22 The LORD spoke to Moses, saying: 23 Speak to Aaron and his sons, saying, Thus you shall bless the Israelites: You shall say to them, 24 The LORD bless you and keep you; 25 the LORD make his face to shine upon you, and be gracious to you; 26 the LORD lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace. 27 So they shall put my name on the Israelites, and I will bless them. -Numbers 6:22-27
“The Lord bless you and keep you,” Grandpa said. “The Lord make his face to shine upon you, and be gracious unto you. The Lord lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace.”
They’re the words of blessing that my grandfather spoke every Sunday morning at the end of Sunday School. While my cousins and I were in our Sunday School classes, Grandpa led the adult Sunday School lesson. As a child, I never gave much thought to what the grown-ups were studying out in the sanctuary — though I’m told that most of the lessons involved an exploration of the relationship between the gospel and antique cars. (My grandfather has a unique ability to relate anything to antique cars.) At the end of our Sunday School lessons, the kids would join the adults in the sanctuary, we’d sing three verses of a hymn (first, second, and last verse, always), and then Grandpa would end the Sunday School hour with words of blessing.
“The Lord bless you and keep you,” Grandpa said, week after week. “The Lord make his face to shine upon you, and be gracious unto you. The Lord lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace.”
Confession time, church: it took me years to realize that these words of blessing came from the Bible. I didn’t know they were God’s words… I just thought they were Grandpa’s words. Grandpa was the one who spoke them every Sunday morning. Naturally, I thought Grandpa made them up.
I learned them not by reading the scriptures, but by hearing them week after week, season after season, year after year. (Even now, when I read through the book of Numbers and come across these words, I hear my grandfather’s voice in my mind’s ear.) And while I tend to be more of a visual learner, a person who learns by seeing and reading… I find it’s the things I’ve heard, over and over, that are most ingrained in me. These words of blessing have been in my mind and at my fingertips for as long as I can remember… for longer than I’ve known what words like “gracious” or “countenance” even mean. Thanks to Grandpa, I’ve never had to search for words of blessing. They’ve always been there, always at the ready.
At the end of my Zoom Bible study this week, in place of a closing prayer, I offered these words of blessing from the book of Numbers, from God and Moses, from my Grandpa, from my childhood: “The Lord bless you and keep you. The Lord make his face to shine upon you, and be gracious unto you. The Lord lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace.”
We’re living in a hard time, friends. It’s a time in which the people around us may need a word of blessing. But it’s also a time in which we ourselves might be struggling, might not have a spare syllable of blessing to offer, especially in our darker moments. How do we offer blessing in the moments when we’re not really feeling it?
How? These words, for a start. I offer you these words. Claim them as your own. Repeat them to yourself, over and over. Keep them at the ready. And at some moment, a moment the Spirit provides, may you offer them to someone else. “The Lord bless you and keep you. The Lord make his face to shine upon you, and be gracious unto you. The Lord lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace.” As people blessing people, be ready to offer that blessing to others.
Our God is bigger than coronavirus.
Our vision is bigger than coronavirus, too.
We are people blessing people.
We are Wesley Church.
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