What Good Is God’s Blessing? Rev. Tom Hagood
What does it mean to be blessed . . .
to be blessed by God?
I mean . . . it sounds so good . . .
to be blessed by the Creator of the whole world . . . the entire universe.
Wow . . . I’m blessed by God!
But . . . what does that really mean?
Does being blessed change anything in your life?
Does it mean you’ll end up with more money
in your bank account?
Does it mean you will never have to worry
about getting sick?
Does God’s blessing make you more important
than other people . . .
more popular on the playground . . .
someone everyone looks up to as God’s favorite?
Does God give you a certificate with a gold seal
that you hang on your office wall that lets everyone know that you are blessed by God Almighty?
Be kinda nice . . . wouldn’t it?
But I really don’t think that’s
what a blessing from God means.
As a matter of fact . . . in the crazy upside world
that Jesus Christ paints for us . . .
if God is extending a blessing to you . . .
your life might not be so wonderful . . .
it might not be that easy . . .
at least in the eyes of the world we live.
In our world . . . the beatitudes sound more like this . . .
Blessed are those who are wealthy . . .
for they will buy what they want.
Blessed are those who are born into privilege . . .
for they will never suffer.
Blessed are those who are well educated . . .
for you will be able to climb the ladder of success.
Blessed are those who only care about themselves . . .
for they will have whatever they want
at the expense of others.
Think about it . . . in our world . . .
there really aren’t a lot of blessings for the poor . . .
or the grieving . . . or the meek . . .
or those who are oppressed.
And except for a few token awards . . .
our world doesn’t give many accolades
to the merciful or the pure in heart or the peacemakers.
Those life pursuits are all signs of weakness in our world.
Only the strong survive in our world . . .
if you don’t take what you want . . . you’ll never get it.
Same was true 2000 years ago.
So Jesus gathers his disciples on a hillside
on the Sea of Galilee . . .
and he points to the crowd of people
who have also gathered there . . .
and begins to tell his disciples
that this sorry bunch of people who sit all around them . . .
these poor, wretched folks who live each day hand to mouth . . .
who struggle to pay their taxes . . .
who sleep in overcrowded beds . . .
who live their lives under the thumbs
of both Rome and Jerusalem . . .
who cry out because there is no joy or justice
left in their lives . . .
these people . . . are the ones whom God blesses.
Now to be honest with you . . .
I always thought this passage was Jesus’ way
of telling me how to act . . .
I’m supposed to be like these people . . .
I’m supposed to emulate them . . .
I should be meek and unassuming . . .
I should be pure in heart . . . I should be a peacemaker . . .
and all that other stuff Jesus talks about.
Well guess what . . . I’m wrong.
I got tripped up by the linguistic police . . .
because if you look at the Greek . . .
which believe it or not I sometimes actually do . . .
the word blessed is not an imperative . . .
it is not a command . . .
Jesus uses the word blessed in the indicative mood . . .
in other words . . . it is a description . . .
he’s not telling us how to act . . .
he’s bestowing his divine and holy blessing
on these people.
He’s giving a blessing over the poor . . . the meek . . .
the peacemakers . . . the defenders of the oppressed.
He’s not really telling us to be like that.
The point is . . . Jesus really is showing favor
to all of those people who surround him
and his disciples on the side of that hill . . .
and he is blessing them . . . all of them . . .
the has-beens of society . . .
the people who don’t matter much. . .
the ones who have been forgotten . . .
the ones who cry out because they have nothing . . .
even the ones who stand up for what is right
and no one pays them any attention.
Those are the ones Jesus is blessing.
An he’s paying attention to them.
He honors them. He blesses them.
But then I wonder . . . what about my earlier question?
What good is a blessing . . . when you have nothing. What did this blessing do for those people . . .
who have such great needs?
And what about today in our own world?
What good is God’s blessing for a small child
with a swollen belly in south Sudan
whose mother has just died?
Is the child fed?
What good is God’s blessing to a Kurdish family
that’s always on the run before someone catches up
to them in Iraq?
Do they find safety?
What good is God’s blessing to a homeless man
on the streets of Atlanta as cold winds
blow around him?
Does he find shelter?
What good is God’s blessing to a third grade student
who still can’t read and comes home
to an empty house littered with bottles
and used needles?
Does he get educated?
