When There Isn’t a Better Benediction

When There Isn’t a Better Benediction October 8, 2019

The scene looked rather familiar: with less than twenty minutes to go before the Sunday morning service, a small group of us gathered in the back room to pray. We held hands, sweaty palms part and parcel the glue that bound us. We closed our eyes, as one naturally ends to do in prayer, but at one point I looked up.

My eyes darted from side to side as I looked the faces of the saints around me. I thought about how there’s something to rewriting the prescriptive of prayer and of communion with God. There’s something to learning to color outside the lines, especially when we don’t understand why a simple act like opening our eyes when we feel like we’re supposed to keep them closed like the biggest of dares.

But then, a framed poster on the back wall caught my attention:

You belong.

You are loved.

You are love.

You are enough.

You are the image of God.

It was everything – the words, the message, the fact that this mantra hung in the same place where the youth group gathered on Wednesday night and and the leadership team prayed on Sunday morning.

Less than an hour later, when I stood to preach to the group gathered in the flesh and online before me, I talked about how love liberates – about how this wildest of loves (whom some of us happen to call God),  madly and deeply honors the particularities that make us humans human.

We looked at a couple of lines from Saint Maya when she spoke on the very theme and we dug into the story of the Samaritan woman. As I write about in my book, when Jesus asked the woman for a drink, he elevated their conversation. He made their interaction mutual, for she was the only one who could give him the thing he most needed in that moment. This isn’t a story of a woman merely turning away from sin, of Jesus calling her on the carpet with the myriad reasons why she’s had five husbands and the man she’s living with now is not her husband.

But this is about how Jesus honors the particularities of her personhood – the particularities, mind you, of gender, ethnicity and culture. The particularities of her story and her past. The particularities of the things that make her her. 

So, is it really much of a stretch to realize how God does the same for us, how Jesus thinks the same of us?

It’s like this liberating love just wants to remind us that we belong. That we are loved. That we are love. That we are enough. And that we are made in the image of God.

Frankly, this is a message I need to be reminded of every minute of every day.

Later that morning, when it was time to deliver the benediction, I lifted one hand in the air while the other held a crumpled cue sheet for order of service, with a piece of gum folded into the corner. Call it the Spirit or call it the message God keeps on weaving, over and over again into the folds of my heart, I knew there wasn’t a better benediction than the words I’d read on the wall.

So, I prayed those holy words over them. I let the power of the sentences already written on the walls of their church be the sending words of anointment, the words that spoke peace and kindness and belovedness over their children-of-God selves.

And you know what?

I think it was exactly what they needed to hear then, just as it’s quite possibly exactly what I need to write now and you need to read now.

So, beloved, scroll up to the beginning of this post and read those words again.  And then, as the power of this most liberating love takes root in your soul, go, for you’ve been changed by this reality.

Hey! Want to see more? Watch this video (starting at about the 35-minute mark). Want to read more? Order my book! Otherwise, lean into this liberating love. 

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