This month’s theme is Celebrating Blessings. A blessing has traditionally been thought of as a favor or gift bestowed by G-d that brings happiness and well-being. So, I’d like to share with you an ancient blessing that empowers the speaker to invoke the blessings of G-d. In the book of Numbers it is said that G-d taught the Israelite priests what to say over the children of Israel on G-d’s behalf so that “they will put my name on the Israelites, and I will bless them.” This is powerful stuff in ancient times. The power to invoke a deity’s name with the promise of fulfillment is no small thing. In this ancient ritual, the priests bless the people by saying over them:
The Lord bless you
And keep you;
The Lord make his face to shine on you
And be gracious to you;
The Lord turn his face toward you
And give you peace.
This ritual is still performed in synagogues all over the world. Many Christian churches close their services with this benediction. What has been translated here as “face” is perhaps more aptly and authentically translated as “presence.” Such an appeal to a deity may well not conform to your personal theology, however, I invite you to consider how the power to invoke the blessing of the divine presence is lodged in mere mortals.
As we learned on Sunday, the Divine presence did not want the giving and receiving of blessings to be confined to a formal ritual. In Genesis 12:1-3, G-d told Abraham, “And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. . . in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” This was a change in the way that blessings were given and received. Now, the people of Israel were no longer solely dependent on G-d for their blessings, they could be a blessing to each other. They could also be a blessing to others.
What is true for the ancient people of Israel is also true for us. We are not dependent on a beneficent god for our blessings. We can be a blessing to ourselves and to each other. And, here are a few commonsensical suggestions:
- take time each day to reflect on the worth and dignity of people in your life
- listen, really listen, while peering deeply into the eyes of the speaker
- engage in random acts of kindness
- write notes of gratitude*share time/coffee/meal/jokes with others
- share the good news of Unitarian Universalism.
Now, here’s the important part – everything listed above and so many other ways of being a blessing are just as applicable to ways that we can be a blessing to ourselves! And remember, like generosity, being a blessing is a spiritual practice – one which enlarges the heart and lightens the spirit. For no matter how large or small the blessing, in the sharing of it, both the one who gives and the one who receives are blessed.
As always, gratitude practice is one of the most powerful spiritual practices I know. So, when it feels like everything is going sideways and nothing is meeting your expectations, I recommend listing all the blessings in your life. You may also try the following with your spouse, child, friend: write down the blessings that you see in each other’s lives. You may find it quite enlightening!
Rev. Lee Anne
P.S. Soul Matters Small Group Material
P.P.S. A Christian interpretation of the Aaronic blessing, with explanation