Written by Vicki Kemper
"I have no silver or gold, but what I have I give you." - Acts 3:6
Like the apostle Peter, I have no cash or cachet. I have no sure-fire strategies for church growth or simple steps to inner peace. All I really have is the grace of knowing that I am beloved of God—and that is something I can give.
Because so many people have, like me, been alienated by a church of judgment and exclusion, I decided a few years ago to begin offering blessings—publicly, freely, joyfully. Not to save souls, not to talk about my church, but just to let others know that they are loved by God.
I stand with a sandwich sign that says "Blessings to Go" on one side and "Ask me for a blessing" on the other. And the amazing thing? People do ask. Turns out they like being called "beloved." People like hearing that there's nothing they have to do to earn God's love—and nothing they could ever do to lose it.
I offer blessings regularly at our local Pride festival and in front of the local deli. I've offered blessings in every quarter of Jerusalem's Old City, at the White House and the Pentagon, hospital entrances and war memorials, subway stops and shopping malls. I've blessed Christians, atheists, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, and a few self-professed pagans.
Yes, many people (including some members of my church) find this blessing business a little goofy, not to mention embarrassing. But, oh, the stories I can tell. And until you've seen a young man go from stoic to trembling to sobbing at the whisper of a tender word, until you've had total strangers entrust you with their deepest longings, until you've known the blessing of blessing others, don't knock it.
What have you got to give away?
For all that we have, Good Giver, we offer our thanks. For all we can give, we ask your blessing. Amen.
Vicki Kemper is the Pastor of First Congregational, UCC, of Amherst, Massachusetts.