Today the last Sunday in the Season of Creation, celebrating with the Church ecumenical and concluding on Wednesday with St. Francis. Our theme this morning is bless. “God bless you” is a simple or serious request. When we bless with words, we ask for God’s provision, favor, kindness, goodness to be evident. To bless is to pray for others, to intercede and act on behalf of others. We pray not to inform God of needs but we Brothers speak of in our Rule of Life, to join God in loving solidarity which God uses “for healing and transformation.”[i] God is not dependent on us. God invites our loving action including prayer.
God instructed Moses and Aaron to say: “The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace.”[ii] When another’s face lights up at seeing ours, we feel loved. In other words: “May God be good to you and protect you. May God turn toward you. May God’s face light up at seeing you. May you feel the love and receive peace or wholeness.”
Welcome to Fall! Last night was the Autumn Equinox when day and night were almost the same amount of time. The earth’s axis and the sun’s orbit lined up given both hemispheres an equal about of light. The weather here has cooled, and the humidity dropped. Leaves are just beginning to turn color. Soon the brilliance will unfurl as leaves prepare to let go.
Today we pray for all Christians in our common vocation of following Jesus. “Deny yourself and take up your cross,” Jesus says. Surrender. Let go of pride, ambition, faults, fears and seeking self-sufficiency. “Follow me; trust me,” Jesus says. “I am your Savior.” We often fear, flee, or fight, but what if we fall into following? That may sound impossible especially when life and grief overwhelm. Jesus crucified, risen, and ascended bears all our weight, indeed all of creation. Surrender is trusting Jesus with everything.
“Are you greater than our father Abraham?” They were confused and upset. How could those who kept Jesus’ word not see death? They clung to what they knew, to being Abraham’s children, so much that they could not see and understand Jesus who was with them.
In our own confusion and pain, it can be hard to hear, hard to see God with us. What might you be clinging to so tightly that you’re not seeing? What’s getting in the way of receiving Jesus?
Sometimes we cling to who we are or what we have: heritage, group-identity, connections. We cling to the people we love or who love us best, our meaningful relationships. We cling to comfort or privilege, standard of living, status, or success. We cling to abilities, gifts, how we serve, what we do well, including for God.
Amos 5:6-7, 10-15
When I was a pastoral intern in Nebraska, we gave a Bible to each third grader on a particular Sunday. The Bible is a good gift; it’s a source of hope, love, encouragement, inspiration, and life. I told the congregation: pay attention. We are giving children a knife. As we heard this morning from the letter to the Hebrews: “the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing until it divides soul from spirit, joints from marrow.”
Scripture is sharper than a sword. Like a scalpel, it cuts through what is diseased and damaged, cuts through lies and confusion, cuts through the stories we tell ourselves to reveal the truth. The stories of scripture surprise, disturb, confound and with good intention cut. We and our children need help and practice to listen, to receive powerful, sharp, healing words of life.