Thursday, August 27, 2015

A Blessing (even if your room is messy)

I am indebted to my youngest daughter for the title of todays sermon.  I looked in on her in her room one day and it was cluttered.  (it was always cluttered)  I mentioned that her ceiling was really neat - nothing cluttering there.   I dropped in later in the afternoon and the ceiling was covered with posters.  That made me smile and I realized that I loved her  even if I couldn’t see the floor of her room.  I told her that.  
(now please don’t think that I am saying a  messy room is always ok - you may think differently than I do about that - but that is a different issue - a separate issue.
I also realize that I am talking to mostly grandparents, but we are still in the blessing business.  In fact I think that is our main business.  Parents believe that they have to train their children, but grandparents can just love them and bless them to death
In her book, MY GRANDFATHER’S BLESSINGS Rachel Remen writes about the blessings she got from her grandfather.
 On Friday afternoons when I would arrive at my grandfathers house after school, the tea would already be set on the kitchen table………After we had finished our tea my grandfather would set two candles on the table and light them.  The he would have a word with God inHebrew.  Sometimes he would speak out loud, but often he would close his eyes and be quiet.  I knew then that he was talking to God in his heart.  I would sit and wain patiently because the best part of the week was coming.When Grandpa finished talking to God, he would turn to me and say, ‘Come Neshume-le.’  Then I would stand up in front of him and he would rest his hands lightly on top of my head.  He would begin by thanking God for me and for making him my grandpa. He would specifically mention my struggles during that week and tell God something about me that was true.  Each week I would wait to find out what that was.    If I had made mistakes during the week he would mention my honesty in telling the truth.  If I had failed, he would appreciate how hard I had tried.  IF I had taken even a short nap without my nightlight, he would celebrate my bravery in sleeping in the dark.  Then he would give me his blessing and ask the long-ago women I knew from his many stories- Sarah, Rachel, Rebekah, and Leah-to watch over me. These few moments were the only time in my week when I felt completely safe and at rest.    (My Grandfathers Blessing.  Rachel Naomi Remen, M.D.  page 22)
This biblical story Laura read for us this morning reads like a play.   Jacob and Esau both wanted the same thing from their father.  I have read some explanations of the blessing, but those explanations leave me with some unanswered questions.
Why could Isaac but bless one child?
  What did the meal mean?
Why did Isaac wait until he was on his death bed to give the blessing?
I don’t find any clear answers for those questions.
On the other hand some things were very clear.
The emotional urgency of the situation  is clear.
  The desire of the blessing of a parent is clear.
   (Don’t we all want that)
Think about the depth of this longing in Jacob’s life.
He obviously had the blessing of his mother.
   But look at the lengths he was willing to go to get it from his father.
He was willing to lie and cheat;     he impersonated his brother - fraud any way you look at it.  He brought in a dish made with lamb and said that it was venison.  That is the Biblical story.
But what is the significance for our lives?
It seems to me that the blessings in our lives has something to do with the quality of the relationship we have with persons who are important to us.
It is, at the very least a deep sense of affirmation;
  a strong sense of approval;
    unconditional love.
I think that is something we all  want / need.
In the story of the prodigal son which was read a couple of weeks ago, we heard that he had the blessing of his father;  he was given his inheritance early; he was  welcomed home with a barbecue.
Think about your own life.        Who was it who blessed you?  Who was it  whose eyes lit up when you came in the room?
Who was it who gave you their love without any strings attached.
Nothing required to earn that love;  you didn’t have to keep your room neat; you didn’t have to be careful not to bring your muddy shoes into the house; or get good grades.  Nothing like that.
For me it was my grandmother Ellis; it was my aunt Mary.  (When I called my aunt to tell her that my first wife and I were getting divorced her immediate response was .  “you know I am on your side.”  She didn’t even ask if there were sides to be taken))
She knew where she stood and so did I.
That, I would suggest, is blessing.
Who was that for you?
Who was it who blessed you?
??????????  Congregation response   Who was it who blessed you?
“My family of physicians and health professionals were always struggling to learn more and to be more. It seemed there was always more to know.  It was never enough.  If i brought home a 98 on a test from school my father would ask, ‘and what happened to the other two points?’  I pursued those two points relentlessly throughout my childhood.  But my grandfather did not care about such things.  For him, I was already enough..  And somehow when I was with him, I knew with absolute certainty that this was so . . . . . . . 
Many years later when, in her extreme old age, my mother surprisingly began to light candles and talk to God herself, I told her about these blessings and what they had meant to me.  She had smiled at me sadly, ‘I have blessed you every day of your life, Rachel’ she told me. ‘I just never had to wisdom to do it out loud.’ “ (op.cit. Page 23}


Those blessings were withheld, not because Rachel was somehow unworthy. but because her mother was somehow incapable of giving them. In his play, CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF, Tenessee Williams has the oldest son, who is determined to get his father’s blessing say to his father,
“you told me to get married,  I got married.
You told me to have a child.   I had a child
You told me to become a lawyer.   I became a lawyer.
What do I have to do to please you?”
 If our parents can’t bless us they can’t bless us.  There is nothing we can do to change that.  I believe that those are times we need to look to God for blessing. I believe many of us can tell how our hearts have been warmed as we feel God’s presence; how we know with certainty that we are important to God - we receive the blessing.
I also believe that we get those blessings from other folks; we need each other.  I have a friend who talks about getting the blessing from her next door neighbor; a woman who could listen to her when her stepmother couldn’t.
As we were packing up to move to Washington a member of the congregation stopped by to say, “everything I know about unconditional love I learned from you.”  I don’t remember speficly  teaching about unconditional love but she heard it.  A shop owner brought a dozen roses to thank me for all the help I had given her.  I remember having some conversations with her, but nothing I thought of as helping.
Those were blessings - which somehow set us free to be our own best self.
I believe that a big part of being our best self is to pass the blessing on.  Jesus did that in his ministry, and we have the same power; to bless others
I think that the source of all blessings is God.  It is not something we generate within ourselves.  It comes to rest in us, and then we are called to pass it on.  Something important happens in our souls when we hear and when we speak the blessing to another person.  I find myself humbled by the power of someones blessing.
My prayer for all of us is that we have receptive and generous hearts to be able to receive and pass on the blessings which come to us.

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