Pastor Shawn Hannon
Hope Lutheran Church Arcade, NY
Part of the territory of pastoral ministry is being asked to pray. These prayers cover a wide variety of requests. Some are very serious like praying for the sick or the grieving. Other requests fall more in the ritual sense like praying before a meal or a meeting. But some of my favorite requests involve praying for things. Every year I get to pray for things from motorcycles to fire trucks. Last week at church we blessed backpacks for school children and the first week in October we are praying for people’s animals.
But why? Why do we bless things, and when we bless things what do we expect to happen?
When we were blessing the children’s backpacks a couple of adults asked me if I would bless their purses. They were joking, of course. *Mostly. But we all know what they would have liked to have happened. They’d love to see their wallets overflow with cash. Naturally, I disappointed them.
Truth is, most pastors’ prayers don’t have the power to physically change inanimate objects. The motorcycles I bless won’t drive faster. The fire trucks I bless won’t never run out of water. The animals I bless will still poop on your living room floor. The book bags I bless may still end up lost. And the purses I bless never seem to end up with more money.
So why bother, right?
It all comes down to why we bless things in the first place. Let me give you an example of the few things I bless the most: Water, wine, and bread. Before baptisms pastors make water holy. Before communion pastors bless wine and bread. But when the baptism itself comes, the water is still water. Physically unchanged. When communion is served it’s the same bread and wine as before (unless you’re Catholic). But now that water, bread, and wine are accompanied by God’s grace. Now when we are washed, we aren’t just cleaner. We’re saved. Now when we eat, our bellies aren’t the only thing that is satisfied. We’re spiritually nourished as well. Prayerful blessings don’t change physical objects. They allow us to experience God’s grace through them.
We bless backpacks so that the little people carrying them might experience grace and love through their experience at school and the joy and life through their learning. We bless firetrucks so that people experiencing emergencies might know that God is a refuge, strength, and very present help in times of trouble. We bless motorcycles so that bikers might experience grace in the fellowship of other riders and the beauty of creation.
We bless things so that through those things God might bless us with opportunities to experience grace. For the record, although pastors are frequently asked to pray, anyone can do it. Do not be afraid to say prayers of blessing over the things in your life. Just know what you are getting yourself into. God’s blessing won’t change your objects or even make them better, but blessing them will help you feel God’s grace and love through them. Which, if you ask me, is way better anyway.
For more inspiration and insights from Pastor Scott and Pastor Shawn’s past columns, please visit www.jamestowngazette.com and click on the Faith Matters page. The Jamestown Gazette is proud to present our county’s most creative and original writers for your enjoyment and enlightenment.