This homily was delivered on September 10, 2017 by Rev. Frank Clarkson.
“Drifting here with my ship’s companions, all we kindred pilgrim souls, making our way by the lights of the heavens…”
When we sing that verse, I think of us here in this church, which is kind of like a big boat, holding us as we make our way home together.
And here we are today, beginning a new church year, blessing your backpacks as some of you begin a new school year, collecting the water you brought from that places that are special or sacred for you, water that we will use for blessing and baptizing babies and children. It seems a good time to reflect on the act of blessing.
In some churches, the person doing all the blessing is the minister or priest. It’s part their job, and I love that it’s part of my job too. I get to hold little babies and put water on their heads and bless them, and say to them, “know that you are beloved on this earth.” Some of you might remember this, or when it happened to a younger sibling of yours.
“We believe everyone has the power to bless.”
But here in this church, we believe everyone has the power to bless, and that’s what I want to talk to you about today. We believe in what’s called “the priesthood of all believers,” that each person has a direct link to the Holy. And we affirm the prophethood of all believers too—that it’s up to us to work for justice; to help heal and bless our world.
I wonder, do any of you have cats or kittens at home? Has any of you ever tried to give a cat or kitten a bath? It’s even harder than with a dog, because you know cats really don’t like water! There’s a story that one old minister told about when he was a child. One day he and his friends decided they were going to baptize some kittens. He said he and his friends were pious little children (pious means very churchy and serious), living in a pious little town. He says,
“I myself moistened their brows, repeating the full Trinitarian formula. (But the kittens’) mother found us baptizing away by the creek and began carrying her babies off by the napes of their necks… We lost track of which was which, but we were fairly sure that some of the creatures had been borne away still in the darkness of paganism, and that worried us a great deal.
“I still remember how those warm little brows felt under the palm of my hand. Everyone has petted a cat, but to touch one like that, with the pure intention of blessing it, is a very different thing. It stays the mind… There is a reality in blessing… It doesn’t enhance sacredness, but it acknowledges it, and there is a power in that. I have felt it pass through me, so to speak. The sensation is one of really knowing a creature, I mean really feeling its mysterious life and your own mysterious life at the same time.”
Do you know what I’m talking about? When you feel really connected to another person or animal? When you reach out to touch them, to help them or care for them. Like when you hug someone who is sad, or play with someone who is being excluded. That’s what blessing is—it’s something each of us can do, and it is holy.
The power to bless is not reserved for a few. It is in you, whether you know it or not. When you adults hold your children close, before they head off for school, and when you give them the space that they need, you are blessing them. You children, when you allow your parents to hug you, and when you hug them back, you are blessing them, more than you know. When any of you greet the people outside our back door who attend the weekday drop in center, or when you serve community meals to those who are hungry, you are blessing them. When you seek out and welcome someone who is new here, you are blessing them. When you participate in worship here, when you open yourself to the mystery of this hour, when you sing out, you are blessing this gathering. And when you care for your own soul, you are also blessing the world, because tending your own soul helps you to be a blessing to others.
This week, as you go through your days, will you remember that you have this ability—that you can be a blessing to the people you meet? And this is how you help change our world for the better, with your love and care. Moving gently on this earth, being kind to those you meet, being intentional in your interactions—don’t you see that what you are doing is blessing them? And this is our calling—to go through our days, offering this gift to those we meet: blessing them, blessing them.
May this be our prayer: that we have eyes to see
That no one arrives without a gift
And no one leaves without a blessing.