Sharing the Good News
Based on Isaiah 40:21-31, 1Cor 9:16-23, Mark 1:29-39
There was a time in the world when there was no newspaper, radio or television, no internet…and that really has not been so long ago. Until the invention of the printing press and the wide disbursement of books, there were only a couple of ways to get news in town. The first is the oldest way, which is the exchange of news by neighbors over the back fence or in other social gatherings. This news might well be termed “fake news” in today’s lexicon as it was full of interpretations of the teller and possibly some misinformation that had been overheard or had been second or third hand shared. The second was the use of town criers. Town criers were employed by the leaders of the town to let the townspeople know of changes in laws, market days, when not to dump sewage in the river so beer could be brewed (a true story). These criers, used from ancient Greek and Roman times, would walk around ringing bells and other devices to attract a crowd. They would then tell their news and walk to the next part of town and repeat. They had a very important job and everyone in town relied on them to keep them up-to-date.
Disciples of Christ are called to share the news as well – that is the good news (gospel) of Jesus and how it has made a difference in their world and the world at large. Sharing this news far and wide is what made Christianity grow. At first, when the early Christians were being persecuted, they had to communicate very quietly and subtly through symbols and secret worship services. To do otherwise was to risk death or at least jail. Yet early Christians were quite ready to share their faith and to bring others the gospel. In our day, after millennia of being the leading religion in the Western world, we have lost the “obligation”, as the Apostle Paul puts it of proclaiming the good news. Our scriptures remind us today of just how much gospel we have to share. Let us thank God for this as we spend a moment in prayer…
The writer of Second Isaiah is reminding the Israelites of just who God is and what God has done for them. The writer asks questions about how it is that the chosen people of God had forgotten what had been told them about the LORD since time began. The writer goes into all of the many aspects of God that had made themselves known to generations. From verse 28 to 31 the writer extols the strength of God and how God shares that with those who wait for the LORD to lead them.
Simon Peter and Andrew bring Jesus over to their house, only to find their mother in bed with a fever. Jesus heals her and then went on to heal many more who came to him after dark – some who also had unclean spirits as we encountered last week. Jesus rose early the next day and went out to reconnect himself with God through prayer. Once the new Disciples found him, he told them that they were off to proclaim, “…The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent and believe in the gospel….” (Mark 1:15)
Today’s excerpt from Paul’s letter to the Corinthian church is telling them that Paul believes that he has “an obligation” to “proclaim the gospel”. It is his duty to do this freely; meaning of his own free will, asking no one (i.e.,the Corinthian church) to support him, and as a recognition of the manner in which he received the gift of the gospel himself – freely through God’s gift of grace. Paul goes on to say that he freely chose to become servant to all to win people to Christ. He became an observant Jew, a Gentile, a weakling, anything that was needed so that he might be able to show everyone he met how the gospel of his Lord and Savior Jesus Christ transcended anything that person or people might currently be worshipping.
This is what sharing the good news is all about, friends. It is about understanding the context of the person that you are talking to so that you can speak their language. This is why the message of Jesus spread so far and so wide. It was able to speak to the issues that were most important to those who were outcast from the prevailing system of the day. People who follow Jesus, then and now, react to something in the message that is missing in their lives. It is also about being authentic enough in our beliefs to take the chance and speak passionately to another person about Jesus and why His message makes a difference.
We most often connect to people who share life experiences like ours – people who have been through what we have survived (or are about to try to survive). People who can say to us, “I know that walk that you are walking, it is difficult and scary. However, it is not so bad when someone comes along with you to show you the way.” Those are people that others cling to and want to be around. This is what happened that day at Simon Peter’s house. Jesus is able to heal all of those that come to him because he’s seen it before – he knows our demons and our frailties. He had been where they were and was able to bring the healing love of God into those very broken places.
Jesus was willing to walk with people in those times and spaces where they were most vulnerable. He was willing to make Himself vulnerable as well – unlike the uncaring and ever taxing Temple leadership. That is the very reason that they…that we are willing to follow Him. Like Him, when we speak with our own authority about what being a follower of Jesus means to us, then we can fulfill the “obligation” to go throughout the world to share the love of God with all who we meet – to share with them the gospel. It doesn’t take a seminary degree or anything else (after all, Jesus never attended college) – what it takes is people willing to share from our personal experiences how God has healed us and filled us with God’s unquenchable love.
The Apostle Paul puts it plainly in his letter, “…I have become all things to all people, that I might by all means save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel, so I may share in its blessings….” (v 22-23, NRSV) Paul becomes authentic with all the different folks he interacts with. He learns who they are and what problems they are facing in their lives. He speaks to them as one of their own, and yet as one who has overcome many things through the grace of God. Our mission as disciples is the very same as Paul’s. We are to feel obligated to meet people where they are and to show them and tell them about how the love of God through Jesus can make their lives better. We do this by telling people how it is that God through Jesus changed our lives.
It’s time to share the good news of Jesus. It’s time to be like the town criers of old and get people’s attention about the gospel. Too many folks right around here are literally dying because they don’t know about or take advantage of this life-saving good news. Time to share our stories with those who most need to hear it. Time to meet our obligation to God for a gift freely given. It doesn’t take any more than asking a friend, neighbor, or someone who you think might not be going to church, out for a cup of coffee. Before you meet with them, ask God in prayer to give you the words that this person needs to hear. Relax and let God do the rest – because the gospel really shares itself. Thanks be to God for giving us such great good news to share! Amen.