Before working through this Guide, make sure that everyone has caught up through the teaching on June 12, 2022.
Begin your gathering by taking communion together, whether as a full meal or some version of the bread and the cup that proceeds the meal. If you don’t already have a Communion liturgy, pray these words from Paul to the church in Ephesus:
I pray that out of his glorious riches God may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. (Ephesians 3v16-19)
Read This Overview Aloud Together
On the first page of the Bible, we read that God speaks and something happens. Again and again his words directly correlate to something new being brought into existence – land, water, sky, light, birds, fish, people, etc. The ramification of our being made in the image of this God who speaks life into existence is massive: some of God’s life-bringing power exists in our words as well. Our words and what we do with them matters. It’s why Proverbs 18v21 says that “the tongue has the power of life and death.” And it’s why James appeals to followers of Jesus of his time this way: “With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be.” (James 3v9-10)
As we read in the stories of the Scriptures, one of the most powerful acts we can do with our words is to bless someone. But a blessing is more than just a few kind words that brightens someone’s day. In the Old Testament narratives, children’s lives are shaped (and reshaped) by the blessing their parents give to them. There seems to be a generative, destiny-creating life force behind the blessings we read about. Like Abraham in Genesis 12, we are blessed in order to be a blessing. God blesses us, so we now bless one another. Mature discipleship, then, is expressed in blessing. It’s why the last thing even Jesus did with his disciples was bless them! With our words and actions, we have the gift and ability to shape and reshape someone’s reality – not just their internal beliefs about themeselves, but the world around them as well. Blessing is a mysterious act of sewing into someone’s life and identity without always knowing what the harvest will look like.
So how do you bless someone? Well, a blessing involves three components: to see and admire someone, to speak well of them, and then to sacrifice for them. “To see someone” speaks to that primal need to be noticed, recognized, and appreciated. “To speak well of them” gets at a whole body acknowledgement of their goodness – using words, body language, attitude, and actions to delight in them. These two components alone, though, only add up to an affirmation. The third component that transforms it into a blessing is “to sacrifice for them.” This refers to giving some of your life away to them. It points to the reality that a true blessing costs something – like a parent who sacrifices to give their children a better life, a teacher who spends countless hours helping a student get caught up, someone who donates vacation time to a coworker with a sick relative, or someone who invites a friend who is going through a hard time to live with them – blessing is a small way of dying for someone. It’s a small echo of Jesus’ own death for us.
Tonight we want to spend some time talking about blessing and working to figure out how we can actively and intentionally bless someone in our lives, as we continue to live in our true selves.
Discuss The Following Questions
- Is the concept of blessing familiar or new to you? How could blessing change your own life and reality?
- Have you ever been the recipient of someone’s blessing? What did that experience feel like?
- Why is blessing important in discipleship? What is the impact receiving a blessing? And what happens when someone doesn’t receive a blessing they need or want? (e.g. a blessing from a parent, etc.)
- Have you ever blessed someone? What did that experience feel like?
Do This Practice Tonight
A natural part of early life and discipleship is to seek our own safety, comfort, and wellbeing. As we move more into our true self, though, we come to see that all we have is gift; nothing is earned, everything has been freely given to us by God. With this comes a shift in trust structures that allows us to say with David in the opening line of Psalm 23, “The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.” Acknowledging that God is the giver of all allows us to move from stinginess and self-preservation to generosity and generativity.
Tonight, we want to have a conversation about each of the components of a blessing and to brainstorm various ways in which we can step into each on behalf of those in our lives we want to bless.
1. Seeing Someone – Really, truly seeing someone requires that we are able to slow our frenetic pace enough to pay attention to their words, disposition, body language, and what the Spirit is saying to you about them. Jesus, whose ragtag group of misfits and outcasts changed the world, was the best example of this. He was consistently really seeing people, beyond the outward appearance or initial judgment. We aspire to be like our Rabbi in this.
Take a moment together and invite the Spirit to bring to mind someone in the last week who you did not really see. Perhaps it was a grocery store clerk ringing you up or your child trying to show you something or a houseless person on the freeway on-ramp. Whoever he brings to mind, ask him for help to really see them. What would it have looked like to really see them?
After you’ve done this, discuss as a group who came to mind and what the Spirit revealed about how to really see someone.
2. Speaking Well of Someone – Oftentimes, really seeing someone naturally pours over into some sort of interaction, which is where speaking well of them comes in. More than just an offhand compliment, this component requires a tailor-fit and intentional acknowledgment of them. So instead of saying, “You’re really nice.” it could sound something like, “I’ve noticed how good you are making every person you come across feel welcomed. I always feel like I belong when I’m around you and that really means a lot to me.”
Take a moment to ask the Spirit to bring to mind something you appreciate about the people in your Community. What is something about someone around you that you’ve noticed and that you really appreciate?
After you’ve done this, open up the room to practice saying these things out loud. What do you notice and appreciate about the people around you? Take some time to share these as a Community. Remember that the more specific it is and the more personal its impact the better.
3. Sacrificing For Someone – Finally, the most challenging component of a blessing, to sacrifice for someone. This requires that we are willing to give up some of our “life” on behalf of someone else. It’s one of the most profound gifts we can give because it implies that we believe that they are deserving of our giving something up. There is an innate dignity given in this practice. Sacrifice becomes blessing when we do it with purpose. It’s something we give without resentment or obligation, but out of deep desire and joy.
Take a moment to ask the Spirit the following questions: Where have I intentionally sacrificed on behalf of someone else? Is there anything keeping it from transforming into a blessing? (e.g. bitterness, apathy, hesitation, etc.) If I have not intentionally sacrificed on behalf of someone else, what could that look like?
After you’ve done this, discuss as a group if there were any invitations you sensed from the Spirit.
End your time by thanking the Spirit for his invitations and asking him for the empowerment to follow through.
Read The Practice for the Week Ahead
Since blessing is a form of mature discipleship, it is not something that should be rushed into, so for the week ahead we simply want to take a step towards it. Spend some time working through the following prompts with the Spirit to figure out who you are being invited to begin or continue blessing and how.
Who? To start, list out the different spheres of your life: work, home, school, various friendships, grocery stores, etc. Once you do that, ask the Spirit to bring someone to mind who he would invite you to lean towards in blessing. Let one person come to mind. It could be someone you have already actively blessed or someone you hadn’t really thought about blessing.
What Could You Do? Next, consider each of the three components of a blessing. Ask the Spirit which step you are being invited to into and what that could look like. Take some time to really dream with God about this here. He wants to use your creativity, personality, desires, and gifts to bless people. Remember that we are blessed to be a blessing, so have a conversation about where you have been blessed and what it is you have to give away in blessing – words, time, a skillset, money, creativity, etc.
Make a Plan: Next, take some time to plan out what you’ve been invited into. When do you want to do it? How?
Thank the Spirit: Dignity is not just given in blessing someone, it is also received. Thank the Spirit for giving you the opportunity to bless someone and for all the ways in which you have been blessed.
End in Prayer
Close your time together thanking God for the ways in which he has blessed each of you and your Community. Ask him to help you really see people, to speak well of them, and then to sacrifice for them, in the same ways that he has done so for us.