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The Blessed Limp

Learning to accept the blessings of God

This sermon is part of the sermon series A Messy, Blessed Life.See series.


A blessing is a mysterious thing. In her Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, Gilead, Marilynne Robinson's narrator is an elderly pastor named John Ames. Ames lives in a small Iowa town called Gilead. His best friend, Boughton, is also a pastor in that town. They are so close that Boughton names his son after his friend: John Ames Boughton. But the boy grows up to be a disappointment—a scoundrel, in many ways. This obviously poses a problem for the pastor he's named after. It's hard not to take it personally when your namesake ruins your name! The boy, now grown, comes home to visit his dying father. Things don't go well, and he decides to slip out of town. Pastor John meets up with him and walks him to the bus depot. He gives the younger man a little money, and they wait for the bus together. Robinson writes:

Then I said, "The thing I would like, actually, is to bless you."
He shrugged. "What would that involve?"
"Well, as I envisage it, it would involve my placing my hand on your brow and asking the protection of God for you. But if it would be embarrassing—." There were a few people on the street.
"No, no," he said. "That doesn't matter." And he took his hat off and set it on his knee and closed his eyes and lowered his head, almost rested it against my hand, and I did bless him to the limit of my powers, whatever they are, repeating the benediction from Numbers, of course: "The Lord make His face to shine upon thee and be gracious unto thee: The Lord lift up His countenance upon thee, and give thee peace." Nothing could be more beautiful than that, or more expressive of my feelings, certainly, or more sufficient, for that matter. Then, when he didn't open his eyes or lift up his head, I said, "Lord, bless ...

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Lee Eclov is pastor of Village Church of Lincolnshire in Lake Forest, Illinois and author of Pastoral Graces: Reflections on the Care of Souls (Moody Publishers). Eclov also leads a gathering of pastors for mutual support and learning called Pastors' Gatherings. To find out more about these Gatherings visit his site

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Sermon Outline:


I. To bless us, God must disable us.

II. To bless us, God must change our identity.

III. To bless us, God's face shines upon us.