“Blessings! Get your blessings here! Need more blessings? Come and get them!”
It’s what I feel like on Wednesday evenings. But instead of a packed stadium, and me in my vestments tossing out blessings like peanuts at a game or like Benny Hinn at a revival, it’s the sound of the wind and traffic wheezing outside that I hear.
Some time ago my congregation began offering “Blessings in the Sanctuary” for thirty minutes prior to our Spoken Mass services on Wednesday nights. We advertised them for a couple of weeks, encouraging everyone that blessings are free of charge, and no questions asked if that was desired. Come in and say, “Bless me, pastor,” and we will do it.
Blessings are real things, after all. At the conclusion of the worship service we say, “The Lord bless you and keep you. The Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you. The Lord look upon you with favor and give you peace.” That’s more than just saying, “Hey, God loves you and have a great day,” isn’t it? Most certainly. Lutherans like to say that the Word of God is “performative.” It does what it says. If the Word of God says we are forgiven, then we are. If God says, “Light,” there is light. It does what it says. A blessing is not just well wishes or pious church-talk. It’s real.
Yet my associate and I take turns sitting by ourselves in an empty sanctuary, blessings stacked up, ready to be given out. General blessings like the one above or specific blessings for this or that situation or circumstance–it doesn’t matter. They’re loaded and ready to roar.
I don’t need to ask why we don’t have more customers to receive blessings–no strings attached. I know why we sit alone, praying and thinking, ready to bless but no one to be blessed. It’s different. Unfamiliar. It’s probably an awkward time and inconvenient. It’s not on people’s radar. Maybe it’s a trap.
But could it be that people think they’re pretty blessed anyway? That they get everything they need already, and don’t want to waste the blessing? Could it be that they get enough Church on Sundays–and the blessing at the end of the Divine Service is all the blessing they need? Could it be that they have enough love from God and don’t need more?
I think about these things sitting alone in the Sanctuary, wondering if I too would skip the extra blessing, the time with the pastor to tell him about a dilemma and asking for the Lord to make it good. I wonder if the shoe were on the other foot I would be somewhere else. I might be. I have been.
But we remain. I’ll keep blessing people when they come, even if it’s only on Sundays or Wednesdays or both. But here’s a secret: I’m going to bless them even when they don’t show up. I’ll do it anyway, all by myself, asking God’s work and blessing and goodness upon their lives even while they are far away.
God will do it. He will bless them. The Word is performative, after all.