Friday, July 11, 2014

The Gospel as News

Somewhat sparked by John Stevens on the glorious message of the gospel from Romans 1 at EMA this week, I thought this might give a little hook for a parish magazine item:

5th July 2014 was the 60th anniversary of the first ever TV news bulletin in the UK.

The Christian faith is news – good news. That’s the meaning of the word gospel. In other words, Christianity is a message or an announcement. It’s the kind of thing a herald should proclaim. The good news comes to us not merely as a helpful suggestion or first of all as an invitation to a conversation but as a momentous and authoritative declaration of what God has done in Christ. For those who were the eye-witnesses of what Jesus did and taught there was no doubt that he was the best news in the world ever – news worth attending to and sharing. 

Although in our age of 24-7 media much of what passes for news is speculation or opinion, like real news, the Christian faith has at its core factual events, verifiable history. The Christian faith is not just a theory or a philosophy. It is the report of what God did in the man Jesus Christ in a corner of the middle east just over 2000 years ago. It’s a helpful analogy to think of some of the New Testament writers, such as Luke the evangelist, as somewhat like reporters, wanting to convey to us what’s actually happened and draw out its significance.  

In the ancient world gospel often meant an epoch-changing event. It could be used to describe the good news of the birth of a new king or a decisive victory in a battle. And of course the Christian gospel includes those very things: the birth of Jesus the God-man as God’s long promised rescuer king. It tells of how Jesus has brought in the Kingdom of God by defeating the forces of evil and winning the ultimate victory over sin. The official proclamations of the Roman Empire would have trumpeted all sorts of supposed good news, much of it propaganda. Jesus was a different sort of king with a counter cultural kingdom which was thoroughly good news, especially for those who knew themselves to be poor, weak, vulnerable or oppressed. This was news of freedom and flourishing.

The BBC’s first news bulletins didn’t show a newsreader. In striking contrast to the celebrity culture of today, the producers thought that news was a serious business that should be soberly delivered and that seeing a newscaster would detract from the stories themselves.

The Christian faith, however, is above all about a person. The whole purpose of the Bible’s good news is that we might “see” Jesus. He is centre-stage. The good news is all about him and what he has done for us.  

All Christians are meant to be messengers of this good news and there’s a tension here. For sure believers are not to hog the limelight but rather to point to Jesus. Like John the Baptist, their message is to point to Jesus and proclaim: “Look, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world!” John was humble enough to say of Jesus, “he must become greater; I must become less.” The Christian is a servant who ought to be happy to fade into the background so that all eyes might focus on Jesus. Nevertheless, a Christian’s life ought to commend the Christian message. Part of the good news is the life-changing power of Jesus and despite all our faults and failures we hope that something of Christ’s on-going work in our lives might be evident in us.

Perhaps there’s another contrast here between your average TV news report and the Bible’s good news. If we’re honest, much of today’s news will make little difference to us. The Bible’s age-old message is ever relevant. There could be nothing more important to us than the offer of forgiveness of sins, friendship with God and hope in the face of death. Knowing Jesus gives fresh meaning and purpose to everyday life and affects everything. That’s not normally true of the 10 o’clock news.     


Thomas Renz said...

I might have you as a guest entry in our parish magazine, if you don't mind.

Marc Lloyd said...

By all means.

I am often scrambling round for something to say. It doesn't help that our supposed deadline is the 7th of the previous month so its hard to be too topical.