"The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord's face shine upon you… and give you peace." - Numbers 6:22-27
Seville, strolling in a plaza late on a breezy night. Everyone's starting for home now except a grandfather, his son, and the son's two boys. The adults talk while the kids kick a ball around. Soon the father tells the boys, "Time to go," then turns to his own father, inclining his head. The old man extends a hand and says, "Dios te bendiga, querido hijo mío" God bless you, my dear son. They leave, grandfather in one direction, son and grandsons in the other. Watching, I can barely breathe.
Family blessing is uncommon now, but it was once routine in Spain. A friend's mother blessed all nine children every morning as they left for school. My friend, the youngest, was last in line. Impatient, she'd try to escape, but she got a blessing whether she wanted it or not. Her mother died when she was sixteen. She's sixty now. She's almost forgotten her mother's face, but not the weight of her hand, the feel of her blessing. It floods her with peace.
At his baptism, the Spirit rested on Jesus like a hand rests on your head. God blessed Jesus, saying, "You are my delightful Son." That blessing bathed his spirit like the river bathed his skin. All his life he drew on it like air for breath. Blessed like that, he could embrace a challenging life with joy and a violent death with hope. The power of that blessing raised him from the dead.
Not everyone gets to hear that they're worth everything to someone. How many died of AIDS without their parents' blessing, without the church's blessing, and, the church told them, without God's? What a difference the truth would have made—"You are the apple of my eye. Your name is engraved on the palm of my hand."
If blessings bestowed enliven and blessings withheld destroy, why aren't we staying up nights composing blessings for each other? Why aren't we saying to everything, "God bless you," all the time?
Bless you, bless me, bless everyone, bless everything, O God, this day and forever. Amen.
J. Mary Luti is Visiting Professor of Worship and Preaching at Andover Newton Theological School.