Pop quiz (Open book, feel free to use your Bibles): Which of the following demonstrates the blessing of God?
A. This $10.5 million House (17,000 sq. ft., 6 bedrooms, 6 bathrooms, 3 elevators, 5 wood burning fireplaces, 1 bedroom guest house & pool house)
B. A hole in the ground
If you chose A, then you might agree with Joel Osteen that God issues “command blessings” that pursue you like a heat-seeking missile, intent on bestowing on you both wealth and health. But if you chose B, then you must have studied and learned that this is pretty much all that Abraham had at the end of a long life of being blessed by God. As a matter of fact, Abram (as he is called before being called and blessed by God) is a rich man when he begins the journey, which costs him time and trouble, and likely put a dent in his wealth. Whatever he had left, this grave for himself and his family is all that is recorded of his possessions.
So perhaps God’s aim with “command blessings” has gotten better over the millennia or, more likely, our definition of blessing and God’s definition don’t match very well.
The stories we have been reading in these early chapters of Genesis have involved God making covenants with people and even creatures. Last week, in the Noah Story, the covenant was universal, including all of creation. This week, it is particular to Abraham and his family. We need to be careful, though, not to miss the promise that all people will bless themselves by his descendants. We may not be able to comprehend all the elements of the metric God uses to measure blessing, but one thing is clear, God is concerned that covenant blessing is for everyone and everything.
And it is a good thing that they are covenants, not contracts because if they were, God would have grounds for ending the deal since we are so often in breach of contract. But this is covenant, which means that it remains in effect, even when the other party is in violation. Lucky for us God is forever faithful in keeping covenant promises – not to mention eternally loving! In fact, it is here that we find what it is that God means by blessing. It is the very act of faithfully, madly loving us that is the blessing that God promises and bestows. The fact that God desires, continues to desire, and faithfully remains in relationship with all of us, despite our not earning or deserving such attention, is the greatest blessing we could ever receive. And all we have to do to receive it is to want it. Belongings are not blessings. Rather, blessing is belonging!
Ian Lynch is pastor of Old South UCC in Kirtland, Ohio, where he integrates Darkwood Brew as tool for ministry as church beyond walls. Each week, he offers a Bible Byte, a short video commentary on the scripture lesson for the week.