Anne Howard: A Word in Time: Be a Blessing


Blessing: sometimes I find this word a little icky.

I've tried to get over this-after all, the very word "beatitude" means blessing, so this word is at the heart of my daily work. I'm glad to claim Jesus' radical use of "blessed are" in that collection of Beatitudes (Matthew 5:1-12) to show that God's favor can be found in the least expected place-with the meek and not the mighty, with the persecuted and not the oppressor, with the peacemaker and not the imperial troops.

But I'm uncomfortable when people blithely describe good outcomes and happy occasions as "blessings" as if God gave them the goodies this time (and thus bad news is God's curse?) It's a tricky theology.

I hesitate to sign a letter with "Blessings"-it feels a bit saccharine, too much as if I would be the bestower of sweet sentiments-if you Google "Blessing" you can fine some pretty treacly stuff. But then, it does beat signing off with "Curses."

On the other hand, I have no trouble seeking God's blessing, as in offering a benediction in a worship service, or praying for God's blessing. Blessing is a good thing, a sign of the presence of God. 

So perhaps I should say that the word blessing is "tricky" rather than "icky."

It's time to deal with this trickiness, as blessing is at the heart of the story from Genesis for this coming Sunday. This is a cornerstone story, one of the foundations of the entire biblical narrative that shapes our faith, where God gives Abram his destiny.

"Go Abram," God says. "Go from your country. Go from your kindred and your father's house. Pack your bags. Load up the camels. Gather your family. Leave behind all that is familiar. Go to the land that I will show you...Go to a new place...Go...and I will bless that you will be a blessing."

Abram is blessed to be a blessing, for all the people of the earth, for all time.

With this story from our forebears, we not only get Abram's forthcoming identity as Abraham, the father of Israel, but our own identity as well. We hear that God's blessing will become can be known through human beings. As the biblical narrative goes on, sometimes Abraham and his descendants are a blessing to the earth and to their neighbors, and sometimes they are a curse. But God stays intimately connected with the inheritors of blessing, calling upon them again and again to choose life over death, blessing over curse.

We are the people who inherit that blessing. We are the people who are blessed to be a blessing. What might that look like right now? How might I be blessing? Where? How might the church be a blessing?

This Lent, I want to consider a variety of ways that we as the church can build the Beloved Community, drawing attention to the needs in our communities and bringing our faith to the fore in the public square on behalf of  justice, inclusion, compassion and peace. We say at The Beatitudes Society that we envision a day when Christianity will be "a force for good." Lent is a good time to start.

One invitation to be a force for good comes from our colleagues in the Fast for Families movement . They invite us to be a blessing, to choose life over death in the struggle for immigration reform:

"Fast for Families Across America" is a seven week bus tour that will visit 75 Congressional districts to help change the hearts and minds of members of Congress who continue to oppose long overdue immigration reform legislation. Twenty-eight Catholic college and university presidents who fasted on Ash Wednesday reflected: "As we begin this sacred season and remember Christ's journey of suffering the desert wilderness we pray for immigrants who hunger and thirst for justice." You can sign up to join the fast here

Be a blessing. Journey to someplace new.


Echoes from the Edge

For those who love Lent...and those who do not

By Chris Craun, Beatitudes Fellow 2013-14 - March 11th, 2014

Rev. Chris Craun offers a message for walking through the season of Lent with vulnarabilty, joy, gratitude, and grace.  


]( Craun is the Rector of St. Michael and All Angels Episcopal Church in Portland, Oregon. 


Finally, the Poet

A Blessing For One Who Holds Power

By John O'Donohue, from Bless the Space Between Us - March 11th, 2014May the gift of leadership awaken in you as a vocation,Keep you mindful of the providence that calls you to serve.

As high over the mountains the eagle spreads its wings,

May your perspective be larger than the view from the foothills.

When the way is flat and dull in times of gray endurance,

May your imagination continue to evoke horizon.

When thirst burns in times of drought, May you be blessed to find the wells.

May you have the wisdom to read time clearly And know when the seeds of change will flourish.

In your heart may there be a sanctuary For the stillness where clarity is born.

May your work be infused with passion and creativity And have the wisdom to balance compassion and challenge.

May your soul find the graciousness

To rise above the fester of small mediocrities.

May your power never become a shell

Wherein your heart would silently atrophy.

May you welcome your own vulnerability

As the ground where healing and truth join.

May integrity of soul be your first ideal,

The source that will guide and bless your work.

From the Beatitudes Society blog.