Tuesday, February 04, 2014

Blessing = Resilience

1 Corinthians 1: 18-31; Matthew 5: 1-12
New Ark United Church of Christ, Newark, DE
February 2, 2014


Earlier this week on Facebook and Twitter, I posed some questions about blessing and resilience. “What does it mean to you to be blessed? How do you experience blessing?” Many folks counted family and friends as their most precious blessings. One person responded “good healthcare”. A friend in Connecticut answered with his singular wit, “just after I’ve sneezed”. Others said words like gratitude, connecting with nature, being able to give, that each moment is a blessing.

I didn’t get any response on Twitter, but when I searched for #blessing, the number of tweets about blessing was overwhelming! Go look on Twitter if for no other reason than to search for hashtagged words of encouragement. In 30 minutes there were almost 300 new tweets about blessing. “Thanking God for perspective and the ability to let past hurts go. We can't embrace the now if we are holding on to yesterday!” “Don't place limits on what you can do! One open door usually leads to another!” “Sometimes I have to remind myself that on my worst day I live like somebody on their greatest.” “You have more to be thankful for than to be worried about.” Someone on a daddy/daughter date. A few marijuana smokers feeling blessed for not getting caught. Young adults giving thanks for their parents. Parents giving thanks for their children. Students feeling blessed for a good grade, a friend, a teacher. And on it went.

What does it mean to you to be blessed? How do you experience blessing?

 (Put your response in the comments.)

Wednesday evening we hosted yet another Code Purple [1], the tenth one called in a span of 13 days, 21 in all since the cold weather began. When I asked one gentleman how he was doing that evening, he said, “I’m blessed.” I knew needed to hear more about that.

After folks had served themselves some dinner, I approached this blessed man whom I’ll call Dylan. I said to him, “When you came in, you said that you are blessed. What made you say that?” He replied, “I woke up this morning. That makes me blessed.” You can’t get any simpler than that.

I saw a lot of that on Twitter as well: I woke up this morning; God gave me another day; I’m alive and paid. When Jesus says that the poor in spirit are blessed, they still have another day to experience the kingdom of God, right now. When Jesus says that those who mourn are blessed, they still have another day to be comforted by those who love them and by the deep love of God. When Jesus says that the meek or humble are blessed, they still have another day to come into all the goodness of this earth.

We’re all blessed for the essential reason that we are here, right now. And that has the power to build resilience in us: the ability to see our way, to help another see their way through to another day. That was the second question I asked on Facebook and Twitter: “Do you think of yourself as a resilient person? What do you think helps you sustain a sense of resilience?” Many Facebook friends equated resilience with possessing a stubborn streak. Others cited keeping one’s life and experiences in perspective, surviving the hard times, knowing that things will change eventually, being flexible in all circumstances, excitement about the possibilities. Some folks said that practices like prayer, meditation, worship, service to others, and Communion helped keep them resilient.

(Put your response in the comments.)

For me, it demands more than stubbornness; resilience requires joy, if it is to last. Not happiness, which is fleeting, but joy, which is foolishness to the world. Joy is what has the power to sustain us in a stubbornly loving way, like God. Author Father Gregory Boyle calls it “no-matter-whatness”, that God loves us, no matter what, God’s stubborn refusal to let us out of God’s everlasting love. And it is out of this love, this sense of blessedness, that our joy is sustained, that we are able to remain buoyant and resilient.

I said to my friend Dylan that it appeared he was a resilient person. Where did his resilience come from, I wondered. He said it came from his mother. Even though he is a grown man, she still gets on his case, he said. From her strength, he draws strength.

None of this we do alone. Even as we approach this table, we do so with a God whose love for us is stubborn and foolish and joyful and resilient. And so we can approach this table as we are and know we are blessed—because here we are, with each other, ready to do and be this foolish business called church, the Body of Christ. Which gives us the power, the strength, the resilience to love each other, to love those whom we serve, to love ourselves, to love anyone with the same bull-headed, no-matter-whatness love that God showers on us each day.

Every Sunday I try to remember to say “I’m glad you’re here” because I AM glad you’re here. What if we all woke up every day and said, “I’m glad I’m here”? What if we behaved with everyone we encounter as if we are glad they are here too, even if we don’t think or they don’t’ think they deserve it? Blessed equals resilience. Sounds pretty foolish, doesn’t it?  Good!   Amen.

[1] Code Purple is an initiative of the Newark Empowerment Center and Friendship House of Wilmington. Eight (8) Newark churches rotate through hosting homeless folks for the night when temperatures fall below 20⁰F.


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