by BFL Spiritual Director Kathy Staudt —
When I think of the practice of “Blessing” invited in the Way of Love, I immediately hear a song that has been a welcome “earworm” on my personal spiritual soundtrack: the Jewish singer and cantor Debbie Friedman’s lovely “l’chi lach” (Listen to it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d8WrShnKTWY)
The Hebrew words refer to God’s call to Abram in Genesis 12:1-3: “Go forth, yourself, to the land that I will show you” – this is the call that Abram/Abraham trusted, and the purpose of the call is expressed in the rest of the verse: Go . . . to the land that I will show you. . . and I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. . . and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” All of us in the world who count ourselves as Abraham’s spiritual descendants share this call to “Go” and to “Be a Blessing.”
Abraham’s call starts as an individual one (The Hebrew can be translated “Go, yourself” or as the medieval Rabbi Rashi suggests, “Go into yourself” – but it becomes a call to be made a great nation, and a blessing to “all the families of the earth.” In a tribal world, the descendants of Abraham were called to live by a covenant of intimate relationship with the God who created the universe and called it “blessed.” The way of life that emerges with Moses generations later becomes a model, in a world of competing tribes and gods, of a way of life that seeks justice for everyone, and holds people accountable to a call beyond their individual need for domination over others: the call to love God and love neighbor. This is the blessing that all the Abrahamic faiths are called to, in their origins.
As Christians, we also have heard this call to be a blessing to the world. The times when the church has dominated the political world have deeply corrupted this call but it is still there: as the people of God, we are called to go into a broken world and to be a blessing. As baptized Christians, we rely on our gathered communities, our churches, to remind us of our participation in God’s desire to bless the world: We are to be a sign of that blessing, wherever we are. Jesus tells those who listen to his parables, “Go and do likewise.” He tells Mary Magdalene, at the tomb: “Go, and tell my brothers & sisters”, and to his disciples at the ascension he blesses them and says “Go into all the world and make disciples”. We are a people on the move, on the “Way of Love,” but to follow that command of love, we need both to receive and to be a blessing, following in the footsteps of all the children of Abraham, in the particular way that has opened to us as followers of Jesus.
Robert Capon, writing a generation ago in his book The Third Peacock, referred to the Church as “the hat on the invisible man” – the outward sign by which the presence of God is made visible. Both as individuals and as a community of faith, sharing in the same practices, we are living out this vocation: to embody God’s blessing for the world.
This came together for me strikingly at worship just this past Sunday. At communion, we gathered around the altar to receive the blessing of Christ’s presence among us. The communion hymn we were singing was an old Baptist hymn “Out on the Highways and Byways of Life,”(LEVAS #158) (you can hear a congregation singing it at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fhjRCaTN3X0 ) and it reminded me again, how intimately tied together are the commands to “go” and to “be a blessing.” I don’t love all the verses of this hymn, but the chorus contains a profound invitation. As I reflect on that call to “go” and “be a blessing,” the chorus continues to resonate. This has become another earworm for my personal spiritual soundtrack, and now, perhaps, for yours:
Make me a blessing, make me a blessing
Out of my life may Jesus shine.
Make me a blessing, O Savior I pray
Make me a blessing to someone today.
Let us Go and do likewise, as the people of God, Blessed to be a Blessing.