In the second week of the Narrative Lectionary, we go from global to local, macro to micro. With the story of Abram (Abraham), we move from the origins of the world to the origins of the people of Israel. And, this story begins with a call. God calls Abram to go. Despite the loss of safety and security that moving away from home brings, God promises blessings.
What Is a Blessing?
There are some words used in the Bible and/or church that I find “slippery.” By this I mean that I can use these words correctly, understand what they mean, but when it comes time for me to define them succinctly and simply, I have a hard time. This is especially true when it comes to explaining important biblical words to children. As I sat down to write what would later become Spirit & Truth: Teaching Kids the Heart of Worship I had to spend a few days pondering how to explain what worship is without using other complex words. “Blessing” is another one of these words.
This is somewhat ridiculous, as not only do I have a theological degree, but I even use the word “Blessings” as my standard email closing. What I have come up with (which you are welcome to disagree with) is that at its most basic level, a blessing is a good gift. “To bless” can mean a promise of a good gift, the giving of a good gift, or a prayer for a good gift. Now, when I speak of a “gift” here, I am thinking beyond the physical objects we may receive for our birthdays or at Christmas. A blessing can indeed be something physical, but when the term relates to God, it means so much more.
A blessing from God can be all sorts of things. Martin Luther lists a lot of things in his Small Catechism under “What then does ‘daily bread’ mean?” including “food, drink, clothing…good government, good weather, peace, health [etc.].” Again, a blessing can be a physical thing (like food) and it can be a general condition (like health). I think these all are included in the concept of shalom, or God’s peace. Shalom is more than an absence of conflict, but a state in which everyone has what they need for a flourishing life. All of the things that Luther lists as daily bread, and much more, contribute to this flourishing life. Every blessing from God we experience is a little bit of shalom. But, one thing is in, with, and under this shalom, these blessings: God’s unconditional love and presence with us.
Getting back to Abram, God has promised to bless Abram. God has promised to give good gifts to Abram. This will include health, prosperity, and a child from whom a great nation will come. But, most of all, God is promising a close, loving relationship with Abram. This blessing of Abram will lead to a blessing of “all the families of the earth” (v. 3). Abram’s blessing becomes our blessing. God’s relationship with Abram leads to God’s relationship with us. We receive God’s blessings, God’s shalom, in the person and work of Jesus, God’s promised Messiah and descendant of Abram. We only have the blessing God promised to Abram now in part, but it is complete in the kingdom of God.
Blessing Each Other
Along with Abram, we are also “blessed to be a blessing.” God has given us good gifts (including a loving relationship with God) so that we can share these gifts with others. God blesses us (through others), and God blesses others (through us). One way we can remind each other of this is to participate in a ritual of blessing. You can find a simple method in this week’s free activity in our Living the Word: Cross+Gen Education curriculum or download it now. This short ritual can be done in practically any setting, in a worship service or classroom, small group or family devotions.
If you are looking for more creative ways to engage people, you can find a way to act out this story as a group as well as other activities in our Living the Word: Cross+Gen Education Lesson #1-2 (God Calls Abram). You can purchase individual lessons for our Cross+Gen Worship and Cross+Gen Education products on our website. You can download them as soon as your payment is processed!
-Gregory Rawn (Publisher)
2018-2019 (NL Year 1) faith formation materials are now available for purchase! Fall, Winter and Spring lessons can be downloaded right away for most of our products, and the other Spring lessons are coming soon.
For more great ideas on how to engage participants of all ages in the story of God’s love, check out our Living the Word series for elementary students, youth, adults, and intergenerational settings!
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