Lent 2: Blessings
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be always
acceptable in your sight, Oh Lord our strength and our redeemer.
God said to Abram: “I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will
be a blessing.”
The same is true for you.
You have been blessed.
But there’s more to it than that.
You have been blessed,
So that you can be a blessing to others.
But what does it mean to be blessed?
What does it mean to be a blessing to others?
First, let’s start with what it does NOT mean.
Being “Blessed” does not mean to be merely “Happy.”
Although happiness might sometimes be a part of it.
And There’s nothing cute or trite about a blessing--
Although our society often uses the language of blessing in a way that seems trite.
(Like the Southern aphorism “Oh bless your heart.”
To be blessed is much more than that.
And to be a blessing is a great responsibility.
The first and foremost definition of a blessing is, “approval that allows or helps
you to do something.”
The fact that you have been blessed to be a blessing to others IS the very
definition of a blessing.
A Blessing allows you to help others to do something.
To BE something.
Blessings are not static.
Blessings are not complacent.
Blessings are not simple.
Blessings are not about the past.
Blessings—being blessed, and being a blessing to others is about constant
It’s about New life--
Continuously—over and over again--
Blessings are about continually growing and changing.
And it’s sometimes about getting out of our comfort zones.
Exploring something new.
Becoming something new.
Today’s reading from Genesis points to this.
Many consider Abraham the “Father of Faith.”
And Abraham was deeply blessed.
And he became a blessing to many others.
But Abraham had a great, great responsibility.
Abraham was blessed: only because he was willing--
Willing to be transformed and changed--
Willing to be the blessing to others--
Willing to help others DO SOMETHING.
God said to Abram: “Go from your country and your kindred and your fathers
house to the land that I will show you.”
God asked him to leave everything he knew.
Everything he loved.
In order to be a blessing.
And Abram was transformed.
In fact, he was so transformed, that his very identity changed--
His very name changed—from Abram to Abraham.
He was renewed,
And his willingness to be reborn and changed carried from generation to
To all of his descendants
And today’s Gospel reading talks about this willingness to be changed.
To be transformed and reborn.
But it’s harder for Nicodemus.
He operates from the past,
From his preconceptions,
And because of that, he has difficulty fully hearing and embracing Jesus’ words.
Nicodemus: a pharisee:
Comes to Jesus in the night.
Jesus tells him that “no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of
water and spirit.”
(Jesus says some other stuff too.)
And after all of it:
Nicodemus has a hard time understanding it,
And he replies to Jesus saying:
“How can these things be?”
Now: To be fair to Nicodemus--
Jesus isn’t always the easiest to understand.
Because Jesus says weird stuff.
And frequently speaks in riddles.
But that’s not where Nicodemus has his trouble.
Nicodemus has trouble understanding Jesus because he can’t let go of what he
He can’t understand this business about “being born again from above.”
Or being born by “water and spirit.”
And in some ways, Nicodemus is right:
We know that you can’t re-enter your mother’s womb and be physically born
But that’s not what Jesus is talking about.
Jesus isn’t talking about literal re-birth.
Jesus is talking about God’s great mystery.
When Jesus says, “The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it,
but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone
who is born of the spirit.”
Nicodemus misses the point.
The point being: that New birth is not literal.
It’s like the wind.
A mystery beyond human knowledge and control.
But Nicodemus can’t let go of his knowledge and control.
He can’t let go of the past.
And so he can’t fully hear Jesus.
And he can’t except Jesus’ invitation to new life and transformation
Like Abraham did.
Jesus REPETEADLY offers new images--
Inviting Nicodemus to be transformed,
To be changed--
To let go of the past that he knows--
And enter into a new future—a new identity.
To be reborn.
But I don’t want to demonize Nicodemus either.
He might miss the point--
He might be unable to hear Jesus because of his preconceptions.
But Nicodemus DOES seek Jesus out.
Nicodemus Goes to meet Jesus--
Which is certainly worth something.
He’s off to a good start.
And so are we.
Because we show up here.
To worship the living God--
To meet Jesus.
And every Sunday--
The service ends with a blessing.
A blessing that sends us out to be a blessing to others.
To help others DO something.
And it’s with great responsibility that we take that blessing on.
Like Abraham: to be willing--
To be transformed and changed--
To be willing--
To be reborn--
To be willing--
To let go of the past.
To let go of what we know.
And to be willing:
To be open to something new--
To be open to someone new--
And to be a responsible blessing to all we meet.
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