BACK TO SCHOOL BLESSING
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[Congregation encouraged to take home magnets with names of students and/or teachers. Pray for them every day this school year.]
This is the third year for the Back to School Blessing at West-Ark. I am so thankful that we take the time for this event. I appreciate the fact that students and teachers and school workers report that they feel blessed not only from this event, but from knowing that someone is praying for them all year long. I have been impressed that many of you have asked if we can offer a service blessing for other groups as we do for students and teachers. (The answer is yes, I just need your help to organize it).
In the weeks leading up to this event I have been pondering the question: Why do we do this?
1. I think we do the Back to School Blessing because words of blessing are so rare in our times. In our society we often give awards; we praise achievement and accomplishment. But that is not the same as a blessing. A blessing pronounces God's favor on another simply for the sake of the other.
Jesus opened his sermon on the mount by proclaiming blessings on those who certainly didn't earn the blessing of God. They hadn't accomplished great things. In fact some were the objects of scorn and persecution. Some might even be those considered cursed because of their poverty and losses. But the blessing of God is gracious and abundant, it is for those who need it and available even to those who think they do not.
2. I think we do the Back to School Blessing because words of criticism and cursing are too common in our society. Cursing is more than saying bad words. It is much more serious than that. Cursing is the opposite of blessing. It seeks the downfall and promotes the harm of another. Sometimes the purpose of the curse is to humiliate or condemn another. Curses are spoken out of anxiety, fear, and anger not the grace of God. The people of God are called to be a source of blessing, not curses. Of lesser harm than cursing is criticism and blame. Sometimes we are just too negative and cynical. We are always looking for problems and seeking to blame someone. Even we are well-intentioned, constant disparagement leads to a bitter and unhealthy outlook than doesn't solve problems but actually creates more problems! It is a vicious cycle.
So, one of the areas were we can be a source of blessing is for our students and teachers in all of our schools public, private, home schools. It isn't easy to be a student; and it isn't easy to work in schools and it gets harder all the time. But instead of finding someone to blame, let's pronounce blessings.
As I was contemplating this question, I came across an article in the Southwest Times Record (Aug. 16, 2006). What first attracted my attention was the headline that Benny had taken on the role of a cheerleader. I thought, "Do they really need the superintendent on the cheerleading squad." But Dr. Gooden's cheerleading is not for athletes its for teachers who work at some of the most demanding schools in our region. He and Gordon Floyd, the assistant superintendent for instruction, are encouraging teachers and trying to help them understand that they are valuable.
Gordon Floyd said in the article, "A number of teachers who work in so-called 'low-performing' schools see their work their as a mission and they like being there." When I read that I thought about the reasons we do this Back to School Blessing. We definitely need to support those who have a mission. And I think Dr. Floyd's statement applies to teachers and workers in all schools. I doubt that there are very few people involved in education who are only in it for the pay. They are trying to bless students, and so it is right that we not only add our blessing to theirs but we need to bless them as well.
Blessing of Students [prayer by an elder]
Blessing of Teachers/School Workers [prayer by an elder]
Jesus ended his sermon that started with blessings by inviting us to live out his words. If you put his teaching into practice you are like the person who built his house on a rock. The alternative is the person who built a house on shifting, loose sand. But there's one thing common to both houses they are each hit with storms. Even the house built on solid rock is hit with storms. The difference is that it stands.
The greatest blessing you can receive is the foundation to support you in times of distress and storm. Put the teaching of Jesus into practice and live within the blessings of God's in-breaking kingdom.
West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Morning Sermon, 27 August 2006
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