cruciform, mission, missional?
What Is Christian Spirituality? > Church-Speak 101 > Blessing and Mission
blessing (n.) and to bless (v.). [ < Old English bletsian (to consecrate, set apart as sacred) < assumed Indo-European root *bhel- ] The verb 'to bless' means to treats as holy, to honor someone or something for its goodness. By extension this came to mean to ask God to give benefits to the person or thing blessed. That kind of benefit is then called a 'blessing'. To Christians, Jesus has made the entire human race holy, as God became a human. This means all of existence has become endowed with a sea of blessings. Christ's followers are given His charge to love our neighbors and, like God, give blessings to them. Thus, Christians over the years have prayed blessings for specific people (that is, to give them the fruits and achievements they seek). In some circles, the term is used very cheaply, especially in prayer. When done that way, 'to bless' means nothing more than 'to give them what they're after', a meaning few outside the church give it nowadays. Meanwhile, many people turn to churches and religious figures or meetings or services to get personal blessings which are material (wealth) or spiritual (ecstatic experiences). Not that God doesn't want to give them blessings, but their plea for blessing is not an act of love so much as a dressed-up display of selfishness in order to gain more stuff. In the Christian tradition, believers do not chase after blessings for themselves, but live such a life of blessing and empowering others that those others will want to give benefits in return. Also, there are often opportunities to turn your intercessory prayers for someone into words of encouragement spoken to them.
God is the ultimate giver of blessings. The most remarkable of these is God's ability (and perhaps even eagerness) to take terrible happenings and make blessings grow from them. It doesn't make tragedy into anything other than tragedy, but it enables us to not only live, but even thrive, thereafter.
The most well-known Christian gesture of giving a blessing is to trace the sign of the cross in front of the person or object. This is the same motion as crossing oneself, just done toward another. It is generally seen as a Roman Catholic or Orthodox tradition, however Anglicans and Lutherans sometimes do it too.
You can find other definitions for
'blessing' in the dictionary.
Also, read this on the prosperity gospel.
burden: A 'burden' is when God makes your soul 'heavy' for someone or something. It is when you share in the sorrow and concern God has about what happens in human life. A 'burden' comes to people who are open to caring about others. The Spirit tells you, from inside of you, that a person, group, event or situation is facing an important spiritual moment and needs prayer or action right now. Don't mess around with this burden; stop whatever it is you are doing as safely as you can, and start praying. When you respond to the Spirit's leadings in prayer or action, you're sharing someone else's load, and lifting a bit of your own, too. It may not feel like it at first, though. People with strong gifts of empathy or healing can find the burden quite troubling and overpowering. Even without such special gifts, people are known to break down in tears from a burden laid on their heart. The burden encumbers them, makes them feel like they're being weighed down, and gets in the way of whatever else they are doing. The Hebrew prophets would sometimes describe their prophecies as a burden: the behavior of their nation weighed heavily on God's heart, and thus also the heart of the prophet. The most vexing weight was the duty of telling the horrible truth to the people both God and they loved.
The prophetic meaning of burden is often missed in dictionaries. But this site has more on what burdens tell us.
catholic: of the whole; universal (Greek kath holos ). With a small 'c', it refers to the whole of the Gospel of Christ and the ways of living it out, among Christ's followers of all times, places, races, sexes, social classes and situations of life. When using 'small-c catholic', it is easy to miss that it refers to all that is within the Gospel truth and fitting for the *Kingdom of God* (a very broad thing, meaning the redeemed or completed universe). If it's not, it is not part of the 'kath holos', no matter how much it is present among Christians or church bodies.
With a capital 'C', 'Catholic' refers to the churches which acknowledge the authority of the Bishop of Rome (the Pope), the Roman Catholic Church, and its traditions, structures, and operations. Roman Catholicism is so wide in scope that it has developed its own characteristic Catholic culture.
You can also find a definition for 'catholic' in the dictionary.
What does 'cruciform' mean?
cruciform: In the shape of, or shaped by, a cross, crucifix, or T-intersect. Intersections and ligaments can be cruciform. In Christian belief, all actions, and indeed all of existence, is focused to the cross upon which Jesus was executed. The world is badly broken, and God's way of restoring it to health is through this act, along with its companion act, the empty tomb. Christians believe that Jesus was God-with-us, and Jesus suffered an execution on the cross. Why would God suffer? Because we suffer. Because God wants everything to be right again, and that is not without cost. Thus, anything that counts must be cruciform, reshaped by Jesus' death.
Being cruciform has some implications.
Any theology, any church practice, any preacher which bypasses those who suffer around us, or proclaims that we can avoid suffering in our own lives by following Christ, is not of God. "No cross, no crown", says the poem. That's not to say you can have no fun, that you have to be forever serious -- the empty tomb tells us of a victory worth celebrating and a love worth enjoying. But it's only just begun. The real way of God is cruciform - forever shaped and reshaped by the cross.
Some radical atheists say, "Christianity is a violent religion, because it claims that redemption is brought about by an act of horrible violence". Which misses the point. What the Christian faith claims is that the God who loves us took on human violence, face-to-face. 'Do what you will to me', says Jesus. And so we did. And Jesus took it, not like a man but as only God could do, by refusing to stop it with violence. Violence, like death, like hate, like everything else, has to pass through the fires of Jesus at the cross. It comes out the other end cruciform -- changed by the living Jesus into the transformative power of peace. Thus even violence itself is transformed by something much stronger: a determined God who seeks to make all things new.
Christian mission is, at its heart, simply to bear Christ and His good news to the world. "Bearing Christ" is more action than talk, more attitude than stance, being a servant rather than a master, blessing rather than cursing, and knowing and telling God's story rather than making one up. It is sometimes said that everything is mission, but that's just the mystifiers doing their thing to every word. Mission is done for and with Christ and by the power of the Spirit He sent to us, or it is not mission. It is firstly God's mission to all, done through the church, and whomever else is needed. And mission is all a noisy gong without love. While few do work that is generally called 'missionary', all Christians have a mission, from God. Related words are calling, goal, purpose, vocation, and lifework. The key Bible passage for mission is John 20:21-23, the sending of His followers after His resurrection. In it, they receive from Jesus the Holy Spirit, and Jesus' power to forgive sins. The scary part is that Christ's followers are sent as the Father sent Jesus. That means it will succeed, even if the followers have to die to do it. The followers of today are among those blessed in v. 29 for believing even though we didn't actually see. When Christians speak of 'mission', it must not be viewed as a mission we control or possess or define, but rather as the living-out of the mission (or purposes) of God (in too-churchy Latin, missio Dei).
missional: an approach to mission where the aim is to 'incarnate' (or be the flesh-and-blood worker/representative of) the gospel of Christ within a community. To be missional, the question is not 'how can we suck people in, to help fund and populate our programs?' It's 'how can we best love those living here out and around us?' Other words often heard along with 'missional' include 'organic' (= not by program, but mostly as life happens moment by moment) and 'holistic' (in this context, = person and community, evangelism and social action, feelings and intellect, devotion and questioning, drawing from across the faith traditions and creating new ways of living the faith, etc.).
You can also find definitions for 'mission' in the dictionary.
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|ver.: 23 July 2011
Blessing and Cruciform. Copyright © 1998-2011 by Robert Longman.