[Update: this was written when I served as the publisher of Creator magazine. I didn't alter the first paragraph because it serves as context. The article to which this post refers is not available other than this excerpt.]
We do publish a magazine, for those who only know us online. Seldom do we "preview" the magazine content here, but most of our subscribers should have gotten the current issue by now, and so I'm making an exception in this case, because the topic is, in many ways, an "online" topic. So this article's guest contributor is Connie Bull, and I think you'll agree that this excerpt (you can read the full article in the print magazine) is good stuff:
Since young people are very familiar with the term sexting, for a presentation of my research on blessing, I developed the term blexting in order to help youth and college students apply blessing in their lives. Bless + texting = Blexting. Blexting is the act of texting someone a blessing. The question becomes one of practicality: “Are both texting and blessing topics for worship renewal or is it merely secularized spiritual gimmickry?”The late Robert Webber wrote a book entitled Worship is a Verb: Celebrating God's Mighty Deeds of Salvation. True worship is not only intramural – or within the walls (of the church) – but extramural and evident in the daily life of the worshipper. Texting is definitely a part of technological daily life and, thus, a part of the lives of our congregations, spanning all ages of adults, youth, and children. Texting is communal, powerful, symbol-related, and resourceful. So is blessing.
Commentating on Genesis 48, Walter Brueggemann outlined five qualities in the blessing of Jacob that can be inferred to be consistent with Jesus’ blessing of the children in Mark 10 as resources for individuals today:
• power-laden words
• transcendent meanings
• trust in promise
Thus, the main difference between ordinary texting and blessing is that blessing has inherently transcendent meanings and trust in the promise of Christ, the Word, the world’s ultimate Benediction. The church, however, has largely relegated all forms of blessing to the clergy alone, thus avoiding the personal challenge – and privilege – of touching others in blessing as the Body of Christ.
By biblical standards, blessing has become more sterile than sacred in many of our churches, often contained only in the benediction by the minister at the close of the service with no individual names spoken and no sacred touch of each one blessed. The numerous Old and New Testament examples of the power of touch, blessings by laity, and the use of someone’s name in blessing are scriptural undergirding for the renewal of the practice of blessing as independent of any other rite. In our everyday lives, the word “bless” usually is limited to a mere formality after a sneeze or used as a veiled insult (“Bless her heart”). Christ came to make us sacred people, not merely civil people.
Blexting does not encompass the entirety of the scriptural model for blessing…but it is a start. A sincere and intentional blext is a more biblical blessing in its essence than many passing exchanges we have face to face with fellow believers or with members of our own families.
Walter Brueggemann and John R. Donahue pointed out that secularized reality “yearns for blessing” as a sign from the contemporary church:
“On the one hand, one sees how the faithful practice of blessing in liturgy might bring worship close to the reality of life. On the other hand, one sees that blessing keeps the Bible in touch with human experience, even as life becomes more fully secularized. Genuinely secularized reality yearns for blessing, for a sign of the overplus of graciousness in the midst of experience.... In Blessing in the Bible and Life of the Church, Westermann offers what may be a quite fresh interfacing between liturgy and secularization.”
Claus Westermann outlined two basic meanings of biblical blessing: deliverance and salvation. These two tenets are daily involved in our spiritual journeys: where we have been, where we are, and where we are going.
Power-laden, Christ-centered, name-bearing text messages, when offered in the Spirit of Christ, can communicate facets of blessing pertinent to the individual receiving a text message containing a Bible verse, a word of Christ-centered greeting, comfort, praise, encouragement, gratitude, or devotional meditation.
Westermann affirmed “blessing bestowed in the name of God is an essential part of the proclamation of the message of Christ and the congregation’s response to it.” Can a response to the message of Christ be a technological one? Brueggemann stated “it is blessing which values the continuities with older teachings, which may be utilized and transformed but not abandoned.”
The transformation in this case is the mode of delivery. WWJT? (What would Jesus text?)
In the study I conducted, youth and college students were asked to come up with blexts of their own. Some of the blexts created by the group were JLU (Jesus Loves You), GLU, GBU (God bless you),imgr8fl4U (I am grateful for you),PsBw/U (Peace be with you), PsN<><2U(Peace in Christ to you), Nw/U (And also with you).
Others blexted their favorite verses and words of encouragement. One adult present blexted a friend of hers with a message during the brainstorming session. “It works!” she burst out. “I just blexted my friend and she texted back ‘I was so on the way to grumpy before I got this.’”
Another person involved in the college study received a blext a week afterward at a critical time of pain and anxiety. The blext said “It’s on my heart to blext you with Matt 6:25-33 just now. PsBw/U.”
Two months after the original study on blessing, 56% of the youth group indicated they had blexted at least three people and had received blexts; 13% had blexted at least 8 or more people, and one person indicated 20 people.
Blessing the disciples was the last thing Jesus did before the Ascension – not healing, preaching, or performing sacraments. There is scant evidence of us following Jesus’ example of blessing. Indeed, most examples of blessings are performed by the minister alone, not by a corporate body, leading some lay people think it beyond their spiritual privilege to bless someone.
Blessings in the First Century were not sequestered to the clergy alone, but were rather required of every devout believer, as evidenced in the rabbinical traditions in effect during the New Testament period. The berakhah, the Hebrew word most often translated blessing, is “the chief form of prayer in Jewish worship.” According to the rabbinical tradition, the devout Jew ought to recite over one hundred berakhot daily. Christians, like Jews, should utter a berakhah. The only difference is that Christians are to do this “in the name of the Lord Jesus” or “through him,” that is, with the same intention and the same fullness of commitment he had.
I am not suggesting that devout Christians ought to blext 100 times daily in keeping with the regimen expected of Jesus as a devout Jew. I am, however, suggesting that the more blessing is a part of our daily thoughts and actions, the more Christ-like we become. The primary ministry issue is the connection of blessing to a sense of belonging and its relationship to spiritual formation. In sum, we bless at mealtimes, we teach our children to bless others at bedtime prayers, and we teach them to bless by singing songs of blessing. But are we teaching them to bless by blessing them?
How can we begin to incorporate blessing into daily life so that it is a less awkward idea and becomes more natural (and thus more natural in a worship setting)? Could we begin by blexting them?