Jesus took bread and blessed it and broke it and shared it with the disciples. Then he took the cup of wine and blessed it and shared it with the disciples.
I want to talk to you tonight about blessing.
It’s a word that is used in different ways. When someone sneezes we say, “bless you”. When something sweet happens, we say, “Aw, bless!” I often say it when I am shaking hands with people as they come out of the Crem. It is a prayer, asking God to bless the other person. It is about referencing the person to God, making a connection between God and the other person.
Stories of blessing are found throughout the Bible, when God promises to bless Abraham in the Covenant and also in the stories when inheritance from one generation to the next comes in the form of blessing.
On Sunday, Palm Sunday, above all, but also every Sunday, we proclaim, “Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord”. Jesus’ ministry is a ministry of blessing, and the key element of that is salvation. Tomorrow, as we mark Good Friday and enter into the drama of Jesus dying on the cross, we remember how costly was the blessing that he brought us. He paid not less than everything that we might be blessed.
And when we come to the Eucharist, blessing becomes something very special. When Jesus blessed the bread and the wine, he was holding it before God, giving thanks and praise, and also inviting God’s presence, inviting God’s blessing on the elements, calling God’s blessing on us. Blessing becomes a two-way thing. We ask God to bless the bread and wine, and through the bread and wine, God blesses us.
In God’s household, ordinary things: bread, wine, oil, water, are blessed and they become the means of grace, the means of bringing God’s blessing to us and sharing God’s blessing with other people. Today in Durham Cathedral, the Bishop of Durham blessed the holy oil which we use in all the churches to bless the children who come for baptism with the sign of the cross, to anoint the children of God for service, to anoint those who are seriously ill and dying that they may have the blessing of God’s healing and peace.
And at the end of every service – except for tonight and tomorrow – I proclaim God’s blessing on those who have come to worship God and hear his Word and receive his Sacraments. The words of blessing confirm the actions we have done together before God, seeking and receiving blessing.
God is so very gracious, so very good, so very kind, that he blesses us when we come before him. And for some people, that blessing is what keeps them going when life is difficult, gives them the stamina to keep going, the patience, the strength and the peace to hold it all together.
But God doesn’t just give us blessing through the Eucharist or the other means of grace just to fill up the spiritual tank and make us feel good. God blesses us so that we might bless others. Let me say that again: God blesses us so that we might bless others. The blessing has to flow through us. When we receive God’s blessing, we also receive the obligation to share that blessing and pass it on.
Matthew, Mark and Luke tell us about Jesus blessing and sharing the bread and wine. John tells us about Jesus washing the feet of the disciples. Tonight in this service, we are remembering both those stories, remembering and re-enacting. They are two sides of the same coin. Because it is by washing the feet of others that we bring blessing to them. It is an acted-out parable. Washing other peoples’ feet is not something we do every day, generally speaking, but we do have opportunities to serve others, to be kind and caring in how we treat others. And when we do that, we share the blessing onwards. Washing feet becomes a metaphor, a word picture. We “wash feet” when we help with the foodbank. We “wash feet” when we support projects in far away places where people really are poor. We “wash feet” when we fight for social justice and try to change political systems – and that includes voting in the General Election next month. When we do those things, we are sharing the blessing.
Tonight we come together to be with Jesus at the Last Supper. We are there in the upper room. Jesus blesses bread and wine, and through the bread and wine, Jesus blesses us. Jesus washes our feet to show us what blessing looks like. Jesus serves us, and Jesus calls on us to serve others, to bless others, especially the poor, the marginalized, the weak and the fragile.
Where are you going to take the blessing? How will you bring blessing to others?