By Anna Mussmann
“By God’s Word and working of the Spirit, God must reveal Himself and His gifts. Blessings are an expression and gift, given and enacted by God for His creation and those in His favor. Blessings can be spoken, prayed, wished, and embodied. In the hands of the Creator, they can be an intimate expression of the potential good in the world. In the hands of infinite Love, they are part of the boundless, steadfast mercy of the triune God.” Mary Moerbe and Christopher Mitchell, Blessed: God’s Gift of Love.
Blessed: God’s Gift of Love by Mary Moerbe and Christopher Mitchell is an in-depth examination of a single word. “Blessing” is one of those terms that is rich with theological meaning yet has also developed extensive, idiomatic cultural usage. Even non-Christians say “bless you” when someone sneezes--or tell each other to “count your blessings.” Among Christians, the word is used even more extensively, often as a synonym for “anything good that has happened to me,” but also as a way to talk about prayer or God’s will.
The thing is, Scriptural usage of the word isn’t entirely simple, either. It might seem obvious that we should ask God to bless us, but why would we also say things like, “Bless we the Lord?” Why would anyone bless inanimate objects (including meals)? Why would God promise the blessing of peace and success to some individuals or nations, yet also say, “Blessed are those who are persecuted?”
The authors say, “Relying on human instinct or common language is not sufficient to come to a Spirit-led understanding of blessings. Christian lessons about blessings must be revealed.” That is why they have taken Dr. Mitchell’s dissertation on the Hebrew word “brk” as it appears in Scripture and rewritten the material in order to make it accessible to lay readers.
The book looks at misconceptions about blessing and the way we use the word in common culture (I especially appreciated the differentiation between “success” and “blessing”). It also examines many examples of the way “brk” is used throughout Scripture. The topic is an important one and I'm glad to see this resource on CPH's list.
As I made my way through the text, I admit I struggled to remain focused. Most theological books for laypeople are written with a driving thesis that helps create the feeling of momentum. This volume is instead an examination of many details and examples. It was interesting while I was reading, but once I put it down, it was harder to feel compelled to pick it up again, and it was more difficult to remember what I had learned.
We live in a world where paying attention to anything technical is increasingly unpopular. Reading a book like this now and then is a worthwhile exercise. Ultimately, however, I would recommend using it as the basis for a discussion group or Bible study. Camaraderie and conversation is a great way to dig more deeply into material like that found in this book.
After graduating from Concordia Wisconsin, Anna taught in Lutheran schools for several years and became so enthusiastic about Classical Education that she will talk about it to whomever will listen. She is a big fan of Jane Austen, dark chocolate, and the Oxford comma. Anna and her husband live in Pennsylvania with their two small children. Anna's work can also be found in The Federalist.