Sermon:  What is Good News?

Summary:  The background of what the Gospel ("good news" or "glad tidings") is 
begins in Isaiah.  According to the prophecies in Isaiah and the Gospels, the Good 
News involves both present and future blessings.  Jesus demonstrates that the 
blessings of the Gospel have a clear present social dimension to it as well as an 
eschatological one.  For the poor, downcast and the humble, good news means not 
only being in the eternal kingdom after death, but also the kingdom in the present which 
is an alternate reality where things such as equity, justice, compassion, fellowship, and 
wholeness can be found.

Know:  The Gospel is not limited to the atoning work of Christ on the cross.  Although 
this is the core of the Gospel, the Gospel is more holistic and also has a present social 
dimension that includes concern for the poor, release from oppression, and potentially 
even transformation of oppressive structures (which the Bible calls principalities and 
authorities) as a leavening influence.  Rather than being aloof from the world, the Gospel 
engages the world as an alternative system of freedom and healing.

Feel:  Compassion for those in bondage, downcast, and oppressed

Do:  Compare on the nature of "evangelism" ("gospelizing," or "good newsing") as the 
Gospel describes it and compare it to how we typically conceive of it.  Identify what is 
present in our efforts and what needs to be improved.  List the things that need to change 
by way of information, formation, and attitudes in order to conceive of mission in the way 
Jesus demonstrates it.

Text:  Lk 4:17-30; 7:18-23

Scripture Reading:  Is 61:1-2

1.  I struggle with homework
	a.  My kids bring it home and ask for help, and I struggle with it
	b.  That's the reason I tell them to pay attention at school, because 
     	     sometimes I haven't the faintest idea how to do it
	c.  I remember asking my Dad for help - "What is a Delta"
		- He told me it was a triangle shape, or a Greek letter D
		- This was in a geography class - Delta a fertile area
	d.  Important to know the context and the definition
2.  Definition of "Gospel" - What is it?
	a.  Some refer to the Bible
	b.  Some refer to Matthew-John
	c.  Some don't know
	d.  The word itself means "good news"
3.  1 Cor 15:1-4 - Death, burial, and resurrection
	a.  If you limit it to that, you miss a bunch
	b.  This is the center or focus of the Gospel
	c.  Everything else that is good stems for this
	d.  But there is more
4.  Old Testament - "Glad Tidings" besorah, biser
	a.  Many passages speak of someone bring "good news"
	b.  Example: (Isa 60:1-6) 
		- Not just talking about individual salvation from hell
		- Talking about something that affects all of life
		- It will be a new day, a new chapter, a new order
	c.  Gospel is not just good news, but a certain type of good news
		- "Hey look, it rained on the crops" - This is not called "Gospel"
		- It was used of a hope that reoriented life for the better
	d.  The word Gospel had both secular and Christian use
		- It referred to an authoritative announcement of the fulfillment of a 
		   long awaited hope, signaling a new order
		- Jesus' "Gospel of the Kingdom" was most definitely a new order
		- Other

