by Karis Mpindi, M.Div. ‘14

On Wednesday, the 5th of September we were blessed to have a convocation ceremony with the main address being given by Calvin College’s Director and Professor of Worship, Theology, and Congregational and Ministry Studies: Dr. John D. Witvliet.
His message was titled “Berakah as a Way of Life.” Berakah comes from the Hebrew word which means blessing. He led us through what it might look like for us as a community to experience the blessings of God, and especially in the class room. He reminded us that the proper response to God’s many blessings is praise. He helped us to see that blessing and praise go together.
He used a prayer from a fourth century Antiochan church to demonstrate how we can live out the life of praise and gratitude which God desires from us.
What was so inspiring about that old prayer is how clearly the story of redemption was woven through out it. It talked about our human beginnings in the Garden, and traced our heritage in Abel, Seth, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Jacob, Aaron and Joshua. We were reminded of how everything was so good in the beginning, but that we sinned against the good and holy God. Yet God did not forsake us. No, God has been faithful to his word, and to us. One part of the prayer which stood out to me spoke of God’s work with Abraham: “It was you who rescued Abraham from the godlessness of his forefathers and made him inheritor of the world; and revealed your Christ to him.” What beautiful words for us to hear.
My heart was opened wide as I listened to Professor Witvliet chant the glories and faithfulness of Almighty God. It was as if I was drawn up into this story, and my heart began to overflow with praise to the God of the Scriptures! O what belongs to us for whom the LORD who has done all these things, that we should share in all the blessings of His people!
I came to realize that the Berakah way of life is uncontainable. When the Spirit of God reminds us that the story of the Bible is also truly our story, then our lives must be different! As we struggle with the Hebrew language, we can be reminded of Jacob, who also struggled with God, and received a blessing. Then we can struggle through all things knowing that we will receive a blessing from God’s gracious hand. We must earnestly seek out the Lord in all that we do, for LORD alone is worthy of all our energy and affection.
The Apostle Paul reminds us of God’s generous Berakah character when he says
“He will render to each one according to his works: to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; glory and honor and peace for everyone who does good, the Jew first and also the Greek (Rom. 2:6,7,10,11).”
For God shows no partiality.”
Yahweh God is unchanging in His character, so let us expect blessings from Him, and respond by praising Him, and expressing our thanks to Him for all the good things He has done, is doing, and will do. May this year be defined by a Berakah lifestyle.
Grace and Peace to you.