Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Remembering that we are Blessed

The logo for the "Blessed to be a Blessing"
stewardship campaign.
In the Ash Wednesday liturgy, ashes are placed on each person's forehead with the words "Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return." That sobering reminder is meant to bring us up short, to remind us that pretty much everything in our life, even those things most precious to us, is transitory. As I reflect on both the last nearly three years of my tenure here as Priest-in-Charge and the theme of "Blessed to be a Blessing" as the theme of our Fall Pledge Campaign, I am tempted to break out the oil of chrism we use at baptisms, invite everyone forward, and mark a cross on each person's forehead with the words "Remember that you are blessed, and to be a blessing to others."

In the Eucharist, we recount what we term Jesus' "words of institution"--"Do this in remembrance of me." In the Episcopal Church, we believe that this holy meal is not simply a nostalgic nod to an event that took place thousands of years ago, but rather a way of making that even present, alive, and real to us today. We refer to that process as anamnesis, the process of entering into the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus through partaking of the bread and wine in which we believe Jesus is present. We believe that as we physically participate in this holy meal, we spiritually participate in Jesus' life, death, and resurrection.

More than that, however, our gathering each Sunday for prayer, praise, and this participation serves to remind us of what the world wants us to forget: We are blessed. Most companies start with an idea someone has for a product and flourish by a marketing campaign that says that we need that product to be whole, to be fulfilled, to be happy. The word blessed in the Sermon on the Mount is often translated or paraphrased as happy. When we forget that we are blessed, we become unhappy and we look for things that will make us happier, at least for a while. This has nothing to do with depression or lack of it--that is an entirely different story. Rather, this has to do with the average run-of-the-mill unhappiness that is fostered and nurtured by the our consumer culture. In twenty-first century America, we've translated the "pursuit of happiness" enshrined in our Declaration of Independence into the pursuit of stuff.

At its heart, stewardship is more than the "October beg-a-thon" to which the late Rev. Terry Parsons referred. Rather, it is an opportunity to be reminded that, as Jesus says, "life does not consist in an abundance of possessions." (Luke 12:15b) To be reminded that we are blessed is to be reminded, even in the midst of trials and tribulations, that we are children of God who are blessed in order that we might bless others. I've heard many times that a good remedy for being down or depressed is to do something for someone else. Service to others is not just some sort of altruistic impulse, but something that reminds us that we have the power to positively influence another person's life. We are blessed to be a blessing to others.

No comments:

Post a Comment