Blessings Shared with Others

One of the moments that captures my joy as a pastor is when I have the opportunity to speak the words of the benediction. I speak words of benediction at the end of the worship service. I also speak these words during hospital visits and whenever I want to leave a person with confidence in the graciousness of the Lord God.

I recall visiting a woman in the hospital and speaking the words of the benediction. With my lips I said the words and with my hand I made the sign of the cross upon her forehead. As I spoke the words I found her lips moving along with mine, “The Lord bless you and keep you. The Lord make His face shine on you and be gracious to you. The Lord look upon you with favor and give you peace.” The woman answered my words of benediction, by saying, “Thank you.” I know that her gratitude was not only directed towards my visit, but more importantly she was thankful to God that she could trust in His blessing of peace and grace.

These words of blessing that I enjoy sharing are from Numbers 6:24-26. This benediction is known as the Aaronic Benediction because the Lord God spoke to Moses these words of blessing with the command that Moses should teach these words to Aaron and his sons. God desired the priests of Israel to share with the people that their Lord God desired them to blessed with peace.

The people in the Old Testament, in the New Testament, and still now trust in the graciousness, favor, and peace bestowed by God. The Lord our God who created all that is seen and unseen seeks to bless His people. The words of this benediction express our faith that the Lord is the giver of blessing. When we share the blessings of God with people, we declare to them the good news of Jesus Christ and affirm that we are claimed and loved by God.

When I speak the words of the benediction, I make the sign of the cross. I remember that God delivers to us His peace through the work of the cross when I make the sign of the cross. The sign of the cross for me is a wonderful devotional aid because I find it an expression of unity between my heart, my lips, and my body. I desire all of me to trust in God through the mercy of Jesus. The sign of the cross is a gesture to recall the salvation that God has made available to us through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

You do not need to be a pastor to speak words of blessing to someone. All Christians who know the hope and promise of Jesus will find themselves in moments when God use them to share words of blessing. When you see that people are in need of the peace and joy of God’s presence, assure them that the Lord does desires peace for them. Please do not assume that a person has enough peace that you can walk past him or her or count on someone else to share the joy of Jesus Christ. Take the time to share with a person your confidence that the Lord does look upon him or her with favor. When you do deliver words of blessing to someone, discover the profound way that touch can communicate peace and joy. Make sure you use touch that is non-threatening, respectful, and communicates the love of Christ. You could place one hand on the person’s shoulder and with the other hand trace a cross on the person’s forehead. Then hold both of the person’s hands in yours while making eye contact and speaking the benediction. Depending on the level of relationship with a person head-touching will be considered rude or confusing so always ask permission before making a blessing in this way. With good eye contact, speak the words of blessing. Deliver the blessing with the conviction that God’s peace and favor is a free gift you are offering to the person.

blessing

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Peacemaking

Staying on top of conflict so that community is restored and strengthened is difficult. I appreciate the counsel of Peacemaker Ministries. In their description of the slippery slope of conflict describe what triggers most conflict. When I have unmet desires, differing expectations, or minor differences I can evolve into a play for control that drops off into either an escape response or an attack response.

While I would love if all my responses would stay geared towards peacemaking, I respect the reality that I do not always succeed.

Escape responses come from a desire to avoid unpleasant people or situations instead of trying to resolve differences.

Attack responses are evidence of a desire to hold on to power and control instead of preserving a relationship.

Power is the currency in both escape responses and attack responses.

How do my responses to unmet desires or confused expectations change when I do not look at the issue in terms of power and instead seek the view of grace?

The grace of God is the truth that God has made peace with us and between us through Jesus Christ. A peacemaking response builds on the strength of love, mercy, forgiveness, and wisdom.

The love of God in Christ Jesus transforms the relationship I have with God, and I am thankful that the compassion of Jesus Christ transforms the way I view my relationships with others.

 

Blessed are the peacemakers

Matthew 5:9 “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.”

James 3:18 “And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.”

Conflict with people I care about is difficult for me. Wouldn’t it be great if we could all get along? I so long for the Biblical image of heaven in which we all sing with one voice our praises of God. I wish that there were not so many different church denominations. We confess that we believe in the one, holy, Christian, apostolic church, but yet we have an alphabet soup of denominations.

