“Achew!” . . . “Bless you”
Is that what you say when someone near you sneezes? I sneeze a lot. With annoying allergies to dust, pollen and mould spores, I’m often sneezing away during the day. Just occasionally, a voice can be heard nearby to say “bless you.” The trouble is, once I start sneezing, I can’t stop. So after the first sneeze, “bless you” is fine. But after the second, and then the third, the person giving the blessing becomes more hesitant to respond, we both feel a little embarrassed, and by now it seems a little silly to keep saying it.
I must admit, that when a complete stranger says “bless you” after a random sneeze, a little bit of care and love is being shown by the person giving the blessing. For some it has simply become a habit and a sneeze triggers the brain to produce the blessing. But often it is said with care and concern. In this day and age when building community and friendships is quite difficult, and so much relies on cyber friendships rather face to face contact, it is perhaps something to treasure rather than despise. After all, you’re more likely to hear someone say “bless you” on a bus in Bispham than on a Tube train in London. Us ‘northerners’ really can be very friendly people!
At the end of every church service, the minister pronounces the ‘blessing’ upon the congregation. There are various forms that can be used. Perhaps one of the loveliest and best known ones is this: “the Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make His face shine upon you, and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace.” This ancient blessing comes from the Bible, in a book called Numbers, in the Old Testament. In the book of Numbers, God commanded the priests to pronounce a blessing on his people—a people wandering in the wilderness. God wanted this blessing pronounced on the people again and again, as a reminder of what God is like, who he is, and how he loves us.
We don’t have to beg for God’s blessing, or catch his attention via a sneeze. He blesses us in the everyday parts of life and into eternity. There are several parts to this ancient blessing found in the Bible:
The Lord bless you
The Lord keep you
The Lord make his face shine upon you
The Lord be gracious to you
The Lord lift up his countenance upon you
The Lord give you his peace
Wow! The all powerful God of eternity, who has created all life and sustains all of creation, desires that you and I be blessed by him in all these ways. Like a shepherd keeping safe the sheep, God is our keeper. The face of God represents his presence which shines on us and shows we are accepted by him—accepted because God is gracious in forgiving our sins through his son Jesus. The countenance of God represents him turning his face towards us. At the time of the ancient blessing, the message to the Israelites is they were God’s special chosen people. And now since the death and resurrection of Jesus, all those who trust in him are counted as his chosen people, who now have peace with God through Jesus and know life eternal. If you know these things to be true, you are truly blessed!
Just in case you haven’t noticed the heading at the top of the previous page, the person writing this article is not the Rector. It is I, Revd Damian Platt, Assistant Curate at All Hallows, who is soon to move on to pastures new. After three brilliant years at All Hallows, I have been offered the post of Vicar at Christ Church in Thornton (or Thornton-le-Fylde to give its posh title!). I’m grateful to Simon for the opportunity to write a little something in the Herald before I head off in October. I’m very grateful to all God’s people at All Hallows, for the welcome, blessing, support and friendliness everyone has shown during my time here.
My family and I have come to know All Hallows as a very loving community of ordinary people, whose lives have been transformed by God, who is full of blessing for his people. Like at All Hallows, Christians throughout the world know God in a personal, renewing and special way, through Jesus, God’s Son, who is our friend, brother, Saviour and Lord. God has blessed the world through his death defeating and life giving Son.
So my departing prayer as I move on to pastures new, is for the Lord God to bless you and keep you; the Lord make His face shine upon you, and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace.
God bless you!
You can find the September Herald Magazine here