Wednesday, August 09, 2006

But Who's Counting?

Well, in my light-speed preaching journey I find myself in the book of Numbers. Another one of those Old Testament books we just love not to read. Maybe it was my loathing of all things "math" when I was in school that brought about this aversion to anything that had to do with numbers. Though I must say I am intrigued by the new television show by the same name.

Actually, I did have a fleeting moment of numerical interest when I took a college course about the "history" of numbers. It was quite interesting to study the "how's and why's" of numbers, and the development of numerical systems throughout the ages. I believe I still have the book somewhere on my shelves.

What grabbed my attention was that there was something "behind" the endless math facts I was forced to devour during my elementary school days. And I would say the same is true if one takes a serious look at the book of Numbers in the Old Testament. There is something, dare I say Some One, behind all the counting that is going on.

In my reading thus far I was drawn not to all the counting of the faces at Kadish Oasis, or to the situating of the tribes around the central focus of the Tabernacle (now there's a sermon in there.) But, I was drawn to the work of the priests, specifically the work of blessing.

Over the past few weeks I am seeing in new and hopefully important ways, what it means for us to be the "priesthood of believers." It's not about power, or leadership, but about sacrifice and intercession for each other. (See last week's blog for my thoughts about this) The Aaronic Blessing of Numbers 6 is a great tool for learning how to pray for each other. I guess my question is, "How do you see this blessings working in your own life and how can you see it as a model for prayer?" That is going to be the "gist" of my message this week, Lord willing and Lord blessing.

And may His blessing rest graciously upon you.

22 Then the Lord said to Moses, 23 “Instruct Aaron and his sons to bless the people of Israel with this special blessing:

24 May the Lord bless you

and protect you.

25 May the Lord smile on you

and be gracious to you.

26 May the Lord show you his favor

and give you his peace.Â’

27 This is how Aaron and his sons will designate the Israelites as my people, and I myself will bless them.”

Holy Bible : New Living Translation. 1997 (Nu 6:21). Wheaton, Ill.: Tyndale House.


Anonymous said...

Here's what I noticed when I read that little blessing. It might be better to type it out:

May the Lord bless YOU
and protect YOU.
May the Lord smile on YOU
and be gracious to YOU.
May the Lord show YOU his favor
and give YOU his peace.

That's how Aaron was instructed to bless the children of Israel. I didn't notice the word, "Me" in that blessing at all. "I", or "Myself", not there. It was about YOU. The OTHER. This blessing is a shotgun blast of love at YOU, not me.

Yet, over the centuries, it's changed somewhat. We've snuck in a "ME" in that blessing at times, no?

"Look at ME give YOU a blessing...."

"May the Lord bless ME more because of this blessing I'M directing at YOU..."

Or, more simply, just change all the YOU's in the blessing to ME's.

One of the most important things that can be taught the "priests" of this age is that it's not about "ME", but the the person you're sitting next to. The family you have. The guy down on his luck over there. The hurt, broken, forgotten. The person who wears the happy mask when, in fact, their life is in ruins.

This blessing was a huge step for mankind. It was as if God was saying to Aaron, "Hey, it's not about you. This whole gig; the linen clothes, the ephod, the breastplate, the mitre; it's not about you. It's not because you're so cool or worthy. It's about them."

This blessing also indicates a great faith. In saying, "May the Lord bless you...." and not seeking that blessing for yourself, you're, in essence, saying that I trust God enough with my life, I know He loves me enough, that I can say these things without the worry of being forgotten in the process.

Does that mean that we are not to pray for ourselves? This has nothing to do with praying for ourselves. Even Jesus instructs his disciples to pray for their daily bread. This is a directive for a priest to pour his/herself out for the "other".

In short, the priestly duties, are for the other, not myself. Even when the High Priest makes the sacrifice for himself, it's so that he will be fit to make the sacrifice for the others.

This attitude will change many things in Church-dom. It means that I will approach people (fellowships, situations, etc.) with the foremost question, "How may I bless that person (fellowship, situation, etc.)?" and NOT, "How can that person (fellowship, situation, etc.) bless me?" which is so often the case.

I think that one of the most disqualifying statements a "priest" can make is, "What's in it for me?" The death knell for a servant to the Servant of All.

Random musings.... Blessings on you, and welcome home, my friend.

May the Lord bless YOU!!


Anonymous said...

Boy, I'm getting behind. Already another question up and I'm just responding to this one....

I notice that is the blessing from the Bible that Robert Schuller uses the few times I have watched his show on television. His critics (all ministers have critics - some more than others) often say that he is preaching “positive thinking” instead of the “un-compromised word of God.” I have often heard him referred to by some of his adversaries as the “smiling idiot” because he is always smiling. It is possible that he is one of those effervescent Christians that gets on many people’s nerves that I referred to in the last thread.

He has in fact met with many challenges though. If I’m not mistaken, one of his daughters had a leg amputated. I believe his wife is a cancer survivor. Still, he continued to count his blessings even as he persisted in sending blessing out toward others weekly.

Instead of shaming and scolding his congregation and sending them out the door feeling like the scum of the earth, he has continually blessed them. I have a friend whose mother was a battered wife who felt ashamed and terribly degraded for obvious reasons. She used to go to the drive in theatre to listen to his sermons and to this day, she credits Schuller’s ministry for helping save her sanity, maybe even her life.

Certainly to be self-centered is not what Christ wants where we are always concerned only with ourselves and what we need or want and certainly there has been a trend of the materialistic “me, me, me philosophy” that has crept into Christianity which is not good, but I believe we need to be cautious that the pendulum doesn’t swing radically in the other direction so that we become only “other-centered” which can lead to a terrible case of burnout and which is really nothing more than “co-dependence.” The goal I believe is to be “Christ-centered.”

I think that Schuller really does set a good example when he counts his blessings even as he blesses others. At least that would be my goal and I consider his ministry a good role model along those lines.

I believe every Christian's goal should be to never forget or take for granted what Christ has done and continues to do for them. To always count their blessings but to always bless others as well.