Joseph Richardson brings up an interesting point over here. Just what is the very basic Gospel, the Good News that the church preaches with a prophetic voice?
At our Thursday evening service last night, using the Pentecost 6 readings, I talked about how it does not matter whether people believe what we have to say; it doesn’t matter if we do it in a flashy, showy, consumer-oriented way; and it doesn’t matter if our own families and friends reject our message because of who we are. What does matter is the message itself.
But what is the message? Long centuries have produced thousands of books trying to explain what the message is. But I challenged myself to explain what the Good News is in one sentence–which turns out to be a complicated task for someone who’s done a fair bit of study (though not nearly as much as many others, like my esteemed professors at Trinity Lutheran Seminary). How can the message be summed up in one sentence?
I first went to Paul, in his letter to the Romans (which is, I’ll admit, cheating a little, since Paul can write some awfully long sentences when he chooses to). There were so many good sentences to choose from!
For there is no distinction, since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God; they are now justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a sacrifice of atonement by his blood, effective through faith.
For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.
For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
I could go even more simply, with the first prophetic sentence we get from Jesus:
‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.
But what about my own words? What is the heart of the Christian message? If I had to condense it down to one sentence, I guess it would have to be this.
The good news is that in a world characterized by human failings, violence, destruction, and general inhumanity, we experience, in many and various ways, especially in the life of Jesus the Christ, the presence and action of a God who does not give up; and neither should we.
Okay, I’m still working on this, but it’s a start. What about you? How do you put the Good News into one sentence?