On Sunday evening our church is hosting a service of gratitude and blessing for the health and caring services of our town. I posted a poster on this site last week, and also is here.
This morning I have been working on this service and in case you are considering coming let me say that it is for everyone, not just those who work in the health and caring services. (The poster is aimed at those who work in those services and who are not normally part of a church.)
Regular bloggists will know that I am rather keen on blessing in the name of Jesus. My ‘sign off’ for almost all bloggages is ‘be blessed, be a blessing’ (see earlier in the week for a bloggage about ‘signing off’ – it’s seamless isn’t it! You would almost think it was planned if you didn’t know me!)
Blessing is a wonderful positive word, but it is also a bit slippery (reference to my recent bloggage about slippery words!). What exactly do we mean when we speak about ‘blessing’? We say ‘bless you’* when someone sneezes (ancient tradition). Whether or not someone says ‘bless you’ when you sneeze is almost a test of politeness now, but we don’t normally mean ‘bless you’ we mean: “I noticed that you sneezed!”
Blessing is about wanting positive, good, kind, gracious things for someone else. In a Christian context it is particularly about wanting people to experience God’s positive, good, kind and gracious presence and favour in their life.
The oldest prayer of blessing in the Bible is:
The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face shine on your and be gracious to you; the Lord turn his face towards you and give you peace. (Numbers 6:24-26)
That’s a wonderful prayer and is part of what I have in mind when I say ‘bless you’ to someone. But I read somewhere (sorry I can’t source it) that you could paraphrase ‘the Lord make his face shine on you’ as ‘may you experience God’s smile’. I like that. It’s simple and yet profound.
Be blessed, be a blessing.
*I like the French version: ‘à te souhait’, which sounds like a sneeze to me when said quickly!