I.  Gospel is a Model for Living
	A.  We usually think of the Gospel as a gift we receive as individuals
		1.  This may stem from Lutheran theology
		2.  May also stem from our individualism and consumerism
		3.  But it is more than this, Jesus was an example even at the cross
	B.  Key word is: participation
		1.  Some passages:
			a.  John 6 - Eating and drinking his flesh and blood
				- v.53 - Must eat bread of life and blood to live
				- Jesus offered his flesh and blood - allusion to death
				- Eating and drinking him is to identify with him
			b.  Rom 6 - Baptism connected to the Gospel
				- v.3 - Baptized into his death
				- v.4 - Raised to "walk" in a new life
				- v.6 - Old self crucified
				- All about identifying with Christ
			c.  (2 Cor 4:10) - We are "always carrying about in the body 
			     the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may be 
			     manifested in our body"
			d.  (1 Pet 4:12-13) - "…do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal 
			     among you…as though some strange thing were 
			     happening to you, but to the degree you share the 
			     sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing…"
		2.  The Gospel is not just about what happens after you die
			a.  As the Old Testament passages say - A new way of life
			b.  Gospel re-orients everything
			c.  The Christian Gospel involves the cross
		3.  We don't understand what symbol of the cross meant originally
			a.  Stauros was an offensive word, spoken of in hush terms 
			b.  Reserved for most repugnant crimes, anarchists, etc.
				- The murdering, child-molesting, treasonous, etc…
			c.  Executioner's job - Create as much pain and humiliation 
			     as possible without killing them
				- Naked at a cross roads
				- Not a standard way, could experiment
				- Took days to day, vultures pick at flesh
			d.  People repulsed at the sight, though of the cross
				- Ultimate shame - Die on a cross
				- If relative died on one, it a family secret   
		4.  Did early Christians try to downplay or conceal the cross?
			a.  It would be hard if your founder died on a cross
			b.  Strangely, Christians did not downplay it, but gloried in it
			c.  No wonder it a stumbling block and foolishness to some
			d.  To others, it was the power of salvation
	C.  ILL:  Tried to think of an equivalent situation
		1.  What if we were "disciples" of a man who started a movement
			a.  All the geeks, weirdos, nobodies, etc. in his movement
			b.  He claimed to be equal to God
			c.  He was always in trouble with the law
			d.  He was eventually charged with treason and executed
		2.  Would you say "how" he died, or just say, "He died for our sins?"
			a.  Even though not the same emotional reaction, you get 
			     the idea 
			b.  Jesus was executed in a way that no one would be 
			     "proud" of
		3.  Pride was put to death as part of the old self on the cross
		4.  (Mark 8:34-38) - Jesus is explicit that the cross is a model
			a.  Have to lose your life to the cross of Christ
			b.  My fear and my pride are put to death there
			c.  My new life is Christ in me
			d.  It may mean public shame and private honor
	D.  What does this mean?
		1.  If my fear and pride are put to death, I can carry out God's 
		2.  It doesn't matter WHO, I can get involved with anyone
			a.  Whether a ritzy tax collector or the beggar on the corner
			b.  Can visit with and befriend sick, sinners, messed up, etc.
			c.  No pride, so I can reach out to people at the coffee house 
			     or at the bar
			d.  Can do what Christ did without fear and pride getting in 
			     the way
		3.  It means I will do as Christ did…
			a.  His lowly birth and death shows he works from the bottom
			b.  He connects with people from the margins
		4. **He does not typically work from the top down…

