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The Good News

The Good News

It is a traditional commission within the Christian faith that believers are to “share the Good News” with others who may not have it.  As familiar as this instruction may be to those inside and outside the Christian community, this is perhaps one of the most difficult instructions for the Christian person to navigate.  Our Adult Sunday School class is engaging the subject in order to investigate why sharing the Good News can be a challenge. 

1.  The Definition – to define Good News is more difficult than one might think.  Most will answer that the Good News is Jesus Christ.  But of course there are many understandings and experiences of Jesus Christ.  If my definition of Jesus is different from yours and I share the Good News as I understand Jesus, is this Good News to you or is it just news or nuisance?   

2.  Between Giver and Receiver.    In order to share the Good News, there is necessarily one who is intent to give it and there is one who is in receipt of it.   Perhaps there has been an assumption that the Good News should be shared whether folks are interested in it or not.  In other words, the duty of the giver is to create receivers.  This is to our previous question.  If Good News is something you have not asked for…do you perceive it as good news?

Our Sunday School class is considering Good News as  a process of communication.  The communication begins and takes intentional shape within the mind of the person who is the giver of the Good News.  Only the final phase of the process is in the speaking of the Good News.   Not only is sharing the Good News a process of thoughtful communication, it is also communication that happens in response to a request or stated dilemma.  Further it is communication that happens with differing levels of awareness for the giver and the receiver. 

First, the process of communication.  In order to be a person who shares the Good News, one first need someone who presents a need for it.  In other words, if no need is presented, there is not an opportunity to Share the Good News. Our class believes this is biblical.   The need may be a need related to their humanity and identity, to their wonderment about church or their secure attachment to God…i.e. salvation.  Each of these options provokes a different intensity of giving from the giver.

1.  humanity and identity.  If an individual presents a need that is related to their humanity and identity but is not overtly about church or salvation, our class is considering the idea that Good News as overtly religious language is not”a fit”.  Many a Christian person has struggled with themselves when they have not shared Good News though they felt like they should have.  (Even though they would tell you that they just knew deep down it was the wrong time to try to share).    This need regarding our humanity is perhaps the most vulnerable expression of faith and can be crushed by overly doctrinal or religious language.  This need requires the giver to go to the Jesus that precedes church.   In order to share Good News that is congruent to this need one must  call upon the ministry of Jesus.  It was in that ministry that people’s empowerment and healing allowed them to experience Jesus as Good News.  In this instance, sharing the Good News is not overtly religious language but finding a way to express how an individual’s life is full of strength and promise.  This is  a subtle sharing of the Good News and receivers may not know they have received Christian Good News but they will feel they have been empowered. Thus, it is Good News shared for the giver.

2.  Sometimes Good News can be shared through wonderment about Church.  Folks who are searching for Good News often wonder if the church can provide them an experience of fulfillment or restoration.  Many good Christian people, out of their love for the church, have been tempted to explain the way that the church can make someone’s life better or make them feel better.  Our Sunday School class is considering a reversal of this traditional understanding of church.  Together we are considering  that the Good News is not so much what the church can do for an individual but how faith seeking individuals with their prayers, life experience and energy inform and empower the church to make its most robust response to God and to the world.  Here there is a renewed understanding of church without any false promises about the complexities of life.  Here giver and receiver are both highly aware of what is meant by Good News.  

3.  Still other times, Good News is shared through the question of salvation.  Again a person presents with a dilemma or a need to know “am I saved”?  The question of course is what does saved mean?  Making a choice for a salvation experience in the here and now rather than at some imagined future day, our Sunday School class is considering the self giving behavior of Jesus as the first tickle in the experience of Salvation.  In other words, as Jesus gave of himself in extreme and subtle ways, individuals began to experience being unbound from the things of the world and free to be in full and generous relationship with others.  The human being who seeks to follow Jesus exercises similar self giving in order to intensify the experience of and confidence in salvation.  So when the dilemma is presented about how to experience and feel confident about salvation, the Good News puts people in touch with their willingness to give of self for the upbuilding of others as an act of gratitude to God.

What is very interesting to me personally is the way that all of this is a legitimate way to share Good News.  It is legitimate even though the awareness and knowledge  of the giver and the receiver are at different levels of intensity.  

   What do you think of our Sunday School class’ work?

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I have been reading Gordon Kaufman’s book on my new kindle.  The book is entitled: Jesus and Creativity (published 2006) and it is further detailing the premise of Kaufman’s book In Face of Mystery  published in 1993.  The premise is that a God that is imagined as an agent-person (or anthropomorphized) is not an intelligible option for most individuals as they mature in the faith.  Such an understanding of God contributes to a diminishment of God as little more than a divine agent with human weaknesses such as anger, jealousy and vengance.  Kaufman suggests that this has affected our understanding of Jesus as well.  That a person-like God results in simplified and fractured understanding of Jesus.  This understanding vacillates between understanding Jesus’ humanity and imagining his divinity.  

Kaufman’s life work has been to suggest that our faith is better served if we imagine God apart from any antropomorphized language or imagination.  He argues that we should understand God as creativity.  In the current book he hones in on our understanding of Jesus.  He does so by giving us two Jesus tracks on which to to run. The first track he calls Jesus Trajectory (1).  This track declares that upon his death on the cross, Jesus’ life and ministry is increasingly understood as “quasi divine and then fully divine” (location 62 on the kindle).  One of the biggest problems with this track is that it understands the world dualistically with God and Jesus in the heavens and those of us on earth in some lower place.  Kaufman argues for the inadequacy of understanding the world dualistically.  I agree, with all the advances of science, astrology and change theory, dualism is simply outdated.

Kaufman invites us to understand that if we can release God from the anthropomorphized restraints, God as creativity gives rise to a Jesus Trajectory (2) “…the sequence of creative and historical events beginning with Jesus’ baptism, ministry, death and resurrection and then continuing creatively through human history all the way to the present.” (location 321 on the Kindle).  In other words because of the life and ministry of Jesus there is a creative trajectory that uniquely informs us about God’s creativity.  (All of this and I am not yet half way through the book). 

As I pause in my reading, my question for anyone reading this blog is this:  Can a human being ever fully do without a personal or personified image of God?  Do we need the warm and cuddly image (or alternately the threatening one) in order to feel close and connected?  Is the anthromorphized God an essential even if it is flawed and sometimes depraved?

I look forward to anyone generous enough to respond!

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Jesus is considered by scholars such as Weber ...

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Happy New Year!  There are some 52 references to the good news throughout the New Testament.  Recognizing that this term “the word” or “the word of God” has undergone the historical development beginning with the life and ministry of Jesus through the Jesus Movement and early church and the church of later ages, what does this term mean pragmatically i.e. for the day to day life of the Christian person.

Some believe the good news to be a social/ political activity in which Jesus engaged.  Others believe it to be a spiritual promise for a future event.  Others believe it is an accumulation of wisdom from Jesus’ teachings.   Still others believe it is a task or commission for the Christian community.  But in each of these opinions, good news remains a very general or even generic term that becomes, at worst, a part of church jargon.

I will be facilitating an adult Sunday School class on the subject throughout the month of January.  Thanks for enriching our discussion with your comments.   In your opinion, what does Good News mean???

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