In the Spirit
The Rev. Gwyneth Arrison
---- — There sure is a lot of bad news. Local news is filled with the bad news of car accidents, house fires, burglaries, drug convictions, child abuse, bomb scares, rape, domestic violence, plane crashes, storm devastation, budget cuts, layoffs and more. Some of the news is so bad it makes the national news. And world news can get really bad with escalating conflicts in many regions of the world, terrorist activity and disasters such as earth quakes. And then of course there is plenty of bad news in our own lives that doesn’t get media converge such as loss of a job, cancer diagnosis, family conflict, marital unfaithfulness, and again the list goes on.
In the midst of all this the Church claims to have Good News. But often the way this News is described doesn’t sound all that good. Some will sum up the Good News like this: You are a guilty sinner, God judges and convicts you of your sin which deserves death, God sent his Son Jesus to die for your sin on the cross, and if you put your trust in Jesus for forgiveness you will go to heaven instead of being cast into hell when you die.
Others don’t want to call anyone a sinner and just talk about love. The Good News is reduced to the goodness within people. For instance the story of Jesus miraculously feeding 5000+ people (5000 men plus women and children so could have been many more than 5000) out on a mountainside with a few loaves of bread and some fish is explained away by proposing that Jesus inspired everyone to share what they had so that there was more than enough to go around.
But the Good News that I read about in Scripture seems much more radical, and much more Good than either of these views. I see people all around me who are hungry, thirsty, lonely, and fearful. We may not see ourselves this way, but the evidence is overwhelming if we look around us and how we are trying to fill the emptiness. Addictions abound – alcohol, drugs, food, sex. We work ourselves silly so we can at some point enjoy the good life. We have houses full of stuff we don’t use but shop endlessly for more stuff. We try to find meaningful connection through social media – facebook, instagram, texting, and tweeting, yet seem less connected through truly meaningful relationships than ever.
When Jesus spoke to the crowd of 5000+, a story we read in Gospel of John chapter 6, they remained for hours to hear him speak about the Good News even though they were incredibly hungry. Was this because the emptiness of their lives was growling louder than their stomachs? Jesus fed them with words of hope, and then also fed them with baskets of bread. The next day the crowds sought him out but he asked if perhaps they were only interested in getting another free lunch. Jesus then explained that he himself is the Bread of Life, that those who come to him believing will never be hungry again: “I am the living bread that came down out of heaven. Anyone who eats this bread will live forever; this bread is my flesh, offered so the world may live.” – John 6:51.
Some were offended and confused by these words and stopped following Jesus after that. When I first read these words in the Bible before I was a Christian I also thought it sounded pretty crazy. But now as a follower of Jesus I have experienced this personally. Placing my trust in Jesus was like receiving his life within me and allowing him to fill the emptiness. I’m continually tempted to fill my life with other things, but the Spirit of Jesus within reminds me that he alone can satisfy my hunger. And those who follow Jesus are called to do as he did which certainly means meeting the physical needs of those around us as God gives us the resources to do that. But it also means sharing the Good News. Perhaps this is why I like the definition of evangelism (which means to share the Good News) by D.T. Niles, just one beggar telling another beggar where I found Bread.
The Rev. Gwyneth Arrison is serving as pastor of the Merrimacport United Methodist Church of Merrimac www.MerrimacportUMC.org
Don't forget about the good news