What do you do with Good News?
This morning as we rest in God’s word, I would like us to spend a some time meditating on the theme, What do you do with Good News? We heard in the text today that there were several reactions to the Good News Jesus brought – so let is ask, What do you do with good news?
Let us pray…
Today our gospel lesson pick up right where it left off last week. Last we we met Jesus filled with the power of the Spirit coming into his home congregation – the church of his childhood. News had been spreading about what he was saying and doing around Galilee, but now, finally he had come home.
We don’t know what all he was doing before he arrived home, but once he gets there he is invited by the preacher to say a few words. So, he reads from the prophet Isaiah, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,” he reads. “He has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to liberate the oppressed. To proclaim Jubilee – the year of the Lord’s favor.” These are the first words of Jesus’ ministry as recorded by Luke. He reads from the prophet and reminds the people gathered that God’s promises are not fleeting. There will be a day when their poverty will be named; when their weakness will be made strong; when their debts will be forgiven…God is faithful. It was good news for them to hear. But, if you remember Jesus flips the script and swaps the story. He tells them, “Today…you don’t have to wait. Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”
Jesus doubles down on the good news. Yes, God is faithful to God’s promises and instead of waiting for some kind of happy ending – it starts today. I am the the one of whom the prophet was speaking he implies. This is the mission statement of the ministry of Jesus the anointed one of God. This is the working definition of Messiah. He is saying – you can be apart of this Good News now, you don’t have to wait!
And this is where we pick up the story this morning. That good news was preached in the pulpit of his home church. Jesus told the people the Kingdom of God is today. And there is a buzz in the sanctuary. The men (and it was all men at that time) didn’t wait to talk about the preacher in parking lot conversations. They were talking amongst themselves right then and there.
Some were excited with the news he proclaimed, ready to be a part of it. Others were wary. Others angry. But the thing they all held in common was the desire to keep this news for themselves. “Isn’t this Joseph’s son?” they ask. Has he really come home to bring this good news to us? This young preacher will rebuild our church. He will bring in young families, and he will tell us how special we are. Our church, they say will be so blessed to have him. We can just sit back and watch him work – because he is ours. Our boy is here. Now people will come.
They wanted to keep the good news to themselves. They had been blessed to see the face of God in their padded pews and the knew God was present with them. They were good and faithful people, and they knew it. They wanted to keep the good news for themselves.
And Jesus sensed their selfishness, he understood what conversation was being had. “Really, now you are going to say to me -Doctor, cure yourself. Take care of us. Do here what we have heard you have done in Capernaum. We want you to to stay home.” Having none of it Jesus replied, “Amen, folks, even if I do stay – you will like me for a minute and when things start to change you will want me gone. You like to keep the status quo. No prophet is accepted in their hometown.
Listen now, what I am about to speak is the truth. There are many here who need help, yes, but you have each other – got that, you have each other. However, there are many outside the doors of the church who are suffering. They are in a drought. When it happened before, God sent Elijah the prophet not just to his home church – no, he was sent to a widow in Zaraphath. He wast sent into the world to be with one whom his people didn’t even know and be with her in her suffering. He was sent to see and bring good news to those outside the church. He was sent to those his church was scared of. So, too, it was with Naaman. There were many sick Elisha’s home church, but he was sent to the Syrian to care for him. He was sent to give God’s loving good news to one who didn’t even believe in his God.”
Ooooo, weeee. They did not want to hear this. No, ma’am. They wanted to keep the Good news all to themselves. Heresy they cried out. How dare he talk like God loves the outsiders (missing the irony that they themselves were outsiders). How dare he say we can’t be the only ones to benefit. How dare he proclaim from the pulpit such strange ideas. Such new interpretations. They got up and chased Jesus to the edge of the town. To the brow of the hill. The ledge from which you could see Cana. They chased him to the ledge and were going to throw him off because they wanted to keep the good news to themselves.
Friends, God’s good news is not to be hoarded.
When you have been made new by the Good News, it doesn’t stop with you.
When you can sing I once was blind but now I see, God’s good news isn’t just for me.
When the chains of debt and the weight of oppression have been knocked down and dragged out, the good news should turn to a hallelujah shout.
When jubilee has erased everything you think can keep you from God’s face, the good news can’t remain in just one place.
The good news is to be shared. It is to be shouted. We are to be a pastoral people who see the needs in the world and feed the hungry, clothe the naked, sit with the sick and the prisoner, who welcome the religious minority and the outcast refugee. We are to care for them without hesitation or reservation. We don’t need to make them pray before we give them food. They are hungry they get food. They don’t need to sit through a service to get assistance, that is holding our power over them, if there is a need we meet it the best we can. We are to be a pastoral people. We are to be out in the world causing mischief and turning over the tables.
