Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord

If you attended church this morning, I’m sure you heard this phrase from Psalm 118 (unless you attend an Eastern Orthodox church, which follows a slightly different calendar). The enthusiastic crowd welcomed Jesus as he entered Jerusalem with these words from a psalm very familiar to them.

Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.

My husband gave some of the historical background in his Palm Sunday sermon this morning. This site also gives some good insights, particularly what the Psalm 118 connection meant to the people who were thrilled to see Jesus come in the name of the Lord.

What particularly struck me this morning, though, was my husband’s explanation of the meaning of the word blessed. I’ve often wondered at the different ways we use the word “bless.” God blesses us, but the Bible also talks about blessing God. Whatever it is that God does when He blesses us, it’s certainly not the same as we do when we bless Him. How did one word get to mean such different things?

Here is a good explanation of the origins of the word, examining the Greek words used in the New Testament, the Hebrew words used in the Old Testament, and how in English we ended up with the word “bless” to translate all of them. It makes more sense, knowing the history of the word. And all the uses have to do with God’s favor on us, whether it’s talking about Him showing us favor or us thanking Him for that.

But my husband’s description of the word’s meaning was a bit different. He said that someone who is blessed “has the finger of God on him.” He went on to point out that having the finger of God on you is not always a happy thing, despite the modern Bible translations that say “Happy are you…” instead of “Blessed are you…” in the Beatitudes. Certainly Jesus went through a great deal of grief in the days following his entry into Jerusalem.

Have you ever played Duck, Duck, Goose? It’s that children’s game where you sit in a circle, one child walks around touching each child and saying “duck,” until instead when he touches one child he says “goose” and then starts running. The child who has been tagged “goose” gets up and chases the him around the circle, trying to catch him before he gets back to the now empty spot. (What happens if he does get caught varies – the children in the K/1 class I teach have that child sit in the center until the next person who is caught takes his place.)

Anyway, that is the visual image that came into my mind when my husband talked about having the finger of God on you. You’re sitting in the circle, wondering whether you’ll be tagged as duck and remain sitting where you are, or get tagged as goose and get up and run. Some children clearly are just waiting to be tagged goose so they can get up and run. Others – like me – prefer to just sit and be  inconspicuous.

If God puts his finger on me, I don’t get to just sit and wait while other people run around. I may not be the center of attention, as in this children’s game, but there’s going to be some effort, some striving for a goal. I may not achieve it – at least as far as I can tell myself – but I have to get up and run anyway.

Sometimes I look forward to it – and have to try to focus on serving and not on other people seeing me serve. Other times I feel more resigned to it than eager, and think it might not be so bad to sit out a few rounds. But as my husband reminded us this morning, today it is we who come in the name of the Lord, to share His good news with others.

It might be in a very visible way, as when I will help lead worship Thursday evening by reading Scripture. More often, it is in small things, helping a friend in need or offering a word of encouragement. It might not even be known at all, except by God.

In the morning I pray, “May I see and share your blessings today.” But I’m usually better at seeing them than noticing opportunities to share them. I hope that I will learn to be more aware of when His finger taps me on the shoulder, “Go in my name and share the good news.”

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