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Surprise the World: Bless—week two 2021 Lenten study

By: Rev. Bob Ruedebusch, Southwest District Superintendent

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TRANSCRIPT:

I will bless three people this week, at least one of whom is not a member of our church.

Mark Twain once said, “I can live two months on a good compliment!” Lent is a 40-day season of spiritual preparation where one examines one’s life of sin and separation from God and others. Lent is also a time of self-examination and renewal. Lent is a season of moving our lives back towards God and witnessing to God’s grace and mercy through Jesus Christ.

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Our Lenten material this year is based on the book: Surprise the World: The Five Habits of Missional People.  Last week Bishop Haller led us in our reflection of Ash Wednesday by helping us to begin this season of self-examination around our commitment to being disciples of Jesus Christ. 

We begin by asking, am I truly a witness for the love and joy of Jesus in my daily life? I believe the season of Lent is a time of renewing and strengthening our witness to the gift of Jesus’ death on the cross and on the gift of eternal life through his resurrection.  So how do we bear witness to this life-changing Easter good news?

Our author Michael Frost shares with us that we need to develop and grow in our evangelistic witness. When we become a part of a United Methodist church, we are invited to commit ourselves to pray, to worship, to give back to God through our gifts to God, to offer ourselves in ministry and service to God.

During my time frame of ministry another important word was added witness.  Adding witness helps us broaden the meaning of being a disciple of Jesus. Hence the commitment phrase: prayers, presence, gifts, service, and witness guide us in bearing witness to Jesus’ love.  Frost helps us to examine how we completely offer ourselves to God.

The first habit he encourages us to develop more deeply in our lives is bless.

The word bless describes an act of consecrating something to the glory of God.

When someone sneezes and we respond to that person with, “God bless you.” We are offering an expression of goodwill and good health. One description and definition of the word bless is “to add strength to another’s arm.” This definition reminds us that our call as disciples of Jesus Christ is to bless others. We are to build them up. The goal of this journey of being a blessing to others, or to bless others, is to try to relieve another’s burdens in life, or in other words helps others to breathe more easily.

So how do we bless others?

Three examples given by Frost are words of affirmation, acts of kindness, and gifts. I do not know about you, but when I receive a written note or email note thanking me, I truly do feel a spiritual lift. I have gotten in the habit over my life to write notes of gratitude and to thank others. Words of affirmation do touch our hearts. Notes of support and care which bless do make a difference.

We have all heard of random acts of kindness. One such place this happens is when we are going through a drive-up window. I recently heard where at one establishment the act of kindness of paying for the coffee for the person behind them in line went through 90 straight cars. Acts of kindness are a way to bless.

One of my good friends Linda is one of those persons who gives gifts because she listens. I am a Civil War buff and one year for Christmas she gave me a subscription to a Civil War magazine to help me stay current with Civil War history and research. What a gift it was to me. I felt blessed.

For whatever reason words of affirmation, acts of kindness and gifts do not come natural to us. I am a firm believer that when we accept Jesus as our salvation, that when Jesus is the one who we commit our lives to, we break with our natural ways of life and truly bless others.

Warning, in living out this habit of bless, we always need to check our motivations. If our motivation to bless is for personal gain or favor, or if our motivation is to look good in the eyes of another, we need to stop. The truth of this habit to bless comes to us through the way we share our witness, our testimony of why we are disciples of Jesus.

We are motivated by our love of Jesus. It is through the spirit of Jesus in which we witness and bless.

As we read in 1 Peter: 3: 15-16Always be ready to make your witness to anyone who demands an accounting for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and reverence.” (NRSV)

My friends, the challenge this week is for each of us to develop or continue our being people who bless others. May we in our conversations share ways we can truly bless others with the gift of God’s love. 

Our assignment this week is to bless three people, at least one whom is not a part of our church. Go bless another through the spirit of Jesus’ gift of love.

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Let us pray.

O God, you call us to be a blessing as we are blessed by you.  Guard our witness so that we offer ourselves in the spirit and love of Jesus.  Develop within each of us the gift of “adding strength to another’s arm” so we may truly be your witness and live our call to be your disciples to our broken and burdened world.  We pray in the name of Jesus our Savior.  Amen.

UMC

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