We are to be a prophetic people who echo Jesus’ message and flip the script and swap the story. We are to be a people who don’t just sit idly by and watch the world go by shaking our heads wondering what is going on. We are to be engaged in the world. Confronting powers and principalities that feed hatred, that demean human worth, that seek to separate because of race or religion or gender identity. We are to be the embodiment of the Kingdom of God and provide an alternate reality. A reality where all of God’s children – whether they know it or not – are treated with the dignity we would treat God with.
For some it is marching with fists held high and proclaiming at the top of our lungs that if you can’t say All lives matter if you can’t first say Black and Brown and LGBTQ Lives matter. You can’t say all lives matter if you can’t first say Poor lives matter. You can’t say all lives matter if you can’t first say Muslim lives matter, Refugee lives matter. You can’t say all lives matter if you can’t first say everyone, regardless if they believe what I believe – do what I do – act the way I want them to – if you can’t first say you are my brother and you are my sister. For some of us, this is how we proclaim the good news in the world.
For some it is meeting the needs of those around you. The sister in the pew next to you or the brother who isn’t here today. You are the relational ones who help connect the dots, but when you do -you just don’t care for them you share their stories. You encourage them to share their own stories. You help connect the dots as to why there is a need in the first place. You are a caregiver first – and in that care giving you proclaim the good news to all of those around you.
For some flipping the script and swapping the story involves being present in the times of need. You are the caregivers. You are the ones who can and do make the phone calls when a sister or brother isn’t here. You are the ones who go and visit those who are homebound or in the hospital. You are the one who take God’s good news outside of this place. You are the ones who care not only for members and friends of the church, but you live God’s good news when you are taking your neighbor to the doctor, when you are opening your couch to strangers, when you are mediating conflict between peers. You are, too, are the embodiment of God’s good news.
This is what is behind Jesus’ sermon in the synagogue. When he says, “today, scripture is fulfilled in your hearing,” it is a call to action for the people of God to bring the Good News – the good news that has so deeply touched our hearts – into the world. And it isn’t always pretty when we do. When we challenge the status quo; when we confront the king – it can be a perilous path. It can lead us to the brow of the hill with people wanting to push us off the cliff. It can leave us breathless with anxiety as we see down the steep edge. People don’t want to hear what we have to say when we refuse to hoard the Good News. It causes them discomfort. It disrupts what they want. It is a mischievous task.
But hear this…oh hear this. Hear what happens when they push Jesus to the edge. The Bible says, “they got up and drove him out of the town, to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they might hurl him off the cliff…BUT…BUT Jesus passed right on through the mids of them and went on his way.” Oh, you missed it, “But Jesus passed right through the midst of them and went on his way.” Just in case, “BUT Jesus passed right through the midst of them and went on his way.” Jesus said the haters gonna hate, but I don’t have time to wait. Jesus said, take it or leave it, I am gonin’ on my way.
When they wanted to push him off the cliff, Jesus just walked on through so that he could keep sharing the good news. Because the good news doesn’t have time to stop and argue with the haters, it doesn’t sit on TV and cry about a war on Christmas or that somehow in the land of the free and the home of the brave Christians are being persecuted. No, the good news is on the move. It is something that is bigger that us and will get us from here to there. It is life giving, sister and brother loving, spirit transforming good news that will set us on our path and carry us past the haters in our way. It has a way of doing that.
When Joseph was thrown in to a hole to die, God’s good news carried him to pharaoh’s side.
When Pharaoh’s army gave chase to Moses and the refugees, God’s good news parted the sea and the went on their way.
When big stone walls protected the first town in the promised land, Joshua and the priest blew horns and shouted some good news and those walls came tumbling down.
When David came face to face with a giant philistine, some good news came and that giant fell.
When Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were in a fiery furnace and Daniel in a lion’s den; God’s good news gave them a shove right through the door.
When the Hebrew Children were at death’s door about to be slaughtered; Ester shouted some good news and they lived to make it home.
When you have the good news, the haters are gonna hate, but it doesn’t matter because you ain’t got time for that. You have seen the Kingdom of God and you just have to share it. You have to love your neighbor and pray for your enemy. You have to step out and cause some mischief. You have to get out of your comfort zone and change the world. Not because you will get some reward. Not because you have to earn some kind of grace. Not because someone has guilted you. You shout the good news because you know what it does. You know that it has changed your life. You know that it has transformed your spirit. You share the good news because that’s all you can do. Your life has been made new.
The Spirit of the Lord is upon you.
It has anointed you to bring good news to the poor
Release to the captives
Sight to the blind
liberation for the oppressed
To announce the year of God’s favor.
What are you gonna do with the Good News?
Thanks be to God.