On the church sign at St. Paul Lutheran Church in Hamburg, Michigan are the letters LCMS (Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod). St. Paul Lutheran Church is a member congregation of The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod. The LCMS has been around since 1847 when German immigrants established a new church body in America. Our church body was largely founded by immigrants that had left Germany because they were seeking the freedom to practice and follow their faith.

I want to explain in this article briefly why our congregation is a member of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod. The LCMS believes, teaches, and confesses that in Christ alone there is salvation – by grace alone, through faith alone, on the basis of Scripture alone. The LCMS is a creedal church. We define ourselves by our creeds or confessions which state what we understand to be the teachings of the Bible. I appreciate that our unity is based on the truth of Scripture. The LCMS and every member of the synod “accepts without reservation the Scriptures of the Old and New Testament as the written Word of God and the only rule and norm of faith and practice” and all the writings in the Book of Concord as “a true and unadulterated statement and exposition of the Word of God” (LCMS Constitution II).

Martin Luther and other founding members of the Lutheran church did not want to be innovative in their teaching. We continue to be a conservative church. We seek to conserve in our teaching nothing more and nothing less than what the Scriptures themselves teach and what Christians have always believed. At the heart and core of everything we believe and teach is the Gospel, the good news of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ for the sins of the whole world.

There will be controversies in each generation that seek to push the church away from relying on the authority of Holy Scripture as the inspired and inerrant Word of God. For instance, with a desire to love other people, some may believe it is necessary to bend the teaching of the church on certain sins. The level of discomfort you may have in a conversation with a friend can quickly increase when talking about how certain behaviors are sinful. You may have found yourself censoring some of your conversations because you desire to keep the peace and avoid any conflict. We do not bring peace by avoiding the topic of sin or by accepting sin. Sin separates us from a loving God and from those He seeks to love.

When there is sin, the only peace I know that will last for eternity is found in Jesus Christ. I know that I do not like conflict with people I care about. I also know that true peace with God and with those I care about is not found in silence. The center of our salvation is the forgiveness of sin, and so we cannot afford to ignore sin. Sin is a problem and silence will not resolve this problem. You will not have peace with God or with others by ignoring sin. Peace with God and so therefore peace with others is found in the faith that Christ alone forgives our sins.

Where can I find God?

The disciples, on the night of the resurrection of our Lord, were locked in the room. They not only barricaded the door but they were also locked in fear. But into this moment of fear Jesus came and stood among them. Jesus greeted his disciples with words of peace.

We may take it for granted that Jesus would speak tender words of peace to his disciples, but that tenderness is only understandable from a place of grace. The unconditional love of Jesus is witnessed in this barricaded room.

If we think back to the disciples behavior over the last few days, they denied Jesus and all scattered as he was arrested in the garden, we could expect Jesus to speak harshly to them with words of rebuke. Jesus calmed their fears.

Jesus showed them his hands and his side and demonstrated that he is the risen Lord. They could have thought they were seeing a ghost, but Jesus clearly identified himself.

Jesus entered into that barricaded room just as he entered into the inviolate womb of his mother. The fear of that room could not hold Jesus away from bringing his words of peace, just as the stone in front of the tomb could not stop Jesus from bringing his life to the world.

Jesus is the one that comes to our world that is filled with the disobedience of sin. Jesus is the one that has gone into our despair filled tombs. Jesus is the one that comes into our fear filled hearts.

When I want to know where God is today, I can look back and see that God has continually revealed himself in grace present for you and me. Present in the flesh, present in my death, present in my fear.

So I know where the grace filled presence of Jesus has been in the past. I know he was there in the flesh through the womb of Mary. I know he was on that cross and in that tomb. I know that he rose from the dead and appeared to the disciples as they locked themselves in fear. So I know where he was in the past, but where can I find God now?

Where do you look for God?

Jesus was not far away from the disciples in that fear filled room but revealed himself.

Peace be with you, “It is as if Jesus said, ‘I am the one that brings peace between you and God. I am the one that suffered your sin on the cross. I am the one that rose from the dead. I am the one that has defeated the grip of the devil upon you. I am the one that brings the peace that surpasses all understanding and I am bringing this peace to you now, even while you are in fear.

The devil makes great efforts to battle with us as he sows seeds of despair. We find whispered into our ears all sorts of causes to doubt and we fight against this evil foe by holding onto the peace giving grace filled presence of our savior Jesus Christ. The foundation that we build on will not be knocked down by the wickedness of the evil one. We will not become divided by the suspicions sowed in secret by Satan. We will be united with Christ as our peace.