Midweek Musings

“The Art of Blessing”

One Sunday at church a parishioner brought me a ball cap with her favorite NASCAR racer’s name embroidered on it. She wanted me to bless it because she was worried about the driver. She was only teasing and I simply heard her story and held the hat for a second. I didn’t so much try to ease her concerns with a prayer as I did listen to her, but her request did remind me of the real reason I love being a pastor.

If I were to explain why I most enjoy being an ordained minister, it wouldn’t be the preaching or the administrative responsibilities; it wouldn’t be the pastoral visits to the hospitals or nursing homes or the teaching of scriptures. I enjoy being a pastor because I love being called upon to bless things.

In the more than twenty-five years since my ordination into professional ministry, I have been called upon to bless lots of things and all kinds of events. I have blessed marriages and unions, meetings of the many and the few, animals of all shapes and sizes, life arriving and life passing, houses, doorways, and even a porch swing for a hospice patient afraid of some evil spirit that hovered near. I have blessed barren fields in winter and bountiful summer harvests, rain and sun, honorable choices to leave and to stay, foreheads on Ash Wednesdays, mended hearts, surgeries and the healing of every kind of disease and discontent. I have touched fevered brows and small cherub cheeks, skinned knees and burdened backs. I have blessed cookies and milk, pots of green chile stew, and long tables filled with casseroles, Jell-O salads, barbeque, fried chicken, and a variety of frosted cakes. And in all that time, it has always been my deepest pleasure to lead a person or a gathering into the consideration of being blessed.

I don’t bless because I think I am more qualified than anyone else to pray over potluck suppers, community gatherings, or crying babies. I do not consider myself more special or more knowledgeable than anyone else. In fact, much of the time, when I am called upon for a blessing I glance around the room and find many others who could do and have done a better job than I. But blessing stuff comes with the territory when you are a minister. Just as we look to the nurse or doctor to step in when someone faints or we look to a teenager for help with the computer, just as we ask the mechanic for tips on engine maintenance for our automobiles, we expect the minister to bless us.

The American Heritage Dictionary defines blessing as “an expression of good wishes. A special favor granted by God,” and “anything contributing to happiness.” I think of a blessing as simply calling attention to that which is wonderful, to a person or event or animal or memory or dream that makes us smile. To be blessed is to acknowledge that even if everything around us is empty, we are able to see that actually our cups are running over. It is to stop everyone from brushing aside life. It is to keep us from missing the splendid. It is to say, “hey, wait a minute, this is fabulous life happening here! This is a moment you will want to remember! This, for all its ordinariness, this is sacred. This is blessed.”

I didn’t ask for favor on my parishioner’s favorite racecar driver when I took the hat from her, but I did smile and thank God that she has something in her life that brings her delight, something that connects her to the world, something that engages and pleases her. The fact that she has found a little pleasure is in itself a great blessing. And I am the fortunate one who gets asked to call attention to it.


You are the light of the world!