Bless you.

Burden, Blessing, Catholic, Mission(al)

Definitions and Meaning

Christian Spirituality define Blessing, Burden, and Mission

A burden is a piece of God's love.

What Is A Blessing?

blessing: (n.) and to bless (v.)

  1. English word origin: Old English bletsian (to consecrate, set apart as sacred) < assumed Indo-European root *bhel-.
  2. Its specifically-Christian and Biblical usage is based on forms of the Greek makarios (happy).
  3. Definitions: The English verb 'to bless' means to treat as holy, to honor someone or something for its goodness. This also came to mean to ask God to give benefits to the person or thing blessed. That kind of benefit is called a 'blessing'. A blessing makes the blessed person happy, or at least pleased.

To Christians, Jesus has made the entire human race holy, as God who 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, that God give them the fruits and achievements they seek). In some circles, the term is used very cheaply, especially in prayer; 'giving a blessing' then becomes nothing more than 'to give them whatever they're after', instead of what God desires for them. Many people turn to churches and religious figures or meetings or services to get personal blessings which are material (health and 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 worship or love so much as a dressed-up display of selfishness in order to gain more benefits. In the core of the Christian tradition, believers do not chase after blessings for themselves, but live a life of blessing and empowering of others. Those who are blessed by you may want to give benefits in return, but whether they do or not is not the Christian's concern. Jesus promises to bless us as we give to others. Also, there are often opportunities to turn your intercessory prayers for someone into a blessing of encouragement spoken to them. It is also traditional for Christian guests to bless those who show them hospitality.

God is the ultimate giver of blessings. The most remarkable of these is God's ability (and 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 pass through it, and 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. But at the heart of any Christian act of blessing is the idea that the words and gestures are matched by an act of generosity, hospitality, assistance, or companionship, where possible. Take the time to think about what action to take.

What Is Mission?

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 instead of 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 on their mission 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 defined: an approach to mission where the aim is to be 'incarnational' (or be the flesh-and-blood worker/representative of) the gospel of Christ within a specific community. To be missional, the question isn't 'how can we suck people in, to help fund and populate our programs?' Missional means 'how can we best love those living here around us?' We do this by listening, sharing, serving, and sometimes just being there - or more rarely, giving someone private space by not being there. 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.).

What Is A Burden?

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 to people 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 that way 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. Their most vexing burden 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.

What Does Cruciform Mean?

cruciform: In the shape of, or shaped by, a cross, crucifix; x-shaped, +-shaped; cross-shaped (or in a few cases, T-intersects). In mathematics, it's what is formed by the formula x2y2a2x2a2y2 = 0, where x = y = ± a are the four lines. Traffic intersections can be cruciform. In genetics, cruciform structures are core to the function of a wide range of biological processes: replication, nucleosome structure, regulating gene expression, and recombination, as well as development of such diseases as cancer and Werner's syndrome.

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 has a cost, just as it does in our own lives. Thus, anything that counts must be cruciform, reshaped by Jesus' death. If we die to ourself in Christ's death, then we stand before others not as our selves, but as Jesus the Servant/Lord did. To be cruciform, we love and serve, not kill or hate.

Being cruciform has implications that come with it.

  1. If God works by and through suffering, then so must Christ's followers.
  2. There is no shame in suffering itself, because God suffered.
  3. Despite what some of today's critical voices say, it is not the story of Jesus' death that restores us. It is the action itself, the event itself, the person Himself, that has this effect. The story is what brings it to us.
  4. the trademark, if you will, of God's work in restoring the created order is -- it passes through suffering, even death, if it is of God.

Any theology, any preacher or teacher, any church practice, 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 lyric. Yes, you can have fun, you don't have to be constantly 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 on, 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 -- cruciformed -- by something much stronger: a God who will stop at nothing to make all things new.

What is Catholic?

catholic: of the whole; universal (Greek kath holos ). With a small 'c', it refers to the whole of the Gospel and the Kingdom 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 isn't, it is not part of the 'kath holos', no matter how much it is actually present among Christians or church bodies. The term is also used in the Creeds ('We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic church'), meaning that believers in Christ, wherever, whenever, and whoever they are, belong to one community united in Christ, as found in the teachings of the Apostles. As one would expect of a divine community populated by humans, the different parts of that community see the implications of 'catholic' differently.

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 Catholics are the largest Christian tradition, and the most widespread. Roman Catholicism is so wide in scope that it has developed its own characteristic Catholic culture.