“Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven. . .” Psalm 32:1
It seems to me that this isn’t the first time I’ve typed in that word as a title. If I go back to the first psalm, first meditation, I’d see it there, as well.
The word—and what it suggests—remains a treasure. I don’t think you have to be a believer in Jesus Christ’s redemptive work to aspire to the riches the word suggests. I doubt anyone’s ever done a poll, but my guess is that a multitude of those who spend their Saturday nights at what America calls “gaming,” would really love to be blessed, in their case by what they’d call luck.
But Dame Fortune, in her ancient medieval garb, looked like Megan Fox as long as she was smiling. When she’d turn, she’d morph into Phyllis Diller.
I believe—and I may be generous here—that everyone from Pope Francis to the whoever was last week’s serial killer would most likely want, more than anything, to be “blessed.” I do too. A considerable number of us, like Jacob, would fake IDs to get it if we sensed we were anywhere in the neighborhood of blessedness. To be blessed is a condition that most of us believe we know only because its pursuit dominates our dreams.
Not long ago, we buried a man named Henry. He was devout, but never, ever self-righteous, always courteous and loving and considerate. I visited him once in the wing of the hospital, when his wife of sixty years was close to death, very close, I thought. He spoke to her and read to her, even smiled at her as if she hung on his every word. Maybe she did.
If those who knew him 24/7 ever saw another side of Henry, I don’t think I’d like to know. But I’m enough of a Calvinist to believe he was probably capable of something other than the grace that radiated from his presence as long as I knew him. I’m sure he carried his own inner demons, fought his own battles.
When Henry knew his death was imminent, he wrote a note to his children that all travel costs his geographically dispersed family would accrue for his funeral should be paid before anyone looked into his estate. By profession, he’d been a Professor of Business, and that little note on the bottom of a sheet of paper was scribbled by an accountant. But it was also the act of a man who knew he’d been blessed and understood that his role was to do likewise.
I bring him up only because it seems to me that, through our lives, most of us know very, very few people to whom we might affix the description of “being truly blessed.” Henry was one of those. And I’m blessed—as all of us were in this community—to have known him.
But how do we get blessed, if, in fact, being blessed can be somehow obtained? Is there something I can do, or is it simply a gift, like grace itself?
Psalm 1 begins with the same word as does Psalm 32, but then it describes the condition of being blessed by illustrating how the blessed among us conduct their lives, what they do and don’t. Psalm 32, people say, is more of a how-to, a maschil, a sermon psalm.