A Sermon Preached On April 5, 2006 By: Pastor Frank Rothfuss St. Luke’s Lutheran Church The Power of Words (Numbers 6:22-27) I’m not sure that we always appreciate the power of words. As children we grew up denying that power with the schoolyard adage that “sticks and stones can break my bones but words can never hurt me.” That is simply not true. Words do have power. They have the power to hurt, and they have the power to heal. Ancient people, like many people in other cultures today, had a healthy respect for the power of words. They gave great credence to the power of a blessing or a curse. This is why Jacob went to great lengths to deceive his father Isaac and get the blessing that Isaac intended to give to his firstborn, Esau. Even though Jacob had received this blessing through deception, the blessing could not be revoked, the words could not be taken back. This is why Jacob wrestled with God all night long at Peniel and would not let God go until God had blessed him. This is why God instructed Aaron and the priests to bless the people of Israel with the words: “The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make his face to shine upon you, and be gracious to you; the LORD lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace.” Then God goes on to say, “So in this way they shall put my name on the Israelites, and I will bless them.” This is why we end every worship service with a benediction. When the pastor speaks the benediction at the end of each service, he is putting God’s name on God’s people, and they carry the promise that God will bless them. This benediction, these words of blessing, does not come from the priest or the pastor but from God. That means that they carry all the power of God’s own word. For many of us, the first word of blessing that we received was in baptism. When we were baptized in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, God put his name on us. God claimed us as his own, and God blessed us by forgiving our sins and giving us new life. Every benediction we get from God is an affirmation of this baptismal blessing – an affirmation of God’s grace and peace, an affirmation that God is with us and will keep us. As children of God, we have the power to bless others. Because in Christ Jesu s we are a kingdom of priests, because in Christ Jesus we are all ministers, we all have the power to speak words of blessing – powerful words that come not just from us but from God. When a child of God says, God bless you, those words have power. As I listen to the daily chatter of our society today, it seems to me that we are more inclined to curse than to bless. I hear more “God-damn-it’s:” than “God-bless-you’s” – and on top of that, the “God-damn-it’s” seem to be spoken with more emotion and sincerity. I wonder what it is that makes people, even Christian people, so uncomfortable speaking words of blessing. I wonder whether it has anything to do with the mentality of scarcity. It has long been the tendency among most people to think in terms of scarcity rather than abundance. The scarcity mentality thinks of things as being finite and limited. Those who think that there is only so much in the world – a limited amount of power, a limited amount of money, a limited amount of oil, a limited amount of food, a limited amount of water – also think that the only way for someone to get more of anything is to take it away from someone else. This is what drives people to grab more than they need and to horde it. You see this in the child who starts stuffing cookies into his mouth when he sees another child approaching or who grabs all of the toys his arms can carry and will not share them with anyone else. As adults we get a little more sophisticated with our grabbing and hording, but it is really no different. I wonder whether we don’t look at God’s blessings in the same way. Maybe the reason that we are so reluctant to speak words of blessing is because we think of blessing as a limited quantity. If we give some of God’s blessing away, then we will have less for ourselves. The fallacy here is that God’s blessing is not a limited quantity. There is no limit to God’s love. God has enough love to love every singe one of us completely. There is no limit to God’s grace. Jesus’ death on the cross covered the sins of the whole world – there is enough forgiveness for every single person who has ever lived, from the beginning of time to the very end. There is no limit to God’s goodness. The good things that God gives us do not come at someone else’s expense – they come from the abundance and extravagance of our God. With God, there is no mentality of scarcity, but a mentality of abundance. So giving a blessing does not diminish us in any way. In fact, it works just the opposite. Not only are we blessed to be a blessing, but in blessing others, we ourselves are blessed even more. Speaking a word of blessing really is not that difficult. You don’t have to wait until someone sneezes to say “God bless you.” Why not turn your farewells into a blessing. After all, that is what “Good-bye” originally was – a blessing, a contraction of the words “God be with ye.” Why not bless each other at the beginning of the day – instead of saying, “Good morning!” say, “May God fill your day with joy.” And at the end of the day instead of saying “Good night,” why not say something like, “Rest in God’s peace.” When you send someone off to school or to work, why not say, “May God go with you” or “May God keep you safe.” It’s really not that difficult. Yes, it may seem awkward – at least at first. But as you bless others, I think you will be surprised at how much others appreciate your blessing. Amen.