Tuesday, November 14, 2023

The power of blessing. . .

With all the furor on the Synod on Synodality (could someone explain that please), the reality is that the Pope was never going to regularize marriage for same sex couples but they were hoping for a blessing.  As a Lutheran, this represents an understanding of blessing that is strange to my ears.  How do you bless something that Scripture condemns and the Church has held to be at odds with God's created order for thousands of years?  The answer seems to be that the Pope will offer the same sex couple a blessing.

In the aftermath of Halloween and its focus on witches and wizards, magic and mystery, what does it mean to bless something?  The sad reality is for many, to bless is a magical act in which the object you bless receives some sort of special power and status.  The Halloweening of blessing then turns those who bless into magicians who have a special power which they can endow to the objects or people whom they bless.  To so many Christians, magic and mystery are one in the same and therefore the mysteries of God become the magic we harness for our own purpose and intention.  It is not unlike the magicians who plagued early Christianity with the desire to do what the apostles did but for their own purpose and good.

Blessing cannot turn something vulgar into something beautiful nor can it render something forbidden into something we are free to enjoy.  Blessing has no power to disturb the order God has established.  Indeed, the whole idea of blessing is that we receive God's gifts for His purpose.  Blessing sanctifies God's order and purpose and does not violate it.  You cannot bless a sin and turn it into a virtue.  You cannot bless something evil and make it into good.  Blessing cannot transform something into something it is not.  Blessing acknowledges, gives thanks for, and uses God's creation for its noble purpose.  Think here of the table grace that countless -- even lapsed Christians -- say before eating the food set before them.  The blessing does not change a hot dog into prime rib or a fish stick into a salmon fillet.  It does not change the taste from something offensive to the tongue to that which delights our taste buds.  Blessing acknowledges food as the gift of God and honors His gift by receiving it with thanksgiving and then putting it to use in accordance with the design and purpose of the Lord.  Oh, give thanks unto the Lord for He is good!

When we bless things for use in worship, we are not making them holy but setting them aside for a holy use -- using common things for the uncommon purpose which is in accord with God's will and purpose and for His glory.  Candles are candles.  Fabric is fabric.  Brass is brass.  Silver is silver.  Gold is gold.  The blessing of these vessels and paraments and vestments for use does not change them but uses them in the same way they would be used in other settings yet in this setting for the worship of God and the distribution of His gifts to His people.  When we take them out of service, we do not take what made them special out of them but return them to their ordinary purpose from the special purpose of worship.  This is even done with buildings once consecrated for worship but then no longer useful for their purpose.

What I am saying is this.  In some sense, blessing a couple is what we call the Rite of Holy Matrimony.  Those who think that offering the same sex couple a blessing is not legitimizing their same sex relationship or countenancing it are being foolish.  Blessing is giving thanks to God for the good that He gives.  This we cannot do to same sex couples.  It is a fool's errand to bless something God ordained for one purpose and use it for another in contradiction to His Word.  Why would the Church seek to offer a such a blessing to a couple?  The Church betrays God by doing so and ends up offering the same sex couple a sham of a blessing -- words without meaning.  This is the worst possible outcome of what the Pope must think is a kind gesture.  It is a placebo that offends God and gives the same sex couple nothing but an illusion.  If the Pope wanted to offer the same sex couple something of value, he should offer them God's Word, His creative order in making us male and female and establishing family and home for His purpose.  Sadly, so many churches are so far from God's order that they would rather live in the illusion that a blessing is at least something.  In reality, it is but a brief stop on the way to abandoning God's order and His Word entirely.  When that happens, the Church has nothing left to offer anyone.  Bless sin, if you will, and even bless hell if you want to but it offers nothing but a lie to a people who need to hear the truth that will set them free if they believe it.

No comments: