Thought for the week

It’s hard to remember when and where we learned to say ‘Bless you’ when somebody sneezes. It’s an automatic reflex reaction for many of us, and I don’t suppose most people think either of God or what ‘bless’ means when they say it. In fact, some people even feel it’s rude not to say ‘bless you’ – whether they believe in God or not. Dr Gail Saltz (a psychiatry professor at a New York medical college) describes it as:

‘An utterance without specific meaning other than a response to a sneeze that is considered to be polite.’ It’s just what you do when someone sneezes. But is that all a blessing is? Is it just an utterance without specific meaning? 

In the same way, most acts of worship end with a blessing of some kind. Is that just a liturgical full stop, words spoken but without any significant impact or meaning? 

Jesus told the 70 that whenever they entered a house the first thing they should say was, ‘Peace to this house.’ Are these empty words? Is this just a fancy way of saying ‘Hi folks’? Clearly it is not, because Jesus goes on to say (Luke 10.6): ‘And if anyone is there who shares in peace, your peace will rest on that person; but if not, it will return to you.’ Jesus describes peace as a unifying facet of our lives. It is as if we each have a portion of peace that we can offer. But this peace can never just hang about in the air. It is either received – and thus enriches the heart of the recipient – or it bounces back to the one who is offering it. God’s Spirit works to enhance the relationship between the one who offers and the one who accepts. 

If you ever have been in a situation of offering to shake a person’s hand and been rejected, you will know that it is an unpleasant and awkward situation to be in. However, in the end you will be at peace with yourself because you stretched out the hand of friendship. You did the right thing even though that which you offered has bounced back, as it were, into your stock. It demonstrates that a blessing is an act of love; it reveals a desire for the other person to beprotected, and it is motivated by a hope that they will remain whole. May God bless you.

If you ever have been in a situation of offering to shake a person’s hand and been rejected, you will know that it is an unpleasant and awkward situation to be in. However, in the end you will be at peace with yourself because you stretched out the hand of friendship. You did the right thing even though that which you offered has bounced back, as it were, into your stock. It demonstrates that a blessing is an act of love; it reveals a desire for the other person to beprotected, and it is motivated by a hope that they will remain whole. May God bless you.

Thought for the week – © ROOTS for Churches Ltd 2002-2022. Reproduced with permission 

Blessed be you, Lord God, for your forgiveness.
Blessed be you, Lord God, for your guidance.
Blessed be you, Lord God, for your acceptance of us.
Blessed be you, Lord God,
that we can know our sins, our failings, are forgiven.
Amen.

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