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Sunday, August 10, 2014

A Blessing for a Friend, as He Takes on a New Challenge

When I first came to the Christian faith, it was in a Baptist church in a small college town. I remember that the pastor, who became a good friend during those years, each Sunday ended the worship service by praying the same blessing over the congregation, and then he would finish with, "Now let's go out and be the church." It was an encouragement to active obedience in representing God to the world in love.

On my last Sunday there, before leaving to move to this town to take a job which that pastor helped me get by giving me a glowing personal reference (I was actually hanging around the church office when the call came in, and he announced to all of us gathered there, "That's the call! I have to go get Rebecca a job!""), he called me to the front of the worship area and prayed the blessing over me specifically.

As the years passed, I forgot some of the words, but four years ago, a dear friend was heading off to college, a bit fearful and uncertain, and I wanted to offer the same blessing to him. I found my old pastor with the help of Google and emailed him, asking for the complete wording again. He was thrilled to provide it, and to know that at least pieces of it had stuck with me all those years. (I think we all like to know that somehow, God really does use us to have impact somewhere, sometime. He does.)

He told me then that is was part of an old Scottish benediction.

Today we heard that as dearly beloved children, we are called and energized and empowered to step out in confidence to take on the tasks God puts before us--even though we may not perform perfectly. We will fall short. Some things will go undone; some may not work as well as we hoped. In some cases, we may fall flat on our faces. But as dearly loved children, we are still to be active--to do what we are called to do without fear of failure, because we are perfectly justified and nothing can change that state. God's love for us is not conditional upon our performance. That fits with the Scottish benediction of those years ago.

A rather new friend in my life is stepping out now in faith into a new calling. I have great confidence that all will be well--more than well: excellent. But there are questions and a lot to manage, plan, sort out. There are people to enlist and delegate to appropriately. It is a challenge, and it seems daunting today. But as a dearly loved child, confident that his favor can never be lost in the Father's eyes, he can still step out, still go, into the unknown and do. Even as we lack confidence in our own abilities, we can have certainty in God's. He will not fail. He will equip. He will multiply every seed of our human efforts as we lift our gifts up to him. As we go.

This blessing today is for that friend.

As you go, may the Lord Jesus Christ go ahead of you, as planner and preparer of your way.
As you go, may the Lord Jesus Christ go behind you, as finisher and completer of all that is left undone.
As you go, may the Lord Jesus Christ be over you, watching over you and yours.
As you go, may the Lord Jesus Christ be under you, to pick you up when you shall fall (and you and I will).
And as you go, may the Lord Jesus Christ be in you, incarnating his love now and forever more.

Amen.

As you go, go as a dearly beloved child. Held, equipped, instrumental, and never forsaken.