Like many congregations, we offer backpack blessings at the beginning of each new school year. This year, as I was talking to my pastor about what those would look like, he offered an idea that we could write blessings for each other. The idea quickly evolved from there and we decided to hand out tags on which we would write a word, prayer, blessing, or thought, return them at the offering, then take a new tag on our way out at the end of worship.
This shared activity is especially meaningful because we are living in a time where we are overwhelmed with the countless ways we are different and divided from one another. With more and more statistics and articles written about the Lonely Generation, American’s declining trust, rising suicide rates, and unfortunately even more cultural realities exemplifying our disconnection from one another, we need to respond as a church – the Body of Christ – together. We need to practice and model trust, not only in our God, but also in one another. Our support for one another, practicing forgiveness, grace, and simply just paying attention to one another becomes counter-cultural, world-changing action. With simple exercises like the blessings we shared today, we put our skin in the game. We are in this together. And we walked from worship with signs of God’s transformation in our lives, to serve as reminders of our connection to one another and God’s love wherever we go.
All ages were part of this activity. The tags filled with art, color, prayers, and words from our children were especially thoughtful. I was deeply blessed by the opportunity to read many of the tags before they were dispersed at the end of the service. What a lovely insight into the hearts of our congregation members.
Another reason an activity like this is so important is because when we get caught up in the day-to-day of our lives, it can be easy to relax into consumer-mode. Show up, get filled, feel good, check it off your to do list, and move to the next thing. When this happens, we forget that God is actively involved in our lives. But Wisdom is living within us, speaking to us, moving us, and living through us. We do not worship just for ourselves, but with and for each other. We matter to each other and we have something to share with each other. These blessings gave us an opportunity to remember this and experience it.
I know this exercise may not have meant much to some of the people in attendance. Some may have worried they didn’t have the “right” words, some may have not understood what it was for, and some may have just thought it was meaningless. It’s okay. That’s what grace is all about. It doesn’t stop what God has done and is doing in our lives together.
I am thankful for a congregation and pastor who tries new things. These ideas don’t always go smoothly. They aren’t perfect. But we try stuff. We are in it, together. No matter what, that is what we are living together. The details may fade away in time, but we will never forget that we are God’s beloved children, we are not alone, we have each other… wherever we go.
In the words of our congregational mission statement – we love, we experience, and we discover God and God’s will in the world.