Gracious Favor

Sixth Sunday of Easter

Readings: Psalm 67, Revelation 21:10, 22:1-5; Acts 16:9-15; John 14:23-29

Dear Ones.  Just a reminder about the purpose of this weekly blog.  I have been following the Sunday lectionary which is a collection of readings arranged and intended for proclamation and worship together, but also as a guide for individuals who wish to read and pray the Word of God in conjunction with the seasons of the church year such as Advent, Lent, and Easter and now Eastertide.  You can find and follow the lectionary schedule here:

My desire and passion is to also provide motivation and resources through my own contemplative journey of adventurous obedience to Jesus Christ.  Hence, my prayer is that you not just read a blog, but dive into the readings and take up the suggested spiritual practices and find your own rhythm in experiencing the Divine Presence.  Blessings!

I often use the word “Blessings” in prayers and greetings or departures, and have learned how to do so in Spanish: Que Dios te Bendiga” and the Arabic greeting: As-salāmu ʿalaykum which means “Peace be upon you.” Jesus says, “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give to you.” (John 14:27) Praying “God bless so and so” has always seemed a little overused or too general for God’s attention. However, in the Scriptures this week, the words “Gracious Favor” have jumped out as how God does want to bless us with unconditional, underserved, full-on approval that is purposeful, available to all, and results in things like praise, gladness, joy, justice, guidance, and fruitfulness. May the peace of Christ be with you.

Also, this Eastertide season, the lectionary has been guiding us through Revelations, the final book of the Biblical story, as it relates to Jesus Christ, the Slain and Resurrected Lamb of God.  The scenes are rich in mystical imagery of the coming City of God where the nations find redemption and healing with great pageantry in the splendor of the blessings the Divine’s presence brings:

Then the angel showed me the holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God….and the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign for ever and ever. Rev. 21:10; 22:1-5

The brokenness of humanity, beginning in the Garden is now healed at the river and tree of life in the City.  God’s mission between the Garden and the City is not merely the salvation of individual souls but the healing of the nations. The inhabitants of the restored Eden, the New Jerusalem, are not a homogenized mass or a single global culture but the glorious diversity of the human race represented in people groups from every nation.

This city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp. The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their splendor into it. On no day will its gates ever be shut, for there will be no night there. The glory and honor of the nations will be brought into it. Rev 21:23-24 

Yes, the very face of God is light, and all nations, all peoples will walk in God’s light with honor.  Psalm 67 leads us into gratitude for this blessing of God’s face shining grace on us:

“May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face to shine upon us, SO THAT your way may be known on the earth, your saving power among all nations. Let the peoples praise you, O God; let all the peoples praise you!”  Psalm 67:1-3

This song of blessing is a most beloved benediction bringing all of us together with joy into the presence and Gracious Favor of God.

And in just two small words in Psalm 67:2 “so that“, the psalmist reveals the purpose of God’s gracious blessing and favor: So That all peoples from all nations will be blessed and know about God grace and mercy.  This blessing is uniquely relevant and purposefully significant because it goes beyond our own exclusive benefit, going through us to include all the peoples who will praise God. The very chorus of this Psalm invites all peoples to know and praise, and enjoy God for his unconditional, undeserved, full-on approval and favor:

Let the peoples praise you, O God;

Let all the peoples praise you!

Let the nations be glad and sing for joy!

So be free with “God bless you” and “Peace of Christ” and “May God grant you Gracious Favor” both in your prayers and in person, inviting all you meet and know into the gladness and joy of God’s presence and light shining through you.

Praise.  Take time now to sing Psalm 67 as a song of gratitude and praise.  First push back from your desk, work, or distractions.  Light some candles or take a walk to get into a worshipful space.  With just the Psalm in front of you, try singing the words as a praise song.  Don’t worry about how it sounds, just say it or sing it out loud. If you need help you can sing along with artists on YouTube.

Pray.  After your time of worship you can pray the blessing of the Psalm for yourself and others. Personalize the prayer of Psalm 67:1 by inserting your name and the names of others in place of the pronoun “us”: May God be gracious to “me” and bless “me” and make his face shine on “me.” This blessing along with the inclusive vision of Revelations, can prompt you to pray for all nations, races, and ethnic groups to receive the justice, guidance, and fruitfulness of knowing and praising God.  You can also do the same thing with Revelations 22:4-5. “Lord, I pray that the people of “China” will see your face and may the Lord God be their light.” I encourage you to pray through political and social issues on your heart: “Lord, may all the peoples of the nation of the United States be glad and sing for joy.  May you bring about justice and equity for all our people regardless of ethnicity, social status, gender identification, economics or political party.  Continue to bless our nation, not for exclusive gain, but that we may use our resources and status to bring freedom and prosperity to all. May it be so!

One Comment Add yours

  1. mhilbig says:

    There is a lot to digest in this devotional and I will study and meditate on it everyday this week. May the Lord be with you as you help me and others in your work.


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