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This is the basis for this year’s “backpack” blessing. Backpack is in quotes, because like most things right now, backpacks will not be taking their normal importance to signifying the change in seasons of life. Yet, it only makes what we have said over the last few years, and what we will say this year on theses blessing tags all the more true for all of us, regardless of what season of life we are entering.
God’s Got Your Back is the first and most essential reminder from these tags. In a season of uncertainty and ongoing change, we can feel very alone, even feel like the whole world is against us. Yet it is important that just like the friend who supports you when you have to do something hard or challenging, God is right with us in the hard times when we are called to do what is needed, even when it pushes us into unpredictable territory.
Be A Blessing was the call to our students the following year. A reminder that the world is not all about us. Sometimes what is best for us as individuals isn’t best for everyone. I remember the first time I met Katy in Charleston. Katy was a blessing to almost everyone she met, giving of herself in so many ways. Yet one time when we sat down to chat, she started to cry. Katy felt so empty from giving so much, she didn’t feel she belonged at her church because they questioned certain parts of who she was, and she spent all this energy trying to make up to God and to others this “failing” that she was born with. This is when I realized that being a blessing is more than what we do, but how and why we do things. Being a blessing is not doing things out of guilt, shame, or obligation, but because you have the honest expectation that God through others will give in to your life so you can give of God’s love to others. In this unpredictable time, remember that we must accept blessings, even ones like unexpected time off (talking to my formerly sick self here), in order to truly be a blessing to others
Peace Be Upon You was last year’s “tag line.” Peace is one of those complicated words. During this time of on-line worship, I’ve been challenged with finding art and posting the “passing of the peace” to Facebook each week. In searching out images, I’ve noticed things like the absence of war, or anxiety, or pain as key themes in a lot of the art. It has made me search harder for things that speak to what peace is rather than what it is not. I have spent a lot of time with the biblical languages and have found peace best described in the Greek-Hebrew portmanteau “Eiréné Shalom” (okay not a real portmanteau), each of these words are most often translated as Peace, but both hold deeper meaning. Eiréné is a word that speaks to rest, to the common welfare of others, to oneness with God and others. It comes from the idea of joining together all the essential parts of a whole. So Eiréné be upon you, means to find your place, to find completeness within creation and community. Shalom likewise speaks to wholeness and a soundness of human relations. It is a phrase of hope and sending that wishes God’s blessings upon another for the good of all. This may come in prosperity, but more often than not it is regarding how we treat one another and seeing God in each other. So Shalom be upon you would mean something like: May you always realize that you have enough to give, and we will be one together.
This leads us up to this year, where I am feeling a pull to the 3 phrases at the top of this entry, and particularly the importance of the first in order for the others to exist. Be Loved, You Are Loved, Know You Are Loved. These phrases hold so much power both in word and action. I think back to Katy here, her church did not know how to love her fully, she could not find peace there because she felt incomplete and nothing she could do could change that. God was not there with her, but only a being calling for her to be more. This is not kindness, kindness is built around compassion, around empathy, around trust of another’s story. One of the hardest things in the world today is feeling we can trust another’s story. We have become so indoctrinated by a culture of duality that we assume any story not like our own is being told with ulterior motives and not just with a vulnerability and desire to be known. We likewise often do not tell our whole stories because to offer that vulnerability of being fully ourselves may cause us to be rejected or treated in unkind ways. Yet the 3 phrases remain. Be Loved (For you are loved, by God, by this church, by many people in seen and unseen ways.) Be Kind (For we are blessed by kindness, and by sharing the blessing of kindness we both bless others and ourselves, and while we are at it be kind to ourselves as well!) Be You (For you are fearfully and wonderfully made, just as you are, fully in the image of God and placed here for the good of all creation by helping to bring it into oneness, just by being you.)
As we continue into this next month and as so many things seem to be both ever changing and completely unchangeable, remember these truths. The world will continue to curve towards justice and good if we do these things and provide space for others to do all three as well. You Are Loved, for you were created in the image of the God called Love, and because you are just who you need to be right now.
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