What good is God’s blessing to the pregnant teenage girl who has been kicked out her home?
Does she find a place to go?
What good is God’s blessing to the high school student who is relentlessly bullied by his peers?
Does he find anyone who cares?
What good is God’s blessing to the elderly woman
sitting alone in her home day after day after day?
Does she find a friend?
So I ask again . . . what good is God’s blessing
to these people . . .
if all they get is a blessing . . .
and one of those plaques to hang on the wall.
Lot of good that does them.
Here’s that part of the sermon
where we have to go back one more time
and look at not just what Jesus is saying . . .
but what he’s trying to get us to really see . . . through his eyes.
He’s showing his disciples something very important . . .
he’s showing them the people he cares for . . .
the people he blesses . . .
and the people they are called to also bless.
They’re the people in this world who have nothing . . .
no one to stand for them . . .
so Jesus sees them . . .
and his disciples need to seed them, too . . .
to see their plight . . . to witness their misery . . .
and then . . . as Jesus does so well . . .
his disciples are called to take care of his sheep.
We, too, are called to share and care for those
whom Jesus sees and blesses . . .
not out of some obligation . . .
not because we feel we have to do it
because Jesus tells us to do it . . .
not because we’ll look good to our friends and neighbors . . .
but because when we see with the eyes of Jesus . . .
it becomes so obvious what needs to be done . . .
no one has to tell you . . . no one has to prod you . . .
you just do it because that’s what it means
to follow Jesus Christ.
We are to bless those whom Jesus blesses . . .
and guess what . . . in doing so . . . we become blessed.
Could it be that maybe that’s the answer
to my own question . . .
what good does it do when Jesus blesses someone?
The good it does is that when we, too, learn
to see with the eyes of our Savior . . .
we will reach out with compassion . . .
to the poor . . . to the meek . . .
to the ones who stand for righteousness . . .
to the ones who stand beside the oppressed . . .
to those whom society shuns or puts down
as a waste of time . . .
and in doing so . . .
we become a blessing to the blessed ones.
The hungry orphan in the Sudan . . .
is blessed by our prayers and our support
of aid organizations . . . as well as the work
that our denomination is doing in that dry land.
The Kurdish family seeking shelter . . .
is blessed by our prayers
and the sharing of our resources with agencies
that aid refugees throughout the world.
The homeless man in Atlanta . . .
is blessed by our prayers and our volunteer work
in shelters and our demands for affordable housing.
The illiterate third grader . . .
is blessed by our prayers and our mentoring
through voluntary and church programs throughout our city.
The pregnant teenage girl . . . is blessed by our prayers and our volunteer work at Hagar’s House
and other shelters and organizations in metro Atlanta.
The high school student who is bullied . . .
is blessed by our prayers and the sharing of our time
and talents through volunteer school programs that are making a difference in our schools.
The lonely elderly woman . . . is blessed by our prayers
and our willingness to reach out with compassion
and become a friend to those who are alone.
Jesus sees each and every one of these people
and he blesses them . . .
So what would happen if we, too,
blessed those whom Jesus blesses.
What if we quit worrying so much about
getting ahead all the time . . .
or our status in this world. . .
or how much money we have in the bank . .
or how tight our busy schedules are
during Advent and Christmas . . .
or how much we’re planning on spending
on presents this year . . .
and instead we begin to pay more attention
to what justice, mercy and humility does
for those whom Jesus blesses.
What do you suppose it would do for those
who are blessed?
What would it do for you?
Would it really make any difference?
I believe it would.
Sure . . . someone will get fed . . .
someone will have a warm bed . . .
someone will not be so lonely . . .
someone will even find a listening ear . . .
but much more importantly, those you reach out to . . .
will receive so much more . . .
and so will you. Because when you bless someone
in the name of Jesus Christ . . .
you are welcoming them to the table . . .
this table . . .
where all are welcome and will be fed.
You are recognizing them as a child of God
who is as good as any other Child of God.
You are creating a new relationship
that tears down walls of hostility . . . walls of prejudice . . . and walls of mistrust.
You are participating in the building of God’s Kingdom . . .
in the here and now.
As Henri Nouwen simply reminds us . . .
”To give someone a blessing
is the most significant affirmation we can offer.”
(A Quote about Blessing from Henri Nouwen The Heart of Henri Nouwen by Rebecca Laird and Michael Christensen)
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.