Sunday, January 21, 2018
REAL GOOD NEWS
O God, you revealed your Son to all people by the shining light of a star. We pray that you bless the people of St. Andrew with your gracious presence. May your love be our inspiration, your wisdom our guide, your truth our light, and your presence our benediction; through Christ our Lord. AMEN.
This week President Trump announced his eleven “Fake News Awards.” Eleventh prize went to “RUSSIA COLLUSION!” He referred to Russian collusion as “perhaps the greatest hoax perpetrated on the American people.” He emphasized in all capital letters: “THERE IS NO COLLUSION!”
Until the 2016 presidential election “fake news” was not a commonly used term. “Fake news” has been defined as “a type of yellow journalism or propaganda that consists of deliberate misinformation or hoaxes spread via traditional print and broadcast news media or online social media.” It is “written and published with the intent to mislead in order to damage an agency, entity, or person, and/or [to] gain financially or politically.”
President Trump has taken the use of the term “fake news” to new heights, using it to refer to stories and news sources with which he disagrees. Some political analysts see “fake news” as a grave threat to democracy, free debate, and our western civilization. On the one hand, we have greater access to news sources than ever before. But on the other hand, the uproar over “fake news” has impacted our confidence in the news we receive. It has become very difficult to know who we can trust to inform us.
This is not, of
course, the first time in history disinformation has been used to influence and
control people. The Nazis were notorious for perpetrating the “big lie.” Ancient
Our gospel reading
for today affirms that God sent Jesus into the world first and foremost to
proclaim good news people could place their full trust in. As we read in Mark
1:14, “now after John was arrested, Jesus
What then is so
good about the good news of God? The
Because we do not live under a king in our society, my seminary colleague Paul Neuchterlein proposes speaking of the culture of God to help us get at what Jesus intended in speaking of the kingdom of God.
What distinguishes God’s culture? It is a culture cultivated by the good news of truth. That truth was embodied in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. There was nothing fake about Jesus.
It is a culture cultivated by the good news of peace. Our own culture is so divided, so partisan. Deep divisions threaten to tear our society apart. In the biblical understanding “peace” refers not just to the absence of violence, but also to the well-being of each person and of the whole community. There is no leaving behind the lowly and marginalized in God’s culture. But sadly we are leaving many people behind in our culture.
God’s culture is cultivated by the good news of hope. So many people seem to be struggling with hopelessness and pessimism. People in the ancient world also struggled with pessimism. God sent Jesus into the world to instill hope in hopeless hearts.
God’s culture is cultivated by the good news of salvation. Salvation is not understood in simply a spiritual sense in Mark. Jesus engages in a preaching, teaching, and healing ministry. He is all about the salvation of the whole person— mind, body, heart, and soul.
Jesus begins his proclamation with the words “The time is fulfilled.” This points to another important distinction between God’s culture and our prevailing culture. We tend to think of time in terms of chronological time. The Greek term is chronos. Chronos is time measured on our clocks and calendars. When we focus on chronological time, we tend to live a hurried and harried life, sacrificing our well-being, the well-being of others, and indeed the well-being of the Earth community as a whole. The time Jesus refers to is kairos time. Kairos is the right time, the fitting time, God’s time. Whenever God and Jesus are present in our lives, the time is fulfilled—it is kairos time.
Given that the
time is fulfilled and the
It is time to turn from hate-filled, divisive ways and to turn in love toward God, toward our neighbor, and toward all God’s creatures. It is time to turn from life governed by chronological time and turn toward an abundant life governed by kairotic time.
It is time to turn from putting our trust in a culture that has betrayed us and turn toward putting our full trust in God’s culture and adopting its ways. In other words, it is time to put our full trust in the good news of Jesus Christ. In the final analysis life really does come down to who we trust to transform our lives.
Michael Rogness tells the story of “an alcoholic who became a Christian and was able, by the grace of God, to quit drinking. His old drinking buddies made fun of him. One of them asked, `Do you really believe that Jesus turned water into wine?’ The new Christian thought for a moment and then replied, `I don’t know whether Jesus turned water into wine— but I do know that, in my house, he turned beer into furniture.”
I just finished
reading the story of an Austrian farmer during the Nazi period named Franz
Jägerstätter. Franz was married and had three daughters. He also served as the
sexton or custodian for his local Catholic parish. When the Nazis took over
I want to lift one more piece of good news in our gospel lesson for today. The first four people Jesus called to be his disciples were fishermen— that is, ordinary working guys. In God’s culture everyone counts— there are no second class members. What counts is following Jesus. When Jesus called Peter, Andrew, James, and John, they responded immediately and followed him. It is also good to know that when it came to following Jesus, they did not always get it right. It can be hard to stay rooted in God’s life-giving culture when we are still living in a life-diminishing culture.
We too are called to follow Jesus immediately. The challenge is to discern what it means to follow Jesus in our time and place. Like the disciples we will not always get it right. But let us not tarry in leaving behind a culture we cannot trust and putting our full trust in the good news of God’s culture revealed in Jesus Christ. Be assured there is nothing fake about this good news; this good news is as real as it gets.
In Jesus’ name, AMEN.
 Mark 14:55–56.
 “The Heresy of Ideological Religion,” Sojourners, February 2018:7.