What a school year it has been…I have seen joy and laughter; I have seen uncertainty and pain. Many people I know, especially teachers, have reached points of complete exhaustion along the way. I too have felt the weariness. These two-plus years of “the pandemic that won’t quite end” have taken a toll. I feel it when I sit next to a college student who is uncertain of his skills and afraid for his future. I feel it as I observe the elementary student with social anxiety who isn’t sure who her true friends are. I feel it when I see the young teacher who spent a year teaching online, and a year teaching 25 traumatized kids at 25 different levels, who is now questioning her calling. I feel it on those days when I wonder why I am so tired and yet don’t know how to process the deep emotions I feel; when the tears feel just under the surface and a few notes of a familiar song can spill them out. Sometimes they spill out in hope, after a glimpse of beauty; sometimes they spill out in sorrow, connecting with the pain of those I see or even strangers I read about that somehow don’t feel so distant because of our common humanity.
I am constantly moving Managing to stay afloat. I am determined to keep pressing on, Yet uncertain if I am getting anywhere. Will weariness defeat me?
I fear if I stop, I will start to sink; Resting feels out of reach. I am both inadequate and overconfident, Thinking I alone must keep my people safe. Will fear disable me?
I long for more than staying afloat, Desiring impact, meaning, love, change. I want to grow and help others grow, To swim toward a peace-filled shore. Will dependence strengthen me?
I will never give up. Yet it won’t be because of me, but as I depend on the Lord’s strength. He has loved me with a steadfast love. I always tell the girls that I mentor to “take the long-term view.” God will not leave us and he is not done loving us and transforming us for our good as we walk with Him. When I have trouble following my own advice, I need to once again fix my eyes on Jesus and trust in him! (Phil 1:6; Heb 12:2; Isaiah 26:3; Prov 3:5-6).
A final talk to seniors and students heading info finals…and I hope a blessing to you
I want to pray a blessing over you all, a blessing for your finals, a blessing for the summer, a blessing for your post-college life.
I’m sure for some of you, you’ve never had a blessing prayed over you.
I’m sure for just about every one of you, you have a vague sense of what I’m talking about, but you’re not really sure.
Blessing. What is a blessing? What is this idea?
Some of you when you go home may be asked to give a blessing at a meal. (This happens to me a lot, now that I’m a professional Christian)
Blessing to get engaged
Sometimes say ‘bless you’ when someone sneezes.
But what is its meaning?
Bible: Genesis 1:22 — God makes animals, then it says, Genesis 1:22 — And God blessed them, saying, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the waters in the seas, and let birds multiply on the earth.” (ESV)
Genesis 1:28 — And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” (ESV)
Genesis 2:3 — So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation. (ESV)
So we see that blessing has two ideas:
God’s favor: His positive inclination towards something or someone. It is the promise of a more powerful person to give, to protect, to bless, the lesser. It’s entering into a relationship with them for their good. All the life we see around us is because God has blessed the living creatures of the earth to have life. All the people of the earth are blessed to produce more life, as well as to be good stewards over the other things God has blessed. We are blessed with responsibilities. To bless is to give favor
Consecration: God blessed the seventh day, the day of rest. He set it aside as a day of rest to people, because we need that rest. When Israel were slaves in Egypt, they had no days off. I wonder, are we slaves to our work and school in America? God blessed the day off to worship God through rest, through praise and thanksgiving. To bless is to consecrate it.
These two blessings fall to all people. It’s called God’s common grace.
There is another blessing God gives called a covenant.
Covenant: God’s special relationship for favor and consecration, to set apart people for a more specific purpose. We see this in Genesis 12:1–3
Now the LORD said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” (ESV)
God made a special partnership with Abraham, to bless Him, so that through Him, all the other families of the earth, the other tribes, cultures, people groups, could experience the blessing of God’s covenant with them.
Which brings up the opposite of a blessing…a curse.
To be blessed by God is the most wonderful thing you can possibly have, but that isn’t the default of the world God’s common grace is the default, but we are separated from God’s covenant because we’re all under the curse.
The curse is when death and destruction come, when things fall apart.
How did this happen, how does this happen?
When God put our first parents in the garden he put before them two trees. The tree of blessing, called the tree of life, and the tree of the knowledge of good and bad. They were to trust God to define right and wrong, trust God to live for Him, not for themselves, and thus eat from the tree of life, experiencing that covenant relationship of love.
But the deceiver came, and tricked them. God had told Adam and Eve that they day they eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and bad, that death would come…not that God would kill them, but that the curse would come, death would come, because they would no longer be under God’s blessing, but out on their own.
So the blessing of covenant is now the main story of the Bible. How will humans get back out of the curse and into the blessing of God?
The answer lies in God Himself. What humans could not do, get back to God, God did for us.
Jesus is God who became human. He lived a life that earned God’s blessing, yet when he was about 33 years old he received now the blessing, but the curse.
When Jesus died on the cross, he took the full weight of the curse upon himself. The apostle Paul says it like this in the book of Galatians
“Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”—so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith.” (ESV)
The blessing of Abraham, that every culture and people would be blessed through his offspring comes to us through Jesus, because he took the curse.
He was cursed so that we could be blessed.
We can experience the blessing of God, because God himself took the curse for us.
Now let me read the ancient blessing that God commanded the tribe of Israel, the descendants of Abraham to speak over one another.
The LORD spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to Aaron and his sons, saying, Thus you shall bless the people of Israel: you shall say to them,
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. (ESV)