Cruciform Communion Meal—Second Course: Blessed
(this is the second course; you can find the first course here)
What’s the first thing that comes to your mind when you hear the word Blessed?
Go ahead. Think on it. I’ll wait right here…
The word Blessed, much like the word Love, conjures up all kinds of wacky ideas. Allow me to illustrate.
I love nachos. Like, seriously love nachos. Well, with all their cheese, guacamole, cilantro, jalapenos and 42 different flaming flavors of hot sauce dripping from each crunchy corner of stone-ground corn tortilla chip goodness; what’s not to love? Nachos make me happy. They satiate my belly and bring a Cheshire smile to my face.
But nachos ask nothing of me. It’s a one-sided love affair. I get all the benefits of good feelings (although, with a recently formed intolerance to dairy, my relationship with nachos appears be headed straight toward heartbreak hotel. But I digress.) and the nachos are completely taken advantage of, ravished and left in a disarray of destroyed crumbs.
So one might ask, is my love of nachos real love? Aaaaaand cue C.S. Lewis The Four Loves.
Just as there are different kinds of Love (storge, eros, philia, agape), so too there are different kinds of blessings (offspring, land, good health, property, protection). With these many manifestations of blessings, I’m wiling to bet the first things that came to your mind upon hearing the word Blessed were the things of the material world; your car, house, wardrobe, education, job, status, offspring, etc. Am I right? Don’t worry, these images of blessings aren’t inherently bad. So go on ahead and thank God for that car! By all means, sing praises for that job, that home, that education! After all, God is the giver of all good gifts.
Things become problematic, however, when the accumulation of material possessions is the primary portrayal of a blessed life. With this shortsighted definition at the forefront of our mind we tend to consume these blessings for our own personal satisfaction (much like I inhale nachos for my own gluttonous enjoyment). We abandon songs of thanksgiving and hit repeat on our Janis Joplin requests; “O Lord, won’t you buy me, a Mercedz Benz? O Lord, won’t you buy me a color TV? O Lord, won’t you buy me a night on the town?”
The second course of our cruciform communion meal is to be Blessed. Certainly material possessions are a portion of what this means, but far more than the things moth and dust can destroy are gifts of eternal value— gifts that have the capacity to liberate, to heal, to encourage, and to empower.
I invite you to relax, pull up a chair, unfold the menu, take a glance
and be our guest,
be our guest,
be our guest at this Cruciform Communion table as I proudly present,
One day Jesus, a Jew, went up a hill to fetch a pail of water. He encountered a Samaritan woman at the well. When the woman approached Jesus she carried great shame, when she walked away from Jesus she carried the great blessing of dignity. And she did not hoard this blessing for herself, but she generously shared it with the people in her town. From this one Kingdom blessing, many people in the town came to believe in Jesus.
There was a man by the name of Jacob. For many of his days, some as far back as the womb, Jacob had lived under the false identity of a cheat. He cheated his older brother, Esau, of his birthright. He cheated Esau of his firstborn blessing. Over the years Jacob accrued significant material blessings, but such wealth ceased to satisfy for he continued to operate as Jacob, the heel grabber. Only when Jacob was left alone, without his wives, or servants, or great material wealth, did God then appear with an eternal blessing. God restored Jacob with his new, true identity as Israel, and he limped into his blessing as the father of many nations.
The Apostle Paul battled with a thorn in his flesh. What was the thorn? Perhaps it was a physical ailment, spiritual harassment, persecution? On several occasions Paul pleaded with God to remove the thorn, but to no avail. Knowing what Paul needed, God blessed Paul with grace. Paul’s weakness now became the source of great Kingdom power.
These are not just stories of blessing from long ago, covered in the dust of antiquity. No, dear reader, these stories are alive for us today. For you and for me, these stories are ours for the taking. While we may receive the tangible blessings of great wealth, success and material possessions, we also receive blessings that transform us into the man or woman God created us to be. God is the God of great exchange – he takes our failures and blesses us with a new story to tell. God takes our ashes and gives us beauty. God takes our false identities and calls us into our eternal destiny as sons and daughters.
How do we take our blessing? God has shared a priceless gift with you and with me. Do we wish to receive it? More than that, do we wish to open it and enjoy it? In the same way that the first course of this cruciform communion meal, that of being Taken must be claimed as our own, so too this second course of being Blessed requires our receptivity. We can choose to open this gift, or we can deny ourselves of the truth of our story of blessing. I ask you again, do you wish to receive your blessing? I pray that you do! Let’s sit at the communion table together and boldly claim our blessedness.
Henri Nouwen offers a 2-fold spiritual discipline practice that will help us receive our blessing. He suggests prayer and presence are the foundation to living into our blessedness.
First of all, prayer. “Prayer becomes more and more a way to listen to the blessing… The real ‘work’ of prayer is to become silent and listen to the voice that says good things about me… It is not easy to enter into the silence and reach beyond the many boisterous and demanding voices of our world and to discover there the small intimate voice saying: ‘You are my Beloved Child, on you my favor rests.’ Still, if we dare to embrace our solitude and befriend our silence, we will come to know that voice… The faithful discipline of prayer reveals to you that you are the Blessed one and gives you the power to bless others.”
The second discipline for claiming our blessedness is the cultivation of presence. “By presence I mean attentiveness to the blessings that come to you day after day, year after year… The problem of modern living is that we are too busy to notice that we are being blessed. It is not easy for us, busy people, to truly receive a blessing… This attentive presence can allow us to see how many blessings are there for us to receive: the blessings of the poor who stop us on the road, the blessings of the blossoming trees and fresh flowers that tell us about new life, the blessings of music, painting, sculpture, and architecture – all of that – but most of all the blessings that come to us through words of gratitude, encouragement, affection and love.”
How do we take our blessing? Through prayer and presence. And in so doing, we are liberated to fully live into our own story of blessing. Oh my friends, there is a great feast spread before you. Won’t you take and eat? Be our guest! Receive this cruciform communion meal and believe that you are loved. You are forgiven. You are holy and blameless. These are your rich, eternal, Kingdom blessings! So go on. Indulge. Enjoy! Take and generously share these blessings with others.
You are blessed. Now go forth and be a blessing. For, as Henri Nouwen says, “To give someone a blessing is the most significant affirmation we can offer. It is more than a word of praise or appreciation; it is more than pointing out someone’s talents or good deeds; it is more than putting someone in the light. To give a blessing is to affirm, to say “yes” to a person’s belovedness. A blessings touches the original goodness of the other and calls forth his or her Belovedness.”