Beginnings and endings have me thinking about blessings. There's something about the beginning of the school year and the changes and transitions that it brings that is always a little nerve wracking - both the school year and (for me) getting ready for the beginning of programs at church. In fact I went back to my Midweek Message from last year because i knew I'd written about a back-to-school litany and I thought maybe I could take my own advice and give myself some language for remembering God's presence with me and my kids during stress.
This Sunday we repeat what has become a beloved transition to me: blessing backpacks (and bags and purses and briefcases and phones and tool kits etc; the things we carry). I know blessings aren't magical. These things aren't imbued with some kind of special power. I'm not a wizard. (Or am I? *cocks eyebrow*) They do, however, have a special place in the life of a community and in our relationship to God.
Weirdly, I often think of this advice column by hard-rock partier Andrew W. K. when I think about why prayer - and blessing as a specific kind of prayer - is important. He frames prayer as a way of letting go of our need for control and power and acknowledging instead our need for help and putting ourselves in a position of love and community. I also like Walter Wink's take. He calls prayer an aperture through which God works. Calling on God's presence and letting ourselves become magnifying glasses to focus the light of God into those places where we want to concentrate love and caring and peace, that seems very worthwhile to me.
So we've been blessing backpacks for about a decade maybe. And we bless food and babies and goings out and comings in. We bless students and teachers and service workers and council members. We bless all the things but we've never blessed our Sunday school rooms! At least not since I've been here. But that all ends this week. I was inspired by a post on the Dove's Nest blog by Allison Brookins, who talks about praying the 23rd Psalm over the children of her congregation. This Sunday, in addition to assembling school kits and eating sandwiches, I invite you to join me in doing a blessing tour of our Sunday school rooms. We'll bless these spaces in which we trust that our children will learn and laugh and create community and experience the love of Jesus, opening ourselves and those spaces to God's loving care and attention.