Sunday, January 28, 2024



Accompanied by her husband, a young mother brings her firstborn son to public worship for the first time, at forty days old. As they come into the space and look around, an older man approaches, takes the child in his arms (always ask for, and be given, permission before doing this; and don’t take offence if permission is not forthcoming) and sings a song of praise. First, he honours God; then, he blesses the father and mother, and their child. As he does so, an older woman joins them, takes up the theme, and extends it to include others who had gathered in that place.

Simeon was not a priest, not the public face of the faith. Anna was recognised as a prophet, an oracle who spoke words of godly wisdom; but she had no official role or office. They were simply human beings who were well-soaked in the ways of God. And uttering blessings is central to such a life—not something reserved for vicars. You don’t even need to be Christian.

To bless something—whether a person, or some other part of creation, or a place, or a tool, or a circumstance—is to affirm its essential goodness. From our faith perspective, that essential goodness is God-given.

Jewish blessings always begin, ‘Blessed are you, Lord our God, King of the Universe …’

Christian blessings, which derive from Jewish blessings, are similarly framed, ‘Blessed are you, Lord God of all creation …’

If we are to bless, we first need to meet what we find, where we find it, and then pay it attention. Simeon meets Mary, Joseph, and the baby Jesus in the temple court, takes the child in his arms, and pays close attention. Then, he speaks out what he sees.

My back door faces east, and I can stand there a while and watch the sunrise. ‘Blessed are you, Lord God of all creation, giver of light and love. And blessed be you, O dawn, that paints the sky in pink and orange to welcome the day.’

Then, as I stand there, I become aware of the dawn chorus. ‘Blessed are you, Lord God of all creation, who feeds the birds of the air. And blessed be you, garden bird, who fills the sky with your song.’

Or perhaps this morning it is raining, and I can choose to be grumpy about that or I can choose to bless the rain. ‘Blessed are you, Lord God of all creation, who gives the water of life. And blessed be you, rain, that refreshes the earth.’

If we can get into the habit of blessing, it will form us over time, so that we meet all things open to the goodness hidden within them—even if that goodness is not immediately apparent. So, for example, if you fall and break your leg, ‘Blessed are you, Lord God of all creation, who has fashioned our flesh and bone. And blessed be you, O femur, who have borne my weight all these years, and who now calls me to rest and to heal.’

So, let us have a go, and together learn how to bless. Who, or what, might you bless today?


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