Do you know about Park(ing) Day? It happens in cities when businesses and community groups turn parking spaces into parks for a day. The parking spaces are whimsical and fun. Some raise awareness about environmental issues. Some are just cute and silly. In Cleveland, on Park(ing) Day, a church called Embody, wanted to embody the presence of God for the stressed out office workers who were walking down the street in a busy office district, so they set up a parking space as a spiritual escape. They had percussion instruments for drumming, and a yoga mat for meditation. There was a place where you could write a prayer request and put it in a little cubby with other prayer requests. But my favorite part was the blessings. The pastor and some lay members of Embody Church stood near the parking spot with a simple sign around their necks that said “free blessings” and that is what they would offer: free blessings, to anyone who would come. And come they did. Office workers, and mothers with babies, professionals, and those living on the street. They came, and asked for blessings. And Pastor Kristina her church members offered blessings, in the name of Jesus. What a gift. What a gift to God’s weary people. To offer blessings.
In our scripture for today, a woman offers a blessing to Jesus. It’s sort of backwards because all the time people were coming to Jesus to ask for a blessing. But on this day, a common servant woman offers Jesus a blessing. He is visiting in the home of Simon Peter. And so the scripture says: 7 a woman came to him with an alabaster jar of very costly ointment, and she poured it on his head as he sat at the table. The type of oil used was oil used to anoint someone for burial. The woman somehow knew that Jesus’ death was imminent.
The disciples react negatively to her action. They complain that the oil is costly and the money she spent was wasted. The money should have been spent to care for the poor. Jesus corrects the disciples and explains that there will always be time to care for the poor but he signals that this is a one-time only experience he is heading for. Once again, the disciples are missing the point. This unnamed woman gets it.
She performs an act of great love. She is blessing Jesus. Who knows how she got the money to buy the oil. She might have spent her life savings. She might have borrowed money from family and friends. But in her heart she knew she wanted to give this blessing to her Master.
We don’t know the back story here. Maybe Jesus had blessed her in one of his many times of healing and blessing the crowds. Maybe she had heard his Sermon on the Mount. Obviously, she had been moved by his teaching. And somehow she knew the end was near for him and she wanted to bless him for burial. This brave woman decided to break cultural protocol and burst into dinner at Simon Peter’s house in order to give a blessing to Jesus. What a gift.
Jesus said that what she did would be remembered. Sadly, her name is not remembered. But her act is remembered. Her act of blessing and her love for Jesus is recorded in scripture as an example to us.
So today, our question is this: how will we bless Jesus with our lives? How will we be a blessing to one another as a way to honor Jesus? You see, that’s what it means to be a follower of Jesus: it means that we bless one another.
There are countless ways to bless one another. Today, let me offer a few suggestions:
1) Be gentle with one another. This may be a variation on the Golden Rule of do unto others as you would have them do unto you. The common vernacular would be to cut your brother or sister some slack. Life is hard. People get beat down in all sorts of ways. What if we decided that rather than beating one another down, we would build one another up? I think that’s what Jesus did. He found people who were bruised and gave them encouragement. Let’s be more like Jesus and be gentle with one another. That would be a blessing.
2) Learn to forgive. No one is perfect. God knows I am not and neither are you. Learn to forgive yourself and learn to forgive others. Rather than being so critical of our friends and loved ones, what if we learned to forgive? Maybe they are doing the best they can do with the hand they were dealt. I could spend all day thinking about things I would like to improve about my husband, but at the end of the day I know he’s a good person. I chose to marry him. He puts up with me and all my faults, so maybe I can bless him by forgiving him for not being perfect.
3) Be proactive in your kindness. What a blessing it would be if we all decided to be kind to one another and to make an effort to be kind. Could you make an effort to thank your partner for doing the things he or she does to make your house run smoothly? The things we take for granted. Could you thank your co-workers for doing their job? These are simple acts of kindness that become blessings. Could you go out of your way to do something kind for a neighbor? Mow their grass, take their trash cans in for them? Weed their garden? Make them dinner. I know! These are big things. What would the world be like if we did simple acts of kindness for one another?
4) Break down walls. What a blessing it is when we break down walls of difference. Who is there is your life whom it’s hard for you to like? Is it someone who is different from you in some way? Someone from a different culture? Economic class? Race? Age? What is the wall between you and that person? As an act of blessing could you pray for that person and for their family? Could you pray for their well-being? It is hard to have a wall between you and another person when you are praying for them. Or perhaps you could make some move toward reconciliation. Maybe you could invite that person to have a cup of coffee or join you for lunch? Don’t get into a debate about the things over which you disagree. Just try to find common ground in your common humanity.
A blessing is a simple act of bringing the presence of God into a relationship. The woman who anointed Jesus was calling upon God to be with him as he moved toward the end of his life. She wanted him to feel the blessing of God.
My friends from Embody Church, offered blessings to people on the street in Cleveland, because they know that people are busy and get worn down. We forget that God’s blessings are all around us. We need to stop and be reminded that God is with us. We need to bless one another and be blessed.
This is what it means to be a Christian community. We bless one another and we receive blessings.
What blessing do you need today? It is probably the same blessing your neighbor needs. We need the blessings of gentleness, forgiveness, kindness, the breaking down of walls, and so many other blessings. Jesus came to bless us and to encourage us to bless one another. He inspired the woman so that she was brave to bless him. He said that her gift of blessing would be remembered.
Today I want to invite you to bless one another. We’re going to share in a simple ritual of blessing. I’m going to model it for you now.