Today’s reflection is for The Baptism of the Lord, January 13, 2019. Click here for the readings.
Jesus’ Father gives him an amazing gift in the Gospel reading today–his blessing. We heard that, “A voice came from heaven, ‘You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.’” Isn’t that beautiful? This morning I’m going to talk with you about the power of a blessing and the destructiveness of bashing, and then I’ll challenge you to be a balcony person.
As Jesus rises up out of the water his father says to him, you are my beloved…I love you…you make me so happy. What a great thing for a parent to say to their child, and for a child to hear from their parent! In those few words, Jesus knows without a doubt that he is seen and loved by his father. That’s quite a blessing, and it’s that blessing that energizes and empowers Jesus to fulfil his mission and ministry.
The word, “blessing,” was the word used in Old English Bibles to translate the Latin word, “benedicere” which means “to speak well of,” or “to praise.” In Portuguese, that would be “bem dito.” That’s what a blessing is…it’s a good word!
In Portuguese culture, kids are taught to approach their elders for a daily blessing. The Portuguese word for blessing is “bênçã.” So, growing up, I would say, “mãe sua bênçã,” mother your blessing, or “avô sua bênçã,” grandfather, your blessing. The response is, “Deus te abençoou.” They say, “God has blessed you.”
I just want you to dream with me for a bit about a culture or a Kingdom where each morning a child rises, invokes the blessing of their parent only discover to their great joy that they are not only seen and loved by their parent, but they are seen and loved by God. They’ve been loved first thing in the morning. They go off to school with a little pep in their step. They get to school and seek their teacher’s “good word” and it is given. Aware of their own goodness, they in turn affirm the goodness of others. The kids in this kingdom are rooted in God, loved by their parents, and treat others with dignity and respect. Sound familiar? It’s the Kingdom of God, isn’t it? Jesus said, “The Kingdom of God is at hand.” So, the question is, “Is the Kingdom of God at hand for you, for your family, at school, or at your work? I think maybe we could use a lot more blessing in the Kingdom!
A parent’s blessing lifts up and manifests the Kingdom, but tragically, a parent’s bashing breaks down. It is not the Kingdom of God, but the kingdom of brokenness and of sin–and it has no place in our homes, in our schools, in our workplace, or world.
As the dean of students, I deal with a lot of miscreants! You might think I would be filled with righteous anger as one student tramples upon the dignity of another, or be furious that a student would bring drugs or a knife on campus; but actually, it’s the opposite. My worst offenders don’t make me angry, they make me sick. They make me sad. Absentee parents, violent parents, addicted parents, abusive parents. This is the product of bashing. The truth is that the most broken need the greatest blessing… but when their parents don’t bless them, I do. A kind word, a word of encouragement. A chance to start over.
I didn’t have a Father that blessed me. But my wrestling coaches did bless me–Coach Belew, Evans, and Clementi. And my 6th grade teacher, Mrs. Nevins, she blessed me. Always praising, always challenging, always uplifting! My coaches and teachers made the Kingdom of God present to me.
You see, everyone needs someone in their balcony. You know what a balcony person is, right? That’s the person hootin’ and holerin’ for you as you do your best! Jesus had John the Baptist AND God the Father in his balcony! They were up there talkin’ him up, rootin’ him on, and encouraging him to greatness! God says, “That’s my boy, right there!” “I see you! I love you! You’re makin’ me proud!” and John the Baptist says to the crowd, “You think I’m great? Just wait til you see my cousin! This guy’s amazing! I’m not worthy!” Everyone needs a balcony person. Think for a moment..who was the balcony person in your life? Now think again, would anyone name you as the person in their balcony? Your wife? Your kids? Your grandkids? Do you see them, do you love them? Do you bless them? How about your co-workers? The guests at the men’s shelter? The poor on the street? Do you uplift? Do you encourage? Do you give others a benedicere?
To close, I want to challenge you this week to grow the Kingdom of God by blessing, and to destroy the Kingdom of sin by not bashing. Seven is a holy and good number and I’m going to challenge each of you to consciously give seven blessings everyday this week. Jesus changed the world with his father’s blessing. And you can inspire others to change the world with yours. God sees you. He loves you. He is so very pleased with you. Amen.