What does it mean to be blessed? “God bless you,” we say when someone sneezes. “May God bless and keep you,” the worship leader pronounces at the end of worship. “Bless the Lord, O my soul,” the psalm writer states. (Ps 103) “I’ve been so blessed,” we proclaim when we see the goodness in our lives. The word blessing gets used a lot in many different ways in the Christian life, but what does it mean to be blessed?
Those of you who have received emails or letters from me may have noticed that I often close with some version of “Blessings to you” or “God bless you in your ministry.” For me that is no rote statement spun off without thought. “Blessing,” according to Old Testament scholar Claus Westermann, is the “quiet, continuous, flowing and often unnoticed working of God for life and vitality in the world.” Blessing, then, is life. But not just any life. It is God’s life, God’s livingness, vitalness, thriving, and growth that God gives as pure gift to each part of creation. This divine life goes beyond anything we can imagine, though our best picture of it is the abundant new life given to us in Christ and empowered in us as individuals and community by the Holy Spirit.
So when you say “God bless you” to someone who sneezes, you are actually sharing God’s life with them. When I say “Blessings” at the end of my email, I am sharing God’s livingness with you. When Paul writes, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places…” (Eph 1:3) he is resharing the divine life with God that God has already given us in Christ in every spiritual blessing from heaven, claiming again his (and our) relationship of abundant life with God.
Over the next months and years, the Montana Synod will be focusing on vitality: congregational vitality, ministry vitality, church vitality, discipleship vitality. In other words, we will be focusing on God’s blessings of life in our world and opening up our selves, our congregations and our communities to the continuous, flowing, life-creating and sustaining work of God in our midst. May God bless us with enlivened hearts and enlivened eyes to notice the divine life already working among us.
In Christ's immeasurable blessing,
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Bishop Laurie Jungling
Elected June 1, 2019, Laurie is the 5th Bishop of the Montana Synod