Last week I got my first kneeler. Someone kneeled down on the sidewalk in front of me and asked for a blessing. Even more surprising than his taking a knee is that he spoke with his mouth full. This man had a Diet Coke in one hand and a breakfast sandwich in the other. Before I had a chance to even acknowledge his request, he closed his eyes and stopped chewing, signaling that he was ready to be blessed. Needless to say, I didn’t ask for a prayer request in this instance. Rather, I went straight for a quick riff on a standard blessing. “The blessing of God Almighty, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, be upon you, shine through you, and make you a blessing to all those you encounter today.” He stood up while nodding his thanks and took another bite of his sandwich as he hurried along his way. The whole thing literally took less than 10 seconds. What I appreciated most about this encounter was the juxtaposition between the man’s formal posture of kneeling and his casual approach to receiving a blessing. Kneeling for a blessing is common in a worship service, but I was taken aback to see it in this context, much less in combination with eating on the go. Over the weekend I told a fellow priest this story. He responded, "Blessing is recognizing the good in someone. It's where our ministry starts, and it's what people expect, consciously or subconsciously, when they come to church."
I hope he's right. I hope people know on some level that God is always looking to honor and affirm the good in us, to tell us we are loved so that we can love ourselves enough to do the right thing. This desire of God's heart is a reason we can "approach the throne of grace with boldness" (Heb. 4:16), asking for whatever we need and whatever gifts God has for us. The man who kneeled for a blessing certainly did so with boldness and expectation. Maybe we can all take a page from his book, as long as no one eats in church.