Aren’t you ready for some good news? What would it sound like?
Tomorrow the church observes the feast of St. Mark the Evangelist, credited with authorship of the earliest and shortest of the four gospels. I’m thinking Mark would have loved Twitter. He has no time to waste. No flowery text. No over-verbalizing. Every other word in the gospel is “immediately.”
He gets right to the point as he begins his gospel: “The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.” He’s telling reader where the story is headed. The gospel ends with Jesus instructing his disciples to go out and spread good news. In other words, Mark is living into the wisdom of teachers in many fields. He tells you what he is going to tell you. He then tells you. After that, he tells you what he told you.
He writes a gospel. The word “gospel” really means good news. He is called an evangelist. The root of that word, evangel, means good news.
Are we getting the point? If the story of Jesus is about anything, it is about good news. The urgency in Mark’s style reminds us that we live in a world literally and figuratively dying for good news. Given that context, if our faith is not about good news, why bother?
But in poll after poll, when people outside the church are asked for association with the word “Christian”, the news is not good. What apparently comes to mind are words like self-righteous, hypocritical, bigoted, boring. Does that surprise you? In the first century, people outside the church observed the church and said “See how they love one another.” Today, folks might say: “See how they judge one another.” Or maybe: “See how the church is the place where fun goes to die.”
We need to get back to the good news. Think of a time when you heard really good news. When my son was born in a New York hospital, I was sent home to fetch stuff, a walk of a number of long city blocks. At every corner, waiting for the light to change, I told perfect strangers that I was now a father, and in fact, that the most adorable baby ever born had just arrived at St. Vincent’s Hospital. The irrepressible good news was new life. I confess I’ve never been that effusive about my spiritual life. It’s private, personal and after all, I’m Episcopalian.
One preacher made the point that we have no problem telling other people about a great book, restaurant, or movie we have discovered. But when it comes to the good news of the Spirit, we often go silent.
Sure, there is good reason for that. We all know evangelism gone amok, evangelism that does more harm than good, evangelism that is really bad news. Maybe even fake news.
But that doesn’t remove the question: How would we describe the good news of our faith? What language would we borrow? For me, the good news sounds something like this. We are loved, as is. We are blessed. We are in this together. We are forgiven. Our mistakes and sins don’t define us. There is always a way back. Life is shot through with beauty and meaning. Life is found when we give it away. Healing happens. There is hope. We are not alone. God, for some mysterious reason, chooses to use us. Love wins. Or as we might say at Easter, a dead end becomes a threshold, a tomb bursts with life. Heaven happens. It will be a place of healing, especially of those relationships I messed up and never resolved.
So what is the good news for you? This Monday morning, I invite and maybe challenge you to think about how you would articulate the good news of your faith. Because we live in a world that really needs to hear some good news.
Suggested spiritual exercise for this week: Take an hour in a quiet corner and read the whole gospel of Mark. Read it in one sitting. When you’re done, ask yourself: What’s the good news here?
The collect for the Feast of St. Mark the Evangelist:
Almighty God, by the hand of Mark the evangelist you have given to your Church the Gospel of Jesus Christ the Son of God: We thank you for this witness, and pray that we may be firmly grounded in its truth; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of the messenger who announces peace, who brings good news.
The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. As it is written in the prophet Isaiah,
“See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way;
the voice of one crying out in the wilderness: `Prepare the way of the Lord,
make his paths straight.'”
Jesus said to the apostles, “Go into all the world and proclaim the good news to the whole creation.
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