“Will you bless this for me?”

examiner-size-cross-in-handWhen I was getting ready to perform a wedding at a non-church venue in St Augustine last fall, the bride’s aunt took a cross pendant next door to the Basilica to have it blessed before giving it to her niece. Someone looked toward me and asked, “Why didn’t you just have him do it?” She just shrugged. 

A week or two later, someone took me aside before worship and showed me a new cross necklace they had just received and asked me to bless it. I was caught off guard, since I wasn’t in the habit of blessing things. But I said a prayer with that individual, asking God to let that cross be a powerful reminder of everything that Jesus had done for them.

Every month the prayer shawl ministry of our church puts on display all the shawls that have been crocheted over the past month so that we can pray for those who will receive one. Of course we don’t know ahead of time who will receive them, but God does, so we commend them to his care. We keep a supply, and members of the church will request them and take them to people who are sick or have something else going on.

Sometimes, a shawl will be finished and given to someone in-between those monthly displays. Well-meaning members will bring the shawl by for me to bless. Rather than blessing the shawl per se, I pray for the healing, comfort, and safety of the recipient.

After doing this a couple of times I began to wonder, “What’s the big deal about blessing something?” Where did this idea come from? Should I be better at doing this? It is true that in the agenda (a reference volume of special ceremonies) there are rites to bless things like organs, church bells, paraments, buildings, furnishings and homes. These rites, however, are a way of reminding us that we are setting these things aside for special use in ministry. However, when people have an object blessed, I fear they may believe this object will now guarantee good fortune, as if it were now a good luck charm. In other words, if an object in their possession has been blessed, they will receive blessing from it. Superstitious at best, this borders on idolatry in my book. 

I can guarantee that an object is just the same after I pray over it as it was before. I am not able to make a cross or a bible or a crocheted prayer shawl any more effective in protecting, healing or blessing anyone. I have no problem praying for somebody who will wear or use or hold one of those things. But give an object special powers? That’s way above my pay grade!

Bless your nurse.

angry-patientWhen I went to visit M. in the hospital yesterday, her nurse was in the room, finishing up some charting and her sister sat nearby. As I walked into the room, M. said, “Hi, pastor.” The nurse immediately looked at her and said, “Now don’t you start cursing at him!”

I said, “She’s usually on her best behavior when I’m here.”

The nurse replied, “Then you’re not leaving!” Uh-oh. I can only imagine what that means. It must have been an interesting stay in the hospital for the patient, nurses and probably everyone else who’s stepped into the room!

It seems to me that the one person you want to be nice to is your nurse. The doctor might stop in for a moment, housekeeping might be in for a few minutes each day, and you can be sure someone come by in the middle of the night to draw blood. But the nurse is taking care of you for a whole shift, is the one you call when you need something, and advocates for you with the doctors.

I know how hard it is to be in the hospital. So does your nurse. Which is why you want to bless not curse your nurse!