So the young people have been officially blessed. The Sunday school teachers too. But what does that mean exactly? Do we think that after we said a few special prayers and read some perfectly chosen Scripture passages that now God is going to take extra special care of them; watch them a little more intently these next nine months? It’s highly unlikely we have that kind of influence over God. After all, the children and teachers have already been blessed by God before they came up front this morning. They’ve already been blessed with enthusiasm, patience, a yearning to learn, and so much more.
Nevertheless, we wouldn’t mind even the slightest chance of helping our children stay safe as they go to school. Or that they may avoid just a little bit of trouble. So, we might as well do this special blessing just to be on the safe side. But what if it’s for something else? What if it’s not so much about God hearing the carefully picked words and thereby acting on it; but what if it’s more so for the young people, their parents, and the teachers? What if God is working through the blessing, the prayers and readings, to do something we didn’t even consider?
And yet we often envision a blessing from God being about us: it’s on us, it’s for us. We’ve been blessed with food, shelter, transportation, financial stability, family, and the list could go on and on. We’ve been so blessed in this life! It’s true, but what if God has something more in mind? What if God has it in mind that the blessing is a continuous action that doesn’t stop with us, that actually never ever ceases from happening? What if God shaped and molded all God’s children to be a blessing to one another time and time again?
The writer of Hebrews reminds us, “[to] not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it.” It’s not simply about opening up our home or offering food. We are also in the hospitality ministry of the heart, of who we are, of who God has shaped and molded us to be for the sake of the world. That’s the risk we take in following this Jesus Christ, this Savior of the world; because if we’re going to follow a Messiah of sacrifice and service and mutual love, we’re going to leave ourselves vulnerable to others. We’re going to have risk developing emotional connections with people beyond our family. We’re going to have to be willing to experience pain when others suffer. Our life story of God at work in us might just well get out to other sisters and brothers in Christ. This hospitality ministry makes us completely vulnerable, and that includes our blessings.
Because this God has the audacity to think that we share our blessings with others. The young people here today have already been blessed by God with a positive attitude, with laughter and care; and God has already shaped them so that they may lift up others, including their classmates and even us gathered here. Our Sunday school teachers have already been blessed by God with passion and wisdom to inspire our students.
We also have Ps. 33:3 with us today for worship. Plenty of bands just stay in garages or basements to play for their own enjoyment. But Rick, Edie, Matt, and Mike realize their blessing of musical gifts has to be shared with the world; so that they may minister us to share our gifts as well, that they will encourage us to love and compassion, to “offer hospitality to strangers.” We have no idea how much a difference can be made in one another’s life when we refuse to keep God’s work in our life to ourselves. A tune, a line from a song this morning, will stick with us for days on end. It will reshape our outlook on the world for precious moments. A child’s laughter will make us appreciate the gift of life that can never be taken for granted. A teacher willing to offer her time for Sunday school students will empower us to continue learning as well.
And yes, a blessing to be a blessing to others makes us vulnerable. Mistakes will be made when we do so. Wrong notes will be played from time to time (not that Ps. 33:3 guys ever make mistakes). Sunday school teachers may not know all the answers in regards to the Bible or God; at least pastors don’t. But God isn’t expecting perfection. We are a blessing to be a blessing to others, not to show off our gifts, or how well we can play an instrument or say Bible verses from memory. We are a blessing to be blessing to others for God to go to work.
In the end, God revealed the best hospitality of all in Jesus Christ, bringing all of God’s children to God’s very heart. That hospitality on the cross with arms wide open embracing the broken world for all time; that hospitality was not for strangers, because God knows and loves all of us intimately, including with all our imperfections and downfalls. And yet for some reason beyond our comprehension, God still cherishes all of God’s children. And that is the ultimate blessing that can never be taken away from any of us: a blessing of abundant life now and forevermore. And for that, we give thanks to God indeed! Amen.
St. John's Evangelical Lutheran Church
Rev. Nan Dehnke, Pastor
Office: Mon - Thu: 9 a.m. - Noon