Blessings All Around
1 Corinthians 12:4-11    Matthew 5:3-12
May 9, 2010

    All this week I thought about what I could possibly say to you this morning.  I searched the scriptures and came up with the two readings you have heard, but I still was not sure how they might lend themselves to the kind of message that makes sense in this kind of situation - taking leave of this community for three and a half months.  Saturday morning I woke up with the realization that the Beatitudes are blessings, and blessings are just what we all need to hear and receive this morning.  Blessings are a part of Celtic sensibilities as well, so they fit in with the discussions many of us have been enjoying as well.  John O’Donohue first opened my eyes to the need for blessing, as the need affects you and I.  He speaks of the fact that we do not bless one another, or even our own lives all that much these days.  We have gotten involved in such busy and materially-minded lives, that as a people we have forgotten the joy and peace that can come from the simple act of blessing.  Every situation yearns to be blessed, even and probably most especially, the difficult ones.  But joyful times benefit from thinking for a moment or two in terms of blessing as well.  Blessings push into our hearts and spirits with a gentle persistence.  Blessings encourage us to open our eyes to what is right in front of us, and help us to see that there is possibly more depth there than we realized.  Blessings invite us to take our lives and our experiences to a deeper level.
    O’Donohue writes, “It would be infinitely lonely to live in a world without blessing.  The word blessing evokes a sense of warmth and protection; it suggests that no life is alone or unreachable.  Each life is clothed in a raiment of spirit that secretly links it to everything else.” I like this sense of connection.  I like knowing that by offering a blessing to someone, I relate to them in a way that goes beyond words.  My sense, when I use blessings to express my relationship with someone or my wishes for them, is that something opens up within each of us and we are connected in a way that goes beyond the simple words that I speak.
    Our language has been honed down over the centuries in such a way that we often cut right to the chase when we want to say something.  The pleasantries can be dispensed with quickly and briefly, purportedly in the interest of not wasting someone’s time, nor our own.  Blessings slow us down.  When we want to offer a blessing to someone, we have to take a bit of time to choose words that convey our message with a bit of beauty attached.  I think this is what Jesus was doing when he preached the Beatitudes as a part of his sermon out on the mount all those years ago.  He was offering a blessing to people who were weary and worn down by a life of oppression and poverty.  He was offering words that were eloquent enough to sink in deeper than your average sermon.  In the language in which they were originally preached, the Aramaic, these blessings of Jesus are open to a wide variety of interpretations.  The version we know is just one among many.  This is true, really of most blessings.  They are wide open to interpretation because their language is expansive, reaching out to embrace anyone who is listening in, rather than restricted to one way of hearing them.  In effect, we each are able to hear what we most need to hear, even though the blessing is offered to many people at the same time.  Blessings help us all feel as if we are a part of what is being offered.  No one is on the outside. 
    In our culture, on the other hand, we have grown accustomed to being on the outside of most interactions.  We thrive on being independent, not aware that we have given up quite a bit, maybe too much, in order to claim this independence.  John O’Donohue says,“We have fallen out of the belonging. Consequently, when we stand before crucial thresholds in our lives, we have no rituals to protect, encourage, and guide us as we cross over into the unknown.  For such crossings we need to find new words.  What is nearest to the heart is often farthest from the word.”  That really gives me pause.  It makes me recognize how separate we can be from one another, how easy it can be to live our lives with little meaningful interaction at all.  Sometimes we even set ourselves apart by saying, “well, I am not like that person.” We expend energy looking for ways to define ourselves as different from everyone else, looking for our uniqueness rather than for the things that enable us to relate to one another, to be in community with one another.  Finding what is unique about us is, of course a fine and wonderful thing, but it should not be done in such a way that we eliminate any sense of commonality with everyone else.  We need to also seek out and find what connects us to one another, what draws us together.  It is in the common spaces of our lives where our spirits are held and nurtured so that we are able to go out into the world and do what is uniquely ours to do.
    As I get ready to take this time away for resting and refreshing my spirit, for being with family and traveling to some of the places that call me, I am aware of how grateful I am that I will be held in your hearts and in this circle of caring the whole time.  In a strange and interesting way, having a place to come back to is what enables me to leave.  Because I know that I have a home here, I am more able to travel and see what else is out there in the world.  I know who I am in this circle, and so I am not going off in the world to find myself, but to explore more of who I am and who I might be in different places.  For me, there is a real sense of security, of being held, which allows me to let go of everything familiar for awhile, both within and without, and take the risk of opening my heart and my life to more.  So, thank you all for being the circle to whom I can come back home after this journey.
Here is a blessing I wrote for you.  May it be what you most need here today.
May your heart be full each day,
of the wonder that was yours when you were young.
May your eyes see beauty in everything and everyone.
May your hands find meaningful work,
and may they create gifts that express your joy at being alive.
May your ears hear the Oren Mor,
the song of the universe and the song of your own soul,
and may you have the courage to sing along,
nice and loud.
May each breath you take renew your whole self,
filling you with a fresh sense of being alive and well and whole.
May your mind awaken to new ideas and insights,
encouraging you to re-think what you know,
and creating a broader base for wisdom.
May the love of our friendship and mutual care
surround you with light and protection,
holding us close despite physical distance.
And may God watch over you day by day,
calming and guiding and fostering you into
whatever goodness is meant for you.
Blessings of Spirit to you
today and all days.