Pastor Galen May 26th, 2019
Psalm 67; John 14:23-29
Blessed to Be a Blessing
This morning I want to draw our attention to Psalm 67, which reminds us that the blessings that we have been given are not just for ourselves, but if we have been blessed, then those blessings are meant to be shared. The psalmist says
May God be gracious to us and bless us
and make his face to shine upon us, Selah
that your way may be known upon earth,
your saving power among all nations. (Psalm 67:1-2)
When God blesses us it is so that we can demonstrate God’s goodness and love to the world. We have been blessed to be a blessing to others.
The concept of “blessed to be a blessing” actually comes from the call of Abraham in Genesis chapter 12. God called Abraham to leave his homeland and everything that he knew and to travel to a place that God would reveal to him after he started out on his journey. When God called Abraham, God told him that he would make his name great, that God will bless Abraham, and that through him all the families of the earth would be blessed (Gen 12:3).
This idea is repeated throughout the Hebrew Bible, as the psalmists and the prophets reminded the people of Israel that they had been chosen for a purpose — to carry God’s light to the nations. So often the people of Israel forgot their purpose, so often they lost track of why they had been chosen — they were not chosen just to be God special people so that they could keep God’s blessings for themselves, but they were chosen to reveal God’s works and saving power to the whole world.
This principle was modeled for us in the life of Jesus, who, according to the book of Acts, “went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him” (Acts 10:38). Even in our Gospel Lesson for today, as Jesus was approaching the end of his time on earth he was still looking out for his friends and disciples — giving them instructions for what to do when he was gone, sharing God’s peace with them, and promising them and us the power of the Holy Spirit. Jesus didn’t just keep God’s blessings to himself — he lived his life as a blessing to others, ultimately giving his life as a sacrifice for us. Jesus was blessed to be a blessing.
Kings and Queens Would Be Jealous
Living in the U.S. in the twenty-first century, we are truly blessed. True, there are many people in our country who struggle on a daily basis to make ends meet, many people who are not treated fairly, many people who are struggling. But overall, as a nation, we have it pretty good. We have access to wonderful medical care and free public education. Our stores are well stocked with a wide variety of food and products from all around the world which we can buy at any time of the year.
Not only that, but we have access to comforts and technology that not even the wealthiest people in the world had access to for most of human history. For example, we have running water and electricity! Throughout human history (and still in many parts of the world today) people had to walk long distances to get water to drink, cook with, and bathe in. In contrast, all we have to do is turn on the faucet and we can get clean, safe, drinkable water anytime we want it. We even take baths and flush our toilets with water that would otherwise be safe enough to drink!
Not only that but many of us have air conditioning to keep us cool in the summer, and furnaces to keep us warm in the winter. We can fly across the country within a few hours. We can send messages instantly to friends and loved ones halfway around the world in a matter of a few seconds.
In many ways, the average American today lives better than Kings and Queens throughout most of human history. King Solomon, and Queen Esther would be jealous if they saw how we lived today!
We are blessed.
The Blessings We have Are Not Just For Us
Now there’s nothing wrong with appreciating and enjoying these modern conveniences that we have. I for one am grateful for modern technology, and I’m extremely thankful for modern medicine!
But it’s important to remember that not everyone in our world has access to all of the wonderful things we have access to. And so, as much as we can, we should seek to share what we have, and to work for justice and equality in our world, so that everyone throughout the world has access to what they need.
That’s one of the reasons why we support UMCOR, the United Methodist Committee on Relief which “brings God’s hope, healing and renewal to people whose lives have been disrupted by war, conflict or natural disaster” in more than 80 countries around the world, including the U.S.
And of course, our church is also involved in meeting the physical needs of people right here in our community, by housing the weekly Food Pantry and thrift store. This is a tangible way that we as a church community are seeking to make God’s ways known upon the earth, and God’s saving power known among all nations.
A Wealth of Wisdom and Experiences
On an individual level, I want to remind us that every blessing you’ve been given is not just for yourself, but it’s also meant to be shared. It’s so easy to focus on what we don’t have, what we wish we had, what we’d do or buy if we had the money or the time, that’s it’s easy to lose sight of what we already have.
As I look around the sanctuary today, I see a lot of wealthy people. Maybe not wealthy in terms of money or resources, but wealthy in terms of wisdom and experiences. You all have been through a lot. You’ve seen a lot. And through all of the experiences that you’ve been through in life, you’ve learned a lot, and you’ve been blessed with a lot of wisdom.
I’m here this morning to tell you that the lessons you’ve learned and the wisdom you’ve gained is not just for you. It’s meant to be shared.
Now there may not be a lot of people coming to you asking for your sage advice. Unfortunately in our world today with all of our modern technology and capacity for communication, we rarely take the take for face-to-face conversations. But if you have been given knowledge and wisdom, it is your responsibility to share that with others.
And so I would encourage you, I would challenge you, to write down your experiences. Write down some of the lessons that you’ve learned. Or record them. If you have a smartphone, then you have the power to record your life-story in the palm of your hands. There are many free apps you can download to easily record yourself speaking. If you’re not sure how to do that, ask your children, grandchildren, or any teenager. Use a pen and paper if you have to. But share your story, pass your wisdom along to the next generation. Your children and grandchildren may not thank you for it now, but someday they will. My grandparents passed away when I was young, and I wish I had been able to glean more of their wisdom and learn from their experiences before they passed away.
Sharing the Blessing of Our Church Building
Not only have we been blessed as a nation and as individuals, but we have also been blessed as a congregation. Every week we come together to worship God in this beautiful sanctuary, with beautiful stained glass windows, and more than enough space for our congregation.
And God has been so faithful to our congregation over the past 150 years. Since I became your pastor in July, I’ve so many wonderful stories about the wide variety of ministries that took place in this building over the years. From the Emmanuel Men’s Bible class and Queen Esther Women’s Bible study, to the Good News Puppets, Clown ministry, to theatrical productions and choir concerts, God has worked in and through the people of this church to bless the community in Hampden in so many ways.
And now we’re entering into a new season, a season where at least for the next few months we’re going to be sharing our building and our sanctuary with another congregation. This is going to be a big adjustment for us — not only are we adjusting the time of our Sunday services, but we’re clearing out some space and making way for them to bring in some of their own equipment. They’ll be using our children’s ministry space, youth room, and fellowship hall at various points throughout the week.
This is a big change on our part, and it’s going to take some time to get used to. And yet I am trusting and believing that as we share the blessings that we have been given, that this will serve to bolster not only our own ministry in this community, but it will also help more people in the community of Hampden hear about Jesus and experience God’s saving power. Because in the end, the blessings we have been given are not just for ourselves — they are meant to be shared. We have been blessed to be a blessing.
I’d like to end by reading Psalm 67 from the Message paraphrase translation of the Bible:
God, mark us with grace
and blessing! Smile!
The whole country will see how you work,
all the godless nations see how you save.
God! Let people thank and enjoy you.
Let all people thank and enjoy you.
Let all far-flung people become happy
and shout their happiness because
You judge them fair and square,
you tend the far-flung peoples.
God! Let people thank and enjoy you.
Let all people thank and enjoy you.
Earth, display your exuberance!
You mark us with blessing, O God, our God.
You mark us with blessing, O God.
Earth’s four corners—honor him!