to the beatitudes. Blessed are the poor, the meek, and those who mourn. The persecuted and the defamed? So which is it? 

There are those who believe that God grants abundance to the righteous. That if we are good enough, God will turn some of those cows from the thousand mountains into cows in our backyard; money in our pocket; health for our family. But what does that say of those who do not live in abundance? Is poverty the punishment of the poor for their sin? Is God withholding the “blessing” of health from a child with leukemia?

Of course not. Blessed are the poor, the meek, and those who mourn. Those who weep and those who are hated.

What does it mean then, to be blessed?

Google will tell you that "blessed" means “made holy or consecrated."

There are academic discussions and translations of Jesus’ “blessed are thee” sermons that we could get into if we had the time. We don’t. 

Interestingly though, the English word “bless” is etymologically derived from the Old English words blod/bledsian. Words that the pagans used to describe marking or concentrating their altars with blood. 

Tying blessing to blood, specifically the blood of Christ. It is by Christ’s blood, shed on the Cross that we receive the ultimate blessing of salvation. God’s grace and mercy, poured out for all. The poor, the meek, the abused. We remember this blessing by blood each time we partake in God’s communion.

My understanding of blessing is informed, I think, by my relationship with God. It is not my merits that bring me closer to God. My privilege or my moments of strength do not bring me to my knees in praise. Perhaps that is cause for some reflection in the future… 

Instead, it is my brokenness that reveals my need for salvation. It is when I am at my lowest that I feel God draw near and whisper, “Blessed are you.” The miracle lies in the statement, “Blessed are you anyway.” That regardless of my discourteous thoughts, my untruthful words, my selfish deeds, my apathy to the suffering of others next door and across the globe, I worship a God that calls me Blessed. 

Life can suck. People do terrible things. Loved ones die. I cannot believe that God is pulling levers. Deciding who gets cancer and who gets a new BMW. The promise is, instead, that at all peaks and valleys of life, at tremendous joy and at utter ruin, at the first breath of life and the last breath of death, God blesses us. God loves us. 

Please pray with me:

God our Redeemer. Bless us. Keep us.

Make your face to shine upon us and be gracious to us. 

Jesus our Savior. Lift your countenance on us,

especially in times of trial and sorrow.

Grant us peace, and keep our lives.