3/18/12, The Good News Preached

Jer. 17:5-11, 13, Eph 2:4-10, Jn 3:14-21

 

When our bishop Olivia Doko was with us two weeks ago, she told me that what we shared during our homily time was a rare blend of preaching and teaching.  Preaching gives people the basic gospel message, the good news of Jesus the Christ.  This good news is meant to call all people into loving relationship with God.  Preaching is for conversion of heart and it’s not just a one time turning.  Our hearts need to be turned again and again, so we never outgrow our need to be reconnected with the Good News.  However, once people have responded to this invitation they will hopefully also ready to be taught how to grow deeper in faith.   Lumen Christi, she said, is a community that welcomes both preaching and teaching. 

All three of today’s scriptures offer us good news that needs to be preached over and over.  When I was a child I memorized verses from all three of these passages and they have stuck with me all my life. Jeremiah: The person who puts his or her trust in God will be blessed in all seasons of life.  Ephesians: It is grace that saves us through faith—and faith is a gift of God, not something that we earn through our works.  Finally we hear good news from the gospel according to John:

For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son that whosoever believeth on him should not perish but have everlasting life.  For God sent not his son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through him might be saved. 

 This verse was possibly the first one I memorized in my childhood religious training.   It’s actually kind of a strange set of words to a child’s ears.  In one big in-breath, we hear assurance that God is love...  Ah!  The child in me feels precious and safe.  God loves the world! God loves me!  That’s the basic gospel message in a nutshell.  But then in the long out-breath we hear words that are demanding and hard and kind of frightening.  Believe… perish… condemn… saved.    And then the passage goes on to talk about light and darkness and truth and evil and verdicts.  What do all THOSE words mean? They raise conflicting thoughts and feelings in our spirits.  Thankfully, we can gather in the safety of this community to share our questions as well as our faith experiences.  We do take opportunities to engage teaching about the deeper meaning of all that Jesus said and did, as well as how to interpret the rest of our holy scriptures.   All the while, like children we rest in the basic gospel message: God is love.

 

In this Lenten season the basic gospel message is what’s most important for us to hear.  Let it be preached and let it be heard and let it be received.  God loves the world. God loves you.   Our failings can be forgiven.  Reconciliation is open to all. That’s the good news!

We will wrestle with the intellectual questions that are raised by John 3:16 another time.  Today as we engage our reconciliation "examination of conscience", in the next moments, simply take note how each of the familiar Biblical stories we are remembering point us to a human experience of how God loves human beings in their interactions with Jesus.  These gospel stores mirror our own interaction with Christ.  They do not merely call us to an intellectual response.  They call us to a response of the heart.  Please pray with me for the Spirit to move us deeply into the place where we hear God's voice calling us to repentance and conversion of the heart even as we hear once again the simple gospel message:  God is love.

By Sandi DeMaster