“Ring a ring of roses…”
You will know how it continues:
A pocketful of posies.
We all fall down.
Apparently the song relates to the Great Plague of 1665, but there are links to our present situation with the threat posed by airborne transmission of the COVID-19 virus. Lockdown is easing but we are aware of the possibility of a second wave still to come.
I happen to be one of those people who sneeze almost at random. When the sneezing fit has finally ended, how lovely to hear someone say, “Bless you!” (or sometimes “God bless you!”). Often the person who says it is a complete stranger.
This leads me to consider the “how” of being blessed. Let’s start with words that bless…
“Well done,” “Lovely meal,” “That was so kind…” (add your own phrases here).
The most obvious word is “thanks.” Words can bless.
Next come the things we can do – the helping hand, the lift offered, the meal cooked and taken round, the shopping, the visit to the hospital, the welcome to the new colleague at work, to the new member of the team, to the new neighbour.
It is trickier to move on to the “how” when we look at “God bless.”
The first clue is that human beings say those words. They are agents of that blessing, ‘in the middle’ people. Some would limit those who can act as agents of God’s blessing to those who claim to belong to God. I would not limit it like that. Anyone, anywhere, can be kind and encouraging. Recently we have considered a saying of Jesus found only in Matthew’s gospel:
Whoever gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones in the name of a disciple – truly I tell you, none of these will lose their reward.
Another passage we have recently looked at has been the parable of the sower. Usually the emphasis is on the different types of soil that the seed falls on. (The path, rocky ground, amongst thorns, and good soil.) What if we see the sower who carelessly strews the seed about as representing God? What if we see ourselves as the seed being scattered at random, to land in difficult situations, not simply “beside the still waters.”
I have been filled with admiration over the years for the way in which people have coped with loss, pain, and all sorts of challenges and still been positive and encouragers of others – in short, “agents of blessing.” As always, in writing this, I have attempted to offer answers, however partial or incomplete, in the hope that they encourage you and help you face the puzzles that life offers, just as you in your turn are agents of blessing, whether you usually say “Bless you!” or “God bless.”
Here is a benediction I love: “May God bless you with careless handfuls of love.”
Robert Draycott (Rev)