The story of God working among us is all about teamwork. God sends Jesus. Jesus calls and then sends out the twelve apostles. Then later he sends out seventy two, in pairs. Finally, after his Resurrection, he sends all his disciples to the ends of the earth, equipped with the Holy Spirit, so they can share the Good News.
But what is this Good News? The Greek word translated as ‘gospel’ is used of official proclamations from emperors and kings. It’s not just, “have you seen the news in the papers today, it’s great!” The word ‘gospel’ carries far more weight than that. This is a proclamation from the Emperor, important news not to be ignored or dismissed.
But what is the Good News? Jesus takes the words of the prophet Isaiah (Isaiah 61.1-2) when he reads in the synagogue (Luke 4.14-20), early in his ministry, in what some theologians call his manifesto. Jesus says that God
has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed,
to bind up the broken-hearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives,
and release to the prisoners;
2 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour
“Go back and report to John what you hear and see: 5 The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor.”
This is incredible news! Liberty, release, healing, miracles, even raising the dead! Amazing!
This is not limited to the life of Jesus. This kind of news and these occurrences continued throughout the book of Acts, and throughout the early years of the Church. There are places today where such things still happen. You may have heard of, or seen such things.
God is all about healing and restoration and renewal. It’s true that sometimes full healing is found in letting go of our bodies and passing through death to be with God. It’s also true that our wish-list prayers are not necessarily answered the way we want or anticipate. But then, God is not Jeff Bezos and our prayer list is not an Amazon list for next day delivery! Timing is everything, and we need to be ready for the gifts and experiences with which God wants to bless us. If we start from the premise that God loves us and wants good for us, then perhaps we will be able to see things better, rather than being like the toddler, angry because he didn’t get the present he wanted NOW!
The Good News that Jesus brings is in our lives, our actions, our attitudes. It is those things that mark us out as Christians, as followers of Jesus, not the fact we go to Church. It is those same things that will draw others to Christ, as they wonder how we face crises with such peace, how we cope with reversals, how suddenly things come together in a way that’s seemingly impossible.
Church matters, because it is where we gather to pray together, to encourage each other, and (most importantly) to give thanks and worship to God who has blessed us in so many ways. It’s where we gather to make our pleas and say our thank yous to God as a community, bound together in love, mutually supporting one another in our faith and our lives in God.
The truly wonderful Good News is that God loves us, and has sent Jesus to show us that love, and to lead us back into restored relationship with Him, so that we are able to pray: “Our Father…”, knowing that He hears us, and will always answer, even if it’s not as we expect.