-GAINS & GLEANINGS-
By J. Hogan
In the Old Testament’s Book of Numbers, God, speaking of Moses’s brother and nephews, says:
Tell Aaron and his sons, “This is how you are to bless the Israelites. Say to them: 'The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace.’ So they will put my name on the Israelites, and I will bless them.”
I love that passage of scripture. When I look at God’s promise to the Patriarch of the Israelites, Abraham, that his offspring will be a blessing to all nations, I relish in how God fulfilled that through Christ.
Even in my earliest days as a Christian, I had a distaste in my mouth about evangelical strategies that centered around avoiding Hell and eternal separation from God. Certainly I don’t mind discussing what the Bible says of such, but I think it focuses on a narrow, future-centered fire insurance pitch which diminishes the blessings possible through God’s grace right here and now.
The arrival of Christ heralded the fulfilling of God’s promise to and through Abraham - not only that God’s family would be blessed, but that God’s mechanism of adopting Gentiles into his family was vastly expanding the breadth of both his covenant with Abraham and the above blessing through Moses.
I do a fair amount of funerals and memorial services here in town, and it’s often a visible difference from family to family.
Those who are walking in the blessing God gave through Moses cope differently. Even in a time of pain and grief they are walking in peace, blessed and kept pressed to God’s comforting bosom as His face shines upon them and the banner of His name soars above their life.
Those who are crushed by the death of a loved one but don’t have a relationship with God and find themselves in the awkward position of asking a minister’s service in search of some comfort and closure, and it’s often as difficult and odd for them as it is difficult and odd for me. I want to comfort the gathered, but they don’t have a well worn path of finding comfort in life’s challenges through God, so my words often seem hollow or confusing to them.
More often in recent years either drama, born of hurt, flares up at funeral homes or the parlor smells like marijuana smoke as people who don’t know how to acquire the “peace that surpasses understanding” instead repeatedly head out to the parking lot to numb their senses and altogether avoid the tears and the hollow, gutting ache which normally accompanies the loss of a loved one.
For me, those situations feel frustrating, filled with a sense of futility.
I love walking in the blessing God gave Moses to pass on even as I’m overwhelmed by the desire to see more and more people come to experience it.
It’s like I sense that if folks knew for real what they’re missing out on, questions like “Do you know what will happen to your soul when you die?” are exposed as clumsy, ham-handed attempts to herd people like cattle toward God.
When you experience the blessing of having the Lord’s face shine upon you, His grace pouring over you, His blessings abounding and His peace seeing you through life’s ups and downs, it seems obvious that if most people only knew, they’d walk miles on their own to receive it, no cattle prods necessary.
May God bless you, my friends…
Rev. James Hogan is a native of Stowe Township and serves as pastor of Faithbridge Community Church in McKees Rocks.