blessed to be a blessing transforming mission

There was a girl about seven years old who came to church regularly for Sunday school. Sometimes her parents let her stay for the worship service. They didn’t come. They would drop her off at the door and drive on, faithfully every Sunday.

The family had moved from New Jersey because of the new chemical plant. He was upwardly mobile. They were ambitious. And, they were not really in need of the church or what the church offered.

The whole town knew of their parties on Saturday nights. They gave parties, not for entertainment, but as part of being upwardly mobile. Their upwardly mobile social status determined who they invited to their parties. They focused on “the right people.” Usually, they invited the person just above and finally on up to the boss. The parties were an excess of eating and drinking. There was music and whatever anyone wanted at the moment. Everyone in town knew of their parties.

And in the midst of it was their beautiful little girl. Every Sunday they would drop her off at the church.

One Sunday morning the pastor looked out, and the girl was there. But she was sitting with someone. The pastor thought she was with her friends, but it was her mom and dad. After the sermon, as was the custom of that church, there was an invitation to discipleship. Mom and Dad came to the front in response to the invitation. They confessed faith in Christ.

After the service, the pastor asked, “What prompted this?”

They said, “Well, do you know about our parties?”

The pastor replied, “Yes, I have heard about your parties.”

They said, “Well, we had one last night. It must have gotten a little loud and we woke our daughter. She came to the stairs, saw that we were eating, and said, ‘Can I say the blessing? God is great, God is good, and we thank him for our food. Good-night, everybody. See you in the morning when you take me to church.’ She went back upstairs.”

“Everyone looked at their watches. ‘It’s time to go. We’ve got to be going. We’ve stayed way too lo0ng.’ Within two minutes the room was empty.”

“We began cleaning up, picking up crumpled napkins, spilled peanuts, half eaten sandwiches, and empty glasses. At one point we met by the sink in the kitchen. Our eyes met and we asked each other the same question, “What do we think we’re doing? Where are we going? It was a moment of truth. From that moment we decided to come with Suzy this morning.”*

Now what happened? What did that little girl do? In the midst the noise and activity, she said the blessing! It was the blessing that made the difference.

Recall this blessing from Numbers 6:22-27:

The Lord said to Moses, “Say to Aaron and his sons, thus you shall bless the people of Israel: you shall say to them,

The Lord bless you and keep you:

The Lord make his face to shine upon you, and be gracious to you:

The Lord lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace.

So shall they put my name upon the people of Israel, and I will bless them.”

The people of Israel are in exile. They are preparing to journey toward the Promised Land. It is a journey of perhaps a few weeks if they took a direct route. They proceed toward the border of the Promised Land to a place called Kadesh where spies are sent in, one person from each tribe.

The majority report of the spies is against going forward in spite of the known will of God for them to go in and possess the land. Also, in spite of the protest of Caleb and Joshua, two of the spies who see beyond the difficulties and hazards they would have to face, to the opportunities set before them by a faithful and enabling God.

The pessimistic report won the day.

The people murmured against God, who turned them back and refused to let them go in. For nearly forty years they wandered in the wilderness until that entire generation died off. The main part of Numbers deals with the experience of divine discipline in the wilderness, “in the crucible of God.”

The story is one of the people in rebellion. Yet, it is in the midst of their misunderstanding, their fears, their rebellion that Moses instructs Aaron and his descendants to bless the people of Israel.

The good news is that God is with us, for us, and working for our good. May you be blessed to be a blessing today, even in the midst of misunderstanding, fear, and/or rebellion.

May you remember you are blessed to be a blessing.

-Tim Bias

*Adapted from a story told by Fred B. Craddock. Taken from class notes at Candler School of Theology, Emory University, during the fall term of 1979.

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