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  • Writer's pictureMarissa Galvan

A Blessing With Every Breath

These is our sermon for March 3, 2024 (Lent 3).


Psalm 63

O God, you are my God; I seek you;

my soul thirsts for you;

my flesh faints for you,

as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.

2 So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary,

beholding your power and glory.

3 Because your steadfast love is better than life,

my lips will praise you.

4 So I will bless you as long as I live;

I will lift up my hands and call on your name.

5 My soul is satisfied as with a rich feast,[a]

and my mouth praises you with joyful lips

6 when I think of you on my bed

and meditate on you in the watches of the night,

7 for you have been my help,

and in the shadow of your wings I sing for joy.

8 My soul clings to you;

your right hand upholds me.

9 But those who seek to destroy my life

shall go down into the depths of the earth;

10 they shall be given over to the power of the sword;

they shall be prey for jackals.

11 But the king shall rejoice in God;

all who swear by him shall exult,

for the mouths of liars will be stopped.


I am Blessed

When discussing this psalm, Lib Caldwell recalls moving to Chicago and asking someone how they were doing. Their response surprised her: "I’m blessed!" She had never heard anyone respond that way.


In my own experience growing up, I had heard that response: In fact, in the Catholic culture that is a natural part of life in Puerto Rico, it is customary for a child to ask their parents for a blessing: “Bendición…” and the response: “Dios te bendiga hijo/a”. So this is quite familiar to me. You might also be familiar with the hashtag #blessed that frequently appears on different social media platforms.


But at the same time, I've asked myself the same question that Lib said she wished she had asked this person: "How would you describe some of the ways you are blessed today?" And the reason I would love to ask that question is that I believe understanding what a blessing is and recognizing when we have received them is extremely important for our understanding of God’s actions and our response to the blessings we have received.


How Would You Describe Some of the Ways You are Blessed This Day?

If I were to ask the writer of Psalm 63 to share some of the ways he has been blessed, I wonder what his answer would be. The psalmist expresses that he is seeking God. He seems to need God’s help and protection. He is walking through a dry and dreary land. He feels like he is being hunted and is afraid for his life.


This is another psalm that tradition states has been written by David. Gallaher Branch imagines a youthful David running for his life from Saul, or decades later when, as a king, he flees Jerusalem during his son Absalom’s insurrection. When running away or fleeing, you hardly have time to prepare, so you are facing uncertainty and wilderness, depending on God to guide and protect you.


But, as in other psalms, the psalmist remembers God’s protection and hesed: God’s loving-kindness. The psalmist recalls seeing God’s power and glory in the sanctuary (v. 2). His soul longs for God, and he feels God’s presence. That is a blessing!


Knowing that God is present in our lives is a blessing. Knowing that we are not alone facing difficulties is a blessing. Feeling God’s loving-kindness is a blessing. Living with the hope that there will be a rich feast to satisfy our souls and our physical lives is a blessing.


Have you seen those blessings in your own lives? Think carefully. Recall. When have you felt alone, and a sudden thought or call reminded you of God’s presence? When have you been crying, and suddenly something happened that reminded you that you have a shoulder to cry on and you are not alone? When have you felt forgotten and like nobody cares about you, and suddenly something happened that reminded you of God’s loving-kindness? Those memories, in the same way that they are for the psalmist, are blessings.


I Will Bless You

But describing the ways that we have been blessed should lead us to a desire to give blessings. Branch shares that the psalmist, aware that the Lord’s help requires a response of gratitude, chooses a lifetime of speaking and singing God’s praises: "I will bless you as long as I live". His mouth will praise God, his hands will be raised, and he will sing loudly! His praise will be public, ongoing, and varied—energizing to himself and enjoyable to God.


Caldwell reminds us that Eugene Peterson paraphrases Psalm 63:4 this way: “I bless you every time I take a breath.” The psalmist's response to God’s blessing is to bless God every time he takes a breath. In this psalm, the act of blessing is directed to God. And we are called to bless God with everything we are, with everything we do, with every step we take, with every breath we take.


John Calvin explained it this way:

“You cannot imagine a more certain rule or a more powerful suggestion than this, that all the blessings we enjoy are divine deposits which we have received on the condition that we distribute them to others.”

This loving kindness, this protection, this sustenance, this guidance, this accompaniment we have received by grace, are meant for us to give. We are blessed to be a blessing.


Blessed To Be a Blessing

I think I’ve shared with some of you before that the first time I heard that some in the liturgical community had changed the ending of our worship service, I was perplexed. They proposed changing the order of the commission and blessing, to do a blessing and then to do the commissioning. It did not make sense to me because receiving a blessing was always the last thing I heard before leaving the church as I grew up. My "aha" moment came when I started using the phrasing that you hear from me every Sunday: "You are blessed... to be a blessing."


God's blessings transform us in such a way that they change our understanding of ourselves and of God. We come here, like the psalmist, to look upon God in the sanctuary, beholding God’s power, and glory. We come here to sing praises to God with joyful lips. But we go out to bless God every time we take a breath, every time we speak, every time we help, every time we serve, every time we act, every time we breathe.


Pause:

Close your eyes. Tune out any distractions.

Take three deep breaths, slowly.

When ready, inhale saying: For God has been my help. Exhale saying: “and in the shadow of God’s wings I sing for joy.”

Repeat the phrase in the silence of your heart as you breathe naturally.

Slowly let the words fall away. Tend to your breathing. Open your eyes.

Carry your breath prayer with you as God’s word to you today.


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