Saturday, February 9, 2013

Vocabulary of our Faith: "Blessing"

Last week, we looked at blessing. What is blessing? Where do blessings come from? Who gets to dispense them? What did the various biblical authors have in mind when they wrote about blessings?

My favorite take-away from our class centered on the concept of blessing as promise. The Greek word epaggelia ("epangelia") implies the promise of a blessing. When Paul writes about the promise God made to Abraham in Romans 4, he's using that word to convey that double-connotation of promise and blessing. As I think about what it means to be blessed or to offer a blessing or to receive a blessing, I enjoy associating it with promise.

Another important tidbit was to ask where blessings come from. Say what you will about same-sex blessings, there remains an underdeveloped theology of blessing in general. Again, what is a blessing? As the theological document that accompanied the recently published right for same-sex blessings in the Episcopal Church ("I Will Bless You, and You Will Be a Blessing") states, "Blessing exhibits a multifaceted character, yet the Church has always affirmed that blessing originates in God, the giver of every good gift” (emphasis in original). In other words, whatever form or subject or content is attached to a blessing, we've always affirmed that they all come from God. If that's the case, what does it mean for any of us to bless something--to call it good, holy, right, special in God's name?

Can I bless something unblessable? Is it purely the collectively identified power/ability that a particular community has bestowed upon a particular individual? In other words, if my church community (congregation, denomination, etc.) has set me apart to bless things, when I bless them is it they who say they are blessed? Is it God? How much psychology is beneath our theology of blessing?

As you can tell, I have more questions than answers, but I think we're supposed to be asking the questions.

Here's a youtube video on blessing from an unusual source. In it (especially starting at 3:00), Creflo A. Dollar articulates a theology of blessing that is based on empowerment. Blessing for Dollar is God's empowerment of us for success. Conversely, a curse is God's empowerment for failure. (There's a whole different theological reflection on that subject that will need to wait for another day.)
And here's a video of the PowerPoint presentation from this week. Next week: Heaven, Hell, and the Kingdom of God.

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