St. Mary Nanoose Bay
February 17, 2019
Luke 6:17-26 Blessed are those who trust in the Lord, whose trust IS the Lord.
“He came down with them and stood on a level place, with a great crowd of his disciples…… and he looked up at his disciples and said….. Bless are you…….” (Lk 6:17-21)
Imagine we were that crowd, all of here at St. Mary’s. Take a moment and picture yourself, circled around Jesus with all the people in this church, , hungry for his word, yearning for healing, for wisdom, for love……… are you there?
Now listen to what Jesus has to say to you, he’s looking you straight in the eye: “Blessed are you…..” In whatever state you are, Jesus is calling you “blessed.” As you are, in this moment, if you are poor and hungry, if you are sad or mourning or worried, if you feel misunderstood, not appreciated, if you are ill or weary, or if you feel lost, lonely or empty. Jesus is blessing you, just as you are. Feel that blessing like warm sunshine seeping into you, through the layers of your skin, into the interior of your being. And that blessing has nothing to do with what you’ve done. Your only choice is whether to receive what Jesus offers you……. (silence)
What does it mean “to be blessed”?
It means to be sacred, holy, worth of adoration, divinely favoured. Do those words make you uncomfortable? Yet, this is how Jesus sees us – not because we are worthy but because we were created to be loved and we ARE loved. And if we let ourselves be loved, we will be changed into the people we were created to be. Not through our own doing but through God’s love working in our lives.
This past week, I read an interesting book. I have the luxury of going into the school library on the campus where we live and not just borrowing books, but having a librarian who knows me and suggests books for me to read. She suggested I read “Precious Cargo.” So I did. And I learned something that helped me in preparing this sermon.
This is an autobiographical book about a young man, Craig Davidson, who as a bit of an outcast as a child throws himself into his writing. He does amazingly well getting articles published and then lands a book contract. His career is launched and understandably he feels very good about himself. However, when the first draft of his first novel passes by the editor’s desk, it is rejected full out. No room for revisions or rewriting, Craig’s brilliant career comes to a screeching halt.
He is plunged into despair. His ego has taken a huge hit and he can’t separate out his doing from his being. He not only sinks into self-loathing and depression, he runs out of money and can’t seem to land even the most menial job.
One day a flyer comes through his mail slot advertising for bus drivers. He applies, is accepted and goes through the training to be a school bus driver. On his last day of training, the group is asked if anyone would be interested in driving a small school bus for kids with special needs. His hand goes up. He has no idea why.
And for the next year he drives 6 teens and preteens with special needs to and from school each day. He and those cast of characters bond around during those few hours each day on the bus. There is a lot of humour in his anecdotes, and much to pull on your heart strings.
At the end of the book, Craig writes “When people find out that I drove a bus for students with special needs, the common response is: “That was noble of you.” I don’t bother telling them that I took the job because I was poor and nobody else would hire me. Nobility had nothing to do with it. But sometimes a person can be ennobled by circumstance. That year taught me that none of us is perfect.”(pg. 275-6) He then goes on to address the students he drove, “At some point driving you went from being a job to a joy. I would have done it for free. If I was broken, then the bus fixed me. You guys fixed me. The physical truth is that I drove you. The deeper truth is that you drove me…. to step out of my own sickened skin; to stop feeling sorry for myself and to see the world for its beauties more than its agonies.” (pg. 270)
When we show up with all our warts and wants, we are blessed. We simply need to answer the ad, or the call, or respond to the nudge. And often we find ourselves in the most unlikely community with people we wouldn’t otherwise chose but in this community, take for instance St. Mary’s, a community where everyone is welcome, valued, cherished and respected, we call out the best in each other.
That is what blessing is and does. And when we share the peace each Sunday, we are doing exactly that. Calling on the power of the God who loves us, and extending that power of love to others, confident that in the process of sharing we ourselves are being healed.
The author Rachel Naomi Remen has this to say about blessing: A blessing is a moment of meeting, a certain kind of relationship in which both people involved remember and acknowledge their true nature and worth, and strengthen what is whole in one another. By making a place for wholeness within our relationships, we offer others the opportunity to be whole without shame and become a place of refuge from everything in and around them that is not genuine, We enable people to remember who they are.” I
like to think that this is what we are doing here at St. Mary’s… allowing ourselves to be blessed by God, and then blessing each other into wholeness. And as we grow in these moments of blessing, we are becoming a refuge for those in the world who don’t remember or know that they are, indeed, blessed.
There must be some of you who are thinking, but wait, Jesus goes on in the gospel passage we heard this morning to say, “Woe to you who are rich, who are full, who seek power and recognition….” But that makes sense doesn’t it, that when we think we are autonomous, self-created beings, putting ourselves before others, we constrict or cut off the natural flow of give and take. For when we forget we are blessed, we do violence to ourselves and others. And sometimes the effect of our forgetfulness or deliberate rejection of blessedness is felt down through the ages.
In a short while we will go into the hall to talk practicalities: finances, budgets, plans, buildings and grounds, committees, and leadership. This is the business we need to attend to once a year. But let us do so cognizant that while we have business to attend to, and we need to do this faithfully, we are not a business. Because our real business is to attend to the body of Christ; to the work of receiving and giving blessing to a world hungry for the power of love unrecognized in its midst.
And for all we do, we do so in gratitude, for all the ways we are blessed and able to bless. Amen.