II.  The Gospel is a Mandate for Ministry
	A.  It is not just facts
		1.  It is to shape and order our lives
		2.  Like Paul said in 1 Cor 9:23, we do all things for the sake of the 
		3.  It is a call to action
	B.  As demonstrated by Luke
		1.  (Lk 4:16-29) - Jesus' manifesto
			a.  Reaction of crowd - "testified" to him and were "amazed"
				- Probably amazed in a negative away
				- Left out 2nd half of Isa 61:2 about day of vengeance
				- They were "amazed" at the words of "grace" - they 
				   wanted vengeance 
			b. Gospel is characterized by grace and compassion
			c.  Announce the Gospel to the poor
				 - Proclaim release to the captives
				-  Recovery of sight to the blind
				-  Set the oppressed free
				-  Favorable year of the Lord - Jubilee
			d.  After this, he begins an assault on evil and oppression in 
			    all of its forms
				- Frees the demonized
				- Heals the sick
				- Forgives sin
				- Frees from religious oppression of the Pharisees
		2.  (Lk 7:20-23) - Sign of God's Reign
			a.  John wanted assurance that Jesus was the one
			b.  Jesus cites his actions - They are the sign of the Reign
			c.  Ministered to the blind, lepers, deaf, dead, and poor
		3.  (Lk 9:1-2; 10:1-9) - Shows Jesus was being a model
			a.  He sent disciples out to do what he had been doing
			b.  They were to declare the Reign of God was near
			c.  The message came with power
		4.  Why these miracles and not others?
			a.  Jesus could have done magicians feats
				- Make a palace disappear, the temple, etc.
				- Sure would have gotten people's attention
			b.  Gospel characterized by grace and compassion
				-  Jesus righted what was wrong in people's lives
				-  Loved & interested in people, especially the poor
			c.  Announcing Good News and Ministries of Compassion 
    			    are part of the same package
	C.  ILL:  The example of the early church
From Al Hsu in "The Suburban Christian" - This past week was the annual Wheaton Theology Conference, cosponsored by InterVarsity Press. This year's theme was "Ancient Faith for the Church's Future," exploring how the early church's theology and praxis intersects with our contemporary context. One session that I found particularly interesting was presented by Alan Kreider of Associated Mennonite Biblical Seminary, who talked about the early church's approach to evangelism. In summary, the early church was not actually very "evangelistic" by our terms. The patristic literature did not emphasize the Great Commission. They didn't have official evangelists, missionaries or mission boards. They did not have exhortations to evangelism (though they had exhortations to martyrdom!). They did not have prayers for the conversion of pagans, though they had prayers asking for God's help to love their pagan neighbors and enemies. And in certain eras, church worship was actually closed to visitors, with deacons at the door serving as bouncers, restricting entrance to the unbaptized. Not the most seeker-sensitive approach to ministry! And yet the early church grew and grew and grew, even without intentional evangelistic strategy or ministry. How? By being the most attractive community in the Roman Empire. The early Christians rescued abandoned babies and raised them as their own. They gave dignified burials to all, regardless of economic status. They cared for the sick; instead of abandoning the cities in times of plague, they stayed and cared for the sick and dying, even if it meant their own deaths. It was said of the early Christians that "they alone know the right way to live." It wasn't until after Constantine that conversion became a matter of advantage rather than attraction, or eventually by compulsion. Only after Constantine did people reject the church on moral and ethical grounds and begin to accuse Christians of hypocrisy. Prior to that, the church was known as the people of compassion, love and peace. It was interesting to ponder how the church could recover that kind of pre-Constantinian attractiveness in our post-Constantinian, post-Christian, postmodern context. For those of us who have struggled with being "evangelistic," it's encouraging to know that the early church grew not because they were distributing gospel tracts but because they were practicing hospitality, neighborliness and social concern for the poor and marginalized. That still seems to me to be a prophetic countercultural stance in today's context.
D. Even though we cannot do miracles, we can still do caring ministries 1. Kingdom people are caring people a. Kingdom people are compassionate people b. Kingdom people are engaged people c. Kingdom people are a glimpse of God's ultimate ideal d. People can experience good news 2. We may not "fix" anything a. The "fixing" may not fully take place until Christ comes b. But we can show that we care because God does 3. Lift up your eyes and notice a. You are surrounded by "people" every day b. Pray to God to crucify your fear and your pride c. Just be friends with people, be genuine, be caring 4. Be ready to be expended for others a. Take up your cross and follow in Christ' footsteps b. This is how we can participate in the Gospel Concl: 1. So there is a social dimension to the Good News a. It is not just about being saved after death b. We don't preach salvation to someone starving and then say be warmed and be filled c. As Jesus did, we care for the whole person 2. Jesus cares for you (invitation) 3. Gospel of the Kingdom shape and reorients how we live and our purpose 4. Our purpose is to live out the Gospel in our lives ========================================== Small Group Questions: What is Good News? Jesus demonstrates that the blessings of the Gospel have a clear present social dimension to it as well as an eschatological one. For the poor, downcast and the humble, good news means not only being in the eternal kingdom after death, but also the kingdom in the present which is an alternate reality where things such as equity, justice, compassion, fellowship, and wholeness can be found. Open - What would be the best "good news" you would hear right now? Explore: Lk 4:17-30; 7:18-23; 9:1-2; 10:1-9 1. What was the mission of Christ, according to his "manifesto" in Nazareth? In quoting the passage from Isaiah 61, what did Jesus leave out and why? 2. What accompanied the preaching of the Gospel of the Kingdom? Why not just preach the message and leave it at that? What was the purpose for the things that accompanied the preaching of the kingdom? 3. We usually hear about how Jesus demonstrated his divinity in his miracles, but how did he also demonstrate his humanity in the miracles he did? How does this make him stand out from other supposed "miracle" workers or "magicians" in ancient times? 4. What in these passages suggests that Jesus intended for his followers to follow in his footsteps? How is it possible to follow in his footsteps without the ability to perform miracles? Apply: 5. How does your typical concept of "evangelizing" compare with the concept as Jesus demonstrates it in his ministry? 6. What attitudes need to change in order for us to carry on the mission that Christ modeled for us? 7. What are some positive changes we can make in the way we engage and bring "good news" to the people in our community? Prayer