Blessed

10355668_10152230987351008_7401614086171778277_oGenesis 12:1-9 (The Call of Abram and Sarai)

The song, Blessed, by Lucinda Williams was played as part of the prelude to worship today.  You can listen here.

Barbara Brown Taylor, an author I love to read, says this about blessing: A blessing will have more power to transform the blesse, although transformation is not required. There is no impressive logic behind this reasoning. The only logic is that all life comes from God, and for that reason, alone we may call it blessed, leaving the rest to God. (An Altar in the World p. 204)

Blessings are an interesting thing. The video we are about to watch was a part of a series musician Lucinda Williams put together a few years ago when she released her album entitled “Blessed.” The pictures and her definition of what being blessed looks like was reflected in the people and every day stories she encountered in L.A.

The woman who speaks in this particular video doesn’t include religion in her definition of what it means to be blessed. Listen to where her musings of blessings go.

Religion is horrible, she laughs, and has nothing to do with being blessed. Then.  Then!  She names life as tragedy not because of horrible people and what they do, but because people don’t realize they are forgiven. She names the ultimate blessing.

The Lucinda Williams you heard played earlier song is a litany of blessing with no comfortable chorus to take refuge in, but instead, line after line of how it is you and I and she can be and are blessed in this life. Through tragedy and just life in general. And, at first blush, they don’t always look like how we’d traditionally define blessing — what it means to be blessed. Often, we’d list our blessings asfFamily, health, a job, a home. Listen to this litany from the song:

6a00d8341c630a53ef014e8667cfc8970dWe were blessed by the minister        Who practiced what he preached

We were blessed by the poor man      Who said heaven is within reach

We were blessed by the girl selling roses        Showed us how to live

We were blessed by the neglected child         Who knew how to forgive

We were blessed by the battered woman      Who didn’t seek revenge

We were blessed by the warrior         Who didn’t need to win

We were blessed by the blind man     Who could see for miles and miles

We were blessed by the fighter           Who didn’t fight for the prize

 

lucinda-williams-blessed-coverWe were blessed by the mother          Who gave up the child

We were blessed by the soldier          Who gave up his life

We were blessed by the teacher          Who didn’t have a degree

We were blessed by the prisoner        Who knew how to be free

 

We were blessed by the mystic          Who turned water into wine

We were blessed by the watchmaker Who gave up his time

We were blessed by the wounded man Who felt no pain

9305055_origBy the wayfaring stranger      Who knew our names

We were blessed by the homeless man           Who showed us the way home

We were blessed by the hungry man              Who filled us with love

By the little innocent baby     Who taught us the truth

We were blessed by the forlorn          Forsaken and abused

We were blessed

So today, Abram brings this Lucinda Williams song to life. Or maybe, I should say, Lucinda Williams brings to life this story from Genesis of Abram and Sarai to life.

Because Abram was blessed. God made 3 promises of blessing to him: land, descendants, that he would be a great nation.

At first glance it seems pretty great, but when you take a closer look we realize how unusual these blessings are. Take the first one: land. This was not a blessing of his homeland. It was of land that God would show him. Not now, but later. So God blessed Abram (not yet named Abraham) by making him a nomad. And, he’s an old man, not a young whipper snapper. Although he’s married, has servants and possessions. So it’s a pretty big entourage that would set up camp as they moved across the land into the unknown. The blessing of land comes with the command – GO.

The next blessing? Descendants, you know, so he can be a great nation. You’re gonna have kids, old man. And, not to blow the ending or anything but it takes 25 years for Isaac to be born with lots of missteps as Abram tries to control the situation of just how God is going to bless him. Yet God continues to work with and through Abram and blesses him.

And finally, the blessing that Abram will be a great nation for the sake of all the other nations. Blessed to be a blessing, so to speak.

lucinda_williams-blessedNone of these blessings are obvious. None of them are on Abram’s time table. And none are to be private and personal blessings, but always a blessing that serves to bless others. And time and again, Abram doubts the blessing and the direction God has sent him and tries his own ways and always, always, always gets into trouble. Yet God still follows through on those blessings. Following Abram in his missteps, backtracking with Abram, and working out the blessings in his life.

What does it mean to be blessed – now that you’ve peeked into Abram’s life and heard this litany of every day blessing?

One thing is for sure, blessings are often unexpected and don’t always look the way we imagined them. We can be blessed through terrible times and absolute tragedy just as we are in the deeply joyful times. It seems our lives, just gathered together in this room, are reflection enough of the deep complexity of what it means to be alive and to be blessed. Sometimes a blessing starts out in the roughest most hidden way. After all, all Abram and Sarai were told was go. And it wasn’t a smooth, direct path of going.

I hope you can see that we are involved in this work of God. We are involved in going out to be a blessing in the name of God to all the world. To all nations of the world. We are sent to be a blessing. And because we are blessed by God, we are well equipped to bless others. I want you to hear just how well equipped you are to be a blessing from these words from Barbara Brown Taylor:

Excerpts from the chapter The Practice of Pronouncing Blessings in An Altar in the World by Barbara Brown Taylor.  The following link more or less covers what I read in worship.

http://www.oprah.com/spirit/An-Altar-in-the-World-Excerpt-Barbara-Brown-Taylor_1

Blessing from God is felt and experienced in the heft of a stone, as Abram built an altar in thanksgiving to and praise of God’s faithfulness and love. Blessing from God is felt in the light touch of frail and aged flesh, resting on a head with whispered and raspy blessing. Blessings are given at the end of things so that new things can begin in God’s name. You are blessed by God to bless others. Each and every one of you. It is a mighty thing. It is a common, every day thing. It is a God thing. It is a you thing.

Thanks be to God.

Amen

10622741_10154603398160564_953541777280083029_nPost Sermon Connection –

In today’s story, Abram builds an altar to the Lord as they move into new land. To do such a thing in the ancient world was a way to signal praise and thanksgiving for what God has done. Today, you were given a rock as you came into worship. There should be sharpie markers scattered throughout the congregation too. Take a moment and talk with those next to you about the blessing God has given to you. Maybe it’s the blessing of faith or family. Or, how is it God has used or is using you to bless others in this life? Write it on that rock and talk about it together.

 

In a few minutes, we’re going to sing Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing. During this song, we sing a peculiar line, “Here I raise my Ebenezer. Hither by thy help I’ve come.” Ebenezer (which means “stone of help”) is a reference to 1 Samuel 7:12. After the Lord had given a great victory to Israel, “Samuel took a stone and … named it Ebenezer, saying, ‘Thus far has the Lord helped us.’ ”

We’re going to raise an Ebenezer together today, piling our stones as a marking point of God’s help. As evidence of blessing from God. As an altar of thanksgiving, made up of God’s blessing in our every day lives.

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