At a recent Sunday service I spoke from Marks Gospel chapter one.
My key verse was- “The time is come and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news".
I love good news and I have been on the receiving end some wonderful news in my life.
Sadly though it more often feels there is not enough of it around.
The end of the news report is often given over to a light relief part to give you a cheery thought to send you on your way.
It's hard to escape reality for long though.
So what is this good news ?
If you had asked me as a child what do I believe after 'giving my life to Jesus' in my Sunday school class I would probably have answered - We give our lives to Jesus and then when we die we go to be with him in heaven.
My simple view was very much about life away from this life, this promise of eternity where as we sang with gusto each week 'Heaven is better than this' and that was where we wanted to go- maybe not quite just at that moment though.
Many New Testament scholars agree that at the heart of Jesus’s message his passion was for - “the kingdom of God.”
Jesus came to pronounce that "the Kingdom had come near."
Rome referred to itself as a “kingdom” and not as an empire.
If Jesus had wanted to avoid the political connotations of “kingdom” language, he could have spoken of the family of God or the community of God or the people of God.
But he didn’t. He used “kingdom” language.
Justice: that everybody should have enough the 'daily bread' we pray for in the 'Lords prayer'.
Peace, or Shalom, the Hebrew word goes beyond a simple one word interpretation, Shalom is more then just simply peace; it is a complete peace. It is a feeling of contentment, wholeness, well being and harmony. The absence of agitation or discord.
As Dominic Crossan an ex-priest and theologian once said; "heaven’s in great shape – earth is where the problems are.
That life could have a positive story line - there is good news.
And that God was far different and far better than we ever thought.
That Jesus came and humbled himself and personally walked through the process of being both rejected and forgiving, and then said;
In Mark 1v 16 -18 Jesus calls the first disciples.
As Jesus walked beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.” At once they left their nets and followed him.
Second it has to be good for everyone, everywhere; no matter their circumstances.
Pastor Rick Warren stated.
'The Good News is that when we trust God’s grace to save us through the work of Jesus, our sins are forgiven, we get a purpose for living, and we’re promised a future home in Heaven.'
So even Pastor Rick from the mega church in Saddleback, California USA, highlights the escape to that - sweet by and by.
My first introduction to him was his book 'Purpose Driven church' followed by 'Purpose driven life'.
I did dip into these best selling books but to be honest my niggle came with the word 'driven'.
The teaching and its impact continues today with Mega centres definitely being 'driven' in their aims to grow the church.
Having attended and served in a mega church centre my view of it being 'driven' was shown to be true.
Everything is done at a high level that takes a lot of volunteers working hard for long hours. They have to be there well before meeting/conference starts and long after the last visitor or church member has left.
The intensity of volunteering and the sense that it's your 'act of service to God' can lead to meltdown for some and increasing disenchantment for others. The next step for some is to leave and find a less 'driven' smaller church, to leave the church completely or to attend but not serve in any capacity ( this is not always a problem, new attendees are often ready to engage and serve). I can't give any stats for this but this is my own observations both personal and that of others I have discussed with.
I mention this here because I think this is not the 'good news' that Jesus spoke about. The 'get saved and now serve model' is, I feel destructive in the long run for the reasons I have written. The promise of eternal life in payment for this service is not 'good news'.
I have met many who sadly have reasons they cannot hear the 'good news', because life itself is screaming 'too loudly', about their current situation filled with possible pain or problems.
"Then, because so many people were coming and going that they (the disciples) did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them,
“Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest."
So they went away by themselves in a boat to a solitary place.
But many who saw them leaving recognised them and ran on foot from all the towns and got there ahead of them. When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So he began teaching them many things. By this time it was late in the day, so his disciples came to him. “This is a remote place,” they said, “and it's already very late. Send the people away so that they can go to the surrounding countryside and villages and buy themselves something to eat.” But he answered, “You give them something to eat.”
When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd
To let ones inside(bowels) feel the situation of another.
1 John 4:20 tells us; "What is love if it remains invisible, inaudible, intangible. "Those who do not love a brother or sister whom they have seen, cannot love God whom they have not seen."
Jesus told his disciples - YOU GIVE THEM SOMETHING TO EAT.
Jesus said to his disciples; "You give them something to eat."
Mahatma Gandhi said:
“There are people in the world so hungry, that God cannot appear to them except in the form of bread.”
Japanese-American theologian Kosuke Koyama writes:
"The devastating poverty in which millions of children live is visible. Racism is visible. Machine guns are visible. Slums are visible. Starved bodies are visible. The gap between the rich and the poor is glaringly visible. Our response to these realities must be visible.
'Grace cannot function in a world of invisibility. Yet in our world, the rulers try to make invisible the alien, the orphan, the hungry and thirsty, the sick and imprisoned.
'This is violence. Their bodies must remain visible. There is a connection between invisibility and violence. People, because of the image of God they embody, must remain seen"
Walter Brueggemann states in his book
The Prophetic imagination that:
"Compassion constitutes a radical form of criticism, for it announces that the hurt is to be taken seriously, that the hurt is not to be accepted as normal and natural but is an abnormal and unacceptable condition for humanness.”
Jesus taught that on the Day of Judgment, God will ask what each person did to help the poor and needy: "
The disciples were tired from telling the 'good news'.
Jesus wanted them to rest.
The crowds were helpless and harassed and Jesus took pity on them and fed them with his 'good news', he spoke to them and told them stories to fill this hunger.
But then their spiritual hunger turned to physical hunger.
Jesus told his disciples to meet that need too.
I cannot help but feel good news comes attached to the needs of the people we are telling it too?
I like to think that 'you feed them', is not being 'driven' but being faithful with what we have, what we have received.
It's 'what have we got in our hands to share with others'?
It's reminding ourselves over and over that this is supposed to be 'Good news', it's a message that life can have a positive story line and that God is far better than we ever thought- now that's good news.