The Blessing: A Reflection for Friday, December 16
By Rev. Julie Jane Capel-Burch
Daily Lectionary reading: Psalm 80:1-7, 17-19; 2 Samuel 7:18-22; Galatians 4:1-7
Selected passage for reflection: Psalm 80:1-7, 17-19
Psalm 80:1-7, 17-19 New International Translation
Please listen, O Shepherd of Israel, you who lead Joseph’s descendants like a flock. O God, enthroned above the cherubim, display your radiant glory to Ephraim, Benjamin, and Manasseh. Show us your mighty power. Come to rescue us!
Turn us again to yourself, O God. Make your face shine down upon us. Only then will we be saved. O Lord God of Heaven’s Armies, how long will you be angry with our prayers? You have fed us with sorrow and made us drink tears by the bucketful.
You have made us the scorn of neighboring nations. Our enemies treat us as a joke.
Turn us again to yourself, O God of Heaven’s Armies. Make your face shine down upon us. Only then will we be saved.
Strengthen the man you love, the son of your choice. Then we will never abandon you again. Revive us so we can call on your name once more.
Turn us again to yourself, O Lord God of Heaven’s Armies. Make your face shine down upon us. Only then will we be saved.
As a school girl, my mom would put the warm palm of her hand on her children’s heads and pray “The Blessing” over us as we waited for the bus out in the cold. “May the Lord bless you and keep you, may the Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you; may the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace,” reciting the words given to Moses, to give to Aaron, recorded in Numbers 6:22-26. Similarly, Psalm 80 echoes the priestly blessing each time the refrain concludes with: Make your face shine down upon us. Only then will we be saved.
In response to public devastation we find this lament. A Psalm that asks God to grant life even in the midst of a circumstance of dark nights of the soul, suffering and death. A Psalm that tentatively anticipates a time of restored well-being. To individuals and to the community.
Where blessings do not feel so far off.
Where The Lord keeping seems continuous.
Where God’s graciousness is no longer begged for and collective peace passes understanding.
I imagine the shared gloom of fourteen days of gray tundra – the type of cold that makes your eyelashes frozen – being shattered by a beam of warm sunshine. The cries of chattering teeth and numb limbs begging for something to change: Show us your mighty power. Come to rescue us! When the temperature increases just enough to grant hope that there will be a thaw and life will continue.
Waiting for the school bus, I did not understand the power in the words my mom prayed. I was just grateful for the kind touch and warm breath. However, this September when she prayed “The Blessing” over my new family and our larger community, I was acutely aware of the chutzpah it takes to beseech God to shine into our lives and save us. To claim the promise of blessing in the midst of hot days and frozen days; in the midst of sunshine and gray clouds, in the midst of spiritual highs and dark nights of the soul.
No matter where you are on that continuum today may you feel both comforted and convicted to call upon the Lord and request: Make your face shine down upon us. Only then will we be saved.
Tip your head up towards the sky – like you were standing in the sun – and beseech the life-giving presence of the Triune God to shine upon you and lift you up into their hand.
Thank you, Lord, for blessing me.
Thank you for keeping me.
Thank you, Lord, for shining upon me.
Thank you for being gracious to me.
Thank you, Lord, for turning your face towards me.
Thank you for giving me peace.
About the Author
Rev. Julie Jane Capel-Burch earned her MDiv in 2014 and ordination in 2018. She served as Lead Pastor, Transitional Pastor, Trauma Chaplain, Spiritual Formation Coordinator, Census Enumerator and a Congressional Field Director. She is an impressionist painter, loves travel, and working with youths. She also married in September 2022!