BY THE REV. RUSTY RUSHING |
Recently, I was listening to a podcast that featured a conversation with Rabbi Ariel Burger. Burger is an Orthodox trained Jewish Rabbi who works as an author, teacher, and artist to integrate spirituality, the arts, and strategies for social change.
Towards the end of the podcast, the conversation turned to a discussion on “blessing.” Obviously, there are various kinds of “blessings.” For example, we can be a “blessing” to someone by helping them and/or serving them; we can say a “blessing” to give thanks or praise to God; and we can receive a “blessing” from someone, as they pronounce a “blessing” upon us or help or serve us in some capacity.
But, commenting on the word blessing from a Jewish perspective, Burger noted,
But what’s so fascinating is that the Hebrew language is very profound, and the word for “blessing” is related to the word — the same letters — it’s etymologically deeply connected to the word for the knees. The knees and the way that you bend your knees — And the way that knees are what you need to bend, when you carry something heavy. And there’s a way that a blessing is heavy to carry. If someone blesses you, they really see you, and they give their seeing of you to you. There’s a certain sense of responsibility that comes with that. To be witnessed is a responsibility, too, as much as to bear witness. And I think about this a lot, because we’re being asked to carry a lot right now. We’re being asked to carry our own lives; that’s heavy enough, with everything that we’re all going through as individuals, our families, our communities, the world, the suffering of the world and people around the world. We’re asked to carry all of that. It’s hard. It’s daunting…
But a blessing is something that’s heavy, and at the same time, it lifts us up. It’s liberating to live for something bigger than myself. It frees me of my own smallness, my self-consciousness, my anxieties. Compassion is the greatest medicine for anxiety, the greatest medicine for small-mindedness. And so there’s a way that we can be a blessing to each other and bear witness to one another and tell one another stories and really get in there with one another with a lot of openness. And that will lift us up. That’s what a blessing really is.1
As I thought about that, first, I once again marveled at the magnificence of God’s Word, its beauty, depth, and richness, how multifaceted even individual words are within scripture.
Then, as my thoughts shifted to Burger’s thoughts, I began to think about the blessings in my life, the relationships, people, places, and experiences. I began to wonder how I carry the heaviness of those blessings. What witness do the blessings that I carry bear? How do the blessings I have received from others lift me up? And, how can I bless others in order to lift them up?
Of course, the greatest blessing we as followers of Jesus have received is what Jesus did for us on Calvary. It is a blessing that without a doubt lifts us up, helping us to see that we are part of something bigger than ourselves, something cosmic, something divine.
But, I agree with Burger that there is a heaviness that accompanies that blessing. There is a heaviness we carry as we remember what it cost Jesus to provide us that blessing. And there is a heaviness we carry in the responsibility that accompanies that blessing, the responsibility to witness to that blessing, carrying Jesus’s sacrifice within us and sharing the Good News with those God brings into our lives; the responsibility to not just accept the blessing, but in gracious response to be a blessing that blesses others, lifting others as we have been lifted.
As we move forward as individuals, as congregations, and as a Province in a world that has experienced collective trauma over the past fifteen months — the trauma of COVID, the trauma of racial inequality & injustice, the trauma of divisive, partisan politics and civil unrest — it is my hope and prayer that we will choose to look beyond our pain and not only recognize the blessing we have in Christ Jesus and allow that to lift us up, but that we will also be challenged and encouraged to bend our knees and carry that blessing within us, stepping out in faith and witnessing to that blessing by being a blessing that lifts others.
About the Author
The Rev. Rusty Rushing is the pastor at Peace Church Charlotte and Little Church on the Lane in Charlotte, NC.