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When everyone was being baptized Jesus also was baptized. While he was praying, heaven was opened and the Holy Spirit came down on him in bodily form like a dove. And there was a voice from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I dearly love; in you I find happiness.”  Luke 3.21-22 (CEB).

This week in worship we complete our journey through the gospel of Luke. At the start of Jesus’ public ministry, God pronounces a blessing upon Jesus as he comes up out of the baptismal waters of the river Jordan. The word “blessing” comes from the Latin word benedicere which means speaking well or saying good things of someone. This blessing sustained Jesus through all the admiration and condemnation that followed. Jesus never lost the knowledge that he was cherished and blessed by God

Likewise, each one of us is a child of God who God created and calls beloved. Often it is hard for us to hear the blessing Jesus heard, the blessing we, too, are to hear. It is easy to become victims of our disappointments and our disillusionments. Sometimes we might even feel like we are more cursed than blessed, and it is hard to hear the good words God is speaking to us through the demanding voices our world.  However, through prayer and presence, we can learn to claim our blessedness and as we continue to hear the deep gentle voice that blesses us, we can walk through life with a secure sense of well-being and true belonging.

In Life of the Beloved, Henri Nouwen says, “The real ‘work’ of prayer is to become silent and listen to the voice that says good things about me.” He is not speaking about an audible voice, but a voice that can be heard by the ear of faith, the ear of the inner heart. With time, the faithful discipline of quiet time in prayer will reveal that we are blessed ones, a truth that begins to shape our daily lives.

Another way to claim our blessedness is to receive the good things others say of us. It is so easy to believe humility requires us to brush off compliments, and it is difficult for us, as busy people, to truly receive a blessing. The blessings that come to us through words of gratitude, encouragement, affection and love are gentle reminders of that strong, but hidden voice of the One who calls us by name and speaks good things about us.

Finally, claiming our own blessedness always leads to a deep desire to bless others. Barbara Brown Taylor says in An Altar in the World, “Pronouncing a blessing puts you as close to God as you can get. To learn to look with compassion on everything that is; to see past the terrifying demons outside to the bawling hearts within; to make the first move toward the other, however many times it takes to get close; to open your arms to what is instead of waiting until it is what it should be; to surrender the justice of your own cause for mercy; to surrender the priority of your own safety for love—this is to land at God’s breast. To pronounce a blessing on something is to see it from the divine perspective. To pronounce a blessing is to participate in God’s own initiative. To pronounce a blessing is to share God’s own audacity.”

This week, may…

The Lord bless you, and keep you;

The Lord make His face shine on you,

And be gracious to you;

The Lord lift up His countenance on you

And give you peace. Numbers 6:24-26                        –Nancy Pauls, Pastor of Prayer

Prayer Walking

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Throughout the gospel of Luke we see the disciples keeping company with Jesus as they walk from town to town. Jesus pauses frequently in the course of their journey to teach the disciples lessons about what God’s kingdom is like; a place where healing, wholeness, unity and the welfare of all prevail.  In the same way, we can add feet to our prayers by prayer walking.

Adele Calhoun in Spiritual Disciplines Handbook, says, “Prayer walking is a way of saturating a particular place and people with prayer, such as the office, the conference room, your home, the school the hospital and government buildings.  The immediacy of context can fuel prayer and offer a way for listening more deeply to God, and to what God’s concerns for this place might be. This discipline draws us out of prayers that are limited to our immediate concerns and into a larger circle of God’s loving attention.”

Calhoun suggests that like the disciples, you might walk through your home in the company of Jesus. Pray for each room and what happens there. Notice if recognizing Jesus’ presence there changes your interaction.  Spend some time walking with others through your workplace. Pray for your colleagues, the custodial staff, the delivery people and the kitchen staff. Offer yourself to be Jesus’ hands and heart in this place. Visit the playground and school near you. Walk through it in the company of Jesus. Pray for those who work, play and study there. Think about what is in the heart of God for this place.

By God’s grace, the qualities of the Kingdom of God are available to all of us today. This week, as a Lenten practice, I invite you to take a walk in the company of Jesus, and with him pray that healing, wholeness, unity and the welfare of all prevail.

Nancy Pauls, Pastor of Prayer

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