“Count your blessings” we tell ourselves, by which we mean “remember to be grateful for each good thing in our lives, each thing that could have been otherwise”. We remember to be grateful for our privileges, for our gifts. We are grateful for those things which came to us, unearned, through inheritance or good luck. We are grateful for those things which resulted from our own work, which doesn’t always guarantee a particular outcome, but this time turned out the way we wanted.
“There is a blessing for almost everything in Judaism. There is a blessing for getting up in the morning, for going to sleep, for eating, for seeing wondrous things, for experiencing new things, for the occurrence of good things, for the unfortunate occurrence of bad things, for hearing the news of someone's death, for seeing someone you have not seen in a long time, for going to the bathroom, for studying Torah, for going on a journey, for fulfilling almost any religious commandment, and for just about everything else in life.“Not all of those are occasions which we would consider a blessing, but blessings are not only the good things that happen in our lives, but the sacred which can be present in the ordinary things, and the hard things too. I have often read from the poetry of Jan Richardson during these challenging times - she writes blessings for hard times, confusing times, even in grief and despair and anger. These are what some would call spiritual blessings, that we receive and know or wish for one another. In her beautiful book "Circle of Grace" Richardson writes:
“I found myself enchanted and compelled by the power of a blessing; how in the space of a few lines, the stuff of pain, grief and death becomes the very substance of hope.” [xiii]Blessings help us to be open to grace, encourage us to stay open to that which we can’t control, but most deeply wish.
“The best blessings awaken our imaginations. In places of difficult, struggle or pain, blessings beckon us to look closely rather than turn away. In such places, they challenge us not to accept how things are but to dream of how they could be transformed. They invite us to discern how God might be calling us to participate in bringing this transformation to pass [xvi-xvii]”
In our congregation, we gave out tiny jars of strawberry preserves, so I invite you now to hold in your hand or in your minds eye a jar of something delicious as you consider...
And when it is time to eat your jelly, imagine your heart and spirit being nourished as well, taste the sweetness of that blessing.
Blessings for the World
What will you do with your gifts?
Choose to bless the world."
Certainly, if you have been in grief and received comfort, if you have been lonely and been blessed with companionship, you may find you also have an increased sense of calling and capacity to notice others who might need that blessing, and some sensitivity in how to pass it along.
Once you have enjoyed the contents of your jar, I invite you , over the summer, to fill up your jar with water from wherever you find yourself, whether that be the kitchen sink, the garden hose, the water cooler at work, or the lake you visited.
I also invite you to imagine filling up your jar with blessings -- to notice, what blessings you are receiving and how do you want to bless the world? In the fall we will gather for our water in-gathering, and bless one another.
As you hold that jar in your hand, I invite you ask your deepest truest self a question we can live into all summer long:
How is each of us is called to bless the world?
How are You called to bless the world?