Monday, November 21, 2011

Good News

A few years ago, on Easter Eve, a buzz started spreading through the church. We were at the Easter Vigil, and Kedron Jarvis, the preacher, climbed down from the pulpit, ran back into the sanctuary, and whispered something to one of our acolytes. This move was totally unexpected, and the acolyte’s face revealed nothing but astonished confusion. Then, Kedron ran down the chancel steps into the nave and began whispering to a few members of the congregation. We all stood and watched and wondered. Of course, we all wanted to know the same thing: What’s she saying?

If I remember correctly, she was demonstrating how the good news that Jesus Christ had risen from the dead began to spread through the Christian community. It was good news indeed, and the women who followed Jesus and his first disciples began passing along the confusing, astonishing news that their master’s tomb was empty. It took a little while for the message to become clear, but eventually word got out. That news was too good to keep private. It had to be shared.

At the end of today’s epistle lesson (1 Peter 1:1-12), we read a wonderful, irresistible description of good news: “It was revealed to [the prophets] that they were serving not themselves but you, in the things which have now been announced to you by those who preached the good news to you through the Holy Spirit sent from heaven, things into which angels long to look.” It’s that last little bit that grabs my attention—“things into which angels long to look.” What great marketing! Peter writes about this wonderful revelation of good news that is so fabulous that even angels are eager to hear it.

He’s right, of course. The message of God’s gracious salvation through the life, death, and resurrection of his son Jesus Christ is good news of the first order. It’s life-changing, life-empowering good news. It’s the kind of news that is so good it just shouldn’t be kept quiet. So why are we sitting on it like it’s a secret to be kept?

For a myriad of cultural and personal reasons, evangelism is tough. We don’t like inviting someone to church because it may be politically incorrect to imply that we have an answer that someone else might not. We don’t like sharing our faith with others because we don’t exactly know what to say. We don’t like telling people that Jesus Christ is risen because the king of people who usually do that are the preachers on television with whom we’d rather not be mistaken. But if you’ve heard the good news as just that—good news—then why wouldn’t you be eager to share it?

Forget all of the religiosity that accompanies the Christian faith. Put aside all the tricks and sermons and bible trivia you might think go with Christianity. Start, instead, with your experience of faith. What do you think about Jesus? Why are you a Christian? To what extent do you think the good news is good for you? If you can get to that simple, straight-forward place, then you’ve got something to share. If you can get back to the good news, you will find something worth passing on.

In Peter’s day, the good news was new. It was shocking and powerful and life-giving. All of those things are true today. Our collective reticence indicates that we’ve let our faith get clouded by things that distract from the good news—guilt, hell, money, morality, sectarianism, politics, etc.. Yes, our faith has something to say about all of those things, but the good news needs to come first. Rediscover that message that even angels are dying to hear, and find someone with whom you can share it.

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