Matthew 17: 1-5
Some words, intended to be an announcement, can double as a blessing.
Words like: “This my son, Chris! I’m so pleased with his life choices!” Or “This is my son Matt! I’m so pleased with his life choices!” or “This is my daughter Jenny! I’m so pleased with her life choices!” I’m announcing that sentiment to you, but if they read the sentiment, I think my children will feel blessed, even though I have told this to each of them. I felt blessed when a parent introduced me with pride. Sometimes an announcement is a blessing.
As a boy, Sir Walter Raleigh was left weak and lame by a severe fever, much the way the daughter, Beth, was left after being sick in the classic book and film “Little Women.” Some thought Walter Scott would not be able to do anything with is life because of his weakened condition. When he was a teenager, he was a guest in a home where some famous writers were gathered. The Scottish Poet Robert Burns was among them. After a brief encounter, Burns put his hand on top of young Walter’s head saying, “Ah lad, I’m certain you’ll be a great man in Scotland someday!” Walter Scott took the words of the blessing as sincere, and they were a source of encouragement the rest of his life.
Long ago, a voice came from Heaven, and the Spirit of God—like a dove—came down to bless Jesus as he was baptized. The announcement was heard by many, but the blessing was especially received by Jesus: “This is my beloved son, with whom I am well pleased.” And because God certainly knows the power of repetition to underline words, a voice came from Heaven again, as Jesus was on a mountain transfigured (changed before the eyes of his disciples) into a new brightness, and that same voice, that familiar voice, the voice he longed to hear, said to the disciples: “This is my beloved son, with whom I am well pleased! Listen to him!” What a special time! In an earlier place in the Bible, Psalm 2 verse 7, God spoke through a Psalm writer for the blessing of a king, saying, “You are my anointed king; today I have begotten you.” I have heard from grown men and women who are hampered as adults because they are missing the part of their lives when their parent’s words blessed them. They keep living, but if their image were on a jigsaw puzzle, a piece would be missing: the piece would have words written on it saying something like: “You are my own dear child. I love you and am proud of you!” That’s the piece so many wish they had heard from a parent. And so they go through their life, as writer Shel Silverstein puts it, “lookin’ for their missing piece.” Like a stone disc with a triangularly shaped pie piece removed, they bump down the road of life. [The Missing Piece] Joyous announcements matter; and blessings matter. Can you think back to a time when someone said they believed in you, or accepted you the way you were? Friends we have the power offer such words to children, workers, or friends. On this Scout Sunday we honor those adults who have mentored Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts, Brownies, or Girl Scouts in entrusted to them. Those leaders, like teachers and pastors and youth leaders, have the power to bless young people just wanting to be loved and accepted.
One minister who did that very well was the later Fred Rogers of “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.” He was a Presbyterian minister and went to Pittsburgh Theological Seminary. His ministry sent him to the public broadcasting studios in Pittsburgh to write, produce, and tape his award winning children’s shows. Some adults may have found the show “simple.” Some teenagers found it boring. With little or no technology, Mr. Rogers put out a message, one that told viewing boys and girls, “I like you just the way you are.” He took his philosophy right from the Jesus of the New Testament. Now his work continues on PBS with staff and family members still producing the cartoon, “Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood.” We still have new children who need to feel affirmed and loved.
Every time you come to a service here, it is intended that you receive a blessing before you depart. The raised hand at the end of the service comes from practice of the head of a Hebrew household symbolically placing his right hand on the head of guests as thy departed. Perhaps Robert Burns knew the power of the blessing when he placed his hand on Walter Scott’s head that fateful day. At the end of a service I will seek to bless each of you if you will receive it. I hope it will encourage you. I always ask God to guide my choice of words. If we understand that we have been blessed, then we can be a blessing to others! I’ll close with these classic words from Oswald Chambers’ book My Utmost for His Highest:
Whenever you get a blessing from God, give it back to him as a love gift. Take time to meditate before God, and offer the blessing back to him in a deliberate act of worship. If you hoard it for yourself, it will turn into spiritual dry rot, as the manna did when it was hoarded in Exodus 16:20.
Today I tell you, you are loved! Prepare to be fed at the Lord’s Table, so you can be a blessing to others.
Jeffrey A. Sumner February 11, 2018