the story room

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Words of blessing

Throughout this past school year, I've been thinking a lot about words of blessing. It was never something I thought much about before, probably because I wasn't exposed to it all that much. However, for the past few months, I feel like I've been soaked with words of blessing.

I can actually remember the first time a blessing caught my attention. During our fall convocation a couple years ago at school, the professors held out their hands toward the student body as our chaplain offered a blessing for us...and then we held our hands out toward the faculty as he offered a blessing for them.

And as I've been regularly attending services in the Christian Reformed Church, I've come to greatly look forward to the time at the end of the service where our pastor raises his hands and speaks God's blessing to us. It has come to be a source of encouragement, refreshment, and life to me.

And these words of blessing have become so important to me that I find myself offering them to others, often so naturally that I don't always realize I do it. Back at school, when my friends and I part ways, we've often found ourselves raising our hands toward each other a little bit and saying something like, "Peace to you." And the crazy thing is that it's not forced or some kind of expression of false piety; it's so natural that we would have to try in order to not do it. These words have come up in emails a lot, too. As I correspond with fellow students and professors, there is a handful of people who often speak words of blessing and truth to me. Even something as simple as a closing line saying something like, "The grace, peace, and love of Christ be with you" has come to mean so much to me. I know the words are chosen carefully and deliberately, and are expressed in sincerity and deep faith.

I've been thinking a lot lately about why these words of blessing are as powerful as they are. And while it's still largely a mystery to me, I've come to believe that there is something mysteriously beautiful and powerful about the saints of God speaking words of blessing and truth to one another. In these words, we remind each other of the promises God has made to us and the blessings that He does, in fact, give to His children. They remind us of who we are and redirect our focus on the God who is Lord of the world, and of us all.

This past semester I took a class on the New Testament Epistles, and spent a significant amount of time studying the letters of Paul. I'm struck by the greetings and benedictions he offers, always marked by the grace and peace of Christ. I'm also struck by Paul's pervasive theme of being "in Christ", and how our union with Him consequently unites us to each other. And I can't help but think that these words of blessing also hold such power because the words are offered from people who are mysteriously (and in a very real way) united with Christ, and are spoken to others who are also united with both the one offering the blessing, and Christ Himself. It's such a pure expression of love and solidarity between brothers and sisters in Christ.

And it's beautiful.

And now, to the saints in Christ who come to read my little blog:

May the love of our Father, the peace of King Jesus, and the encouragement of the Holy Spirit be yours in Christ.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Thinking of Esther

When Esther's words were reported to Mordecai, he sent back this answer: "Do not think that because you are in the king's house you alone of all the Jews will escape. For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father's family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to royal position for such a time as this?" --Esther 4:12-14

I've found myself thinking about Esther quite a bit the last couple weeks.

I'm nervous and also very excited because I'm beginning an internship. I'm already seeing, though, that this is more than just something I'm doing to get school credit. I can see God's hand in all of this, and I feel like I'm going to learn a lot and that He is going to do amazing things through it.

A couple months back, one of my professors told me about a need in his church. The church has been very deliberate about reaching out to the surrounding community, and as a result, there are a handful of people who are involved in the church but who are brand new to the Christian faith. They're eager to learn the essentials of the Christian faith but are unsure where to start. So, the church is beginning a discipleship program whereby they can deepen their understanding and sink some roots into the faith. And the church needed someone to lead them. I'm still so amazed that I get to be involved in something so exciting. Everybody's so eager to learn, and I'm finding myself in an exciting place.

The other day I went on a walk with my friend, Tara, and she asked me about the internship. I was able to think aloud as I answered, and I told her that in some ways, I felt like Esther. In her situation, Mordecai told her that there was a job that somebody had to do. Even though she didn't feel especially equipped or even necessarily called, she accepted the task. If she didn't do it, God would have chosen somebody else to do it, and He would have been glorified. But when God presented Esther with the opportunity, she took it, and God did amazing things through her.

I feel like Esther these days because there is a very real need at this church. Our pastor recognizes that we need to act on this amazing opportunity quickly, before it passes. To echo a phrase he said in service this past Sunday, there is this "urgency of the harvest." A number of people are showing up at the church, eager to learn and literally asking to be taught.

I'm still not quite sure why God wants to involve me in all of this, but I'm very grateful for it. I'm praying that I will be faithful in the task that He's calling me to. And even though I'm nervous about how everything is going to work, I'm praying that God will keep giving me faith, that He'll use me, and that He'll work powerfully in people's lives (mine, too!).

I'm looking forward to seeing what's ahead!