How About Some Good News?
Preparing for the Third Sunday after the Epiphany: Three Days Before Sunday (Year C)
Psalter: Psalm 19
Old Testament: Isaiah 61:1-7
Epistle: Romans 7:1-6
God of joy and exultation, you strengthen what is weak; you enrich the poor and give hope to those who live in fear. Look upon our needs this day. Make us grateful for the good news of salvation and keep us faithful in your service until the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, who lives for ever and ever. Amen.
There are many people in our world who would like to hear some good news. The COVID pandemic has created many households of mourning all over the world. Health care workers are exhausted over the long hours they have had to work caring for others. The number of refugees in the world who have been displaced hoping for a host country to take them in has surpassed post-World War II levels. The world seems to be a scarier place than usual as witnessed by the rise of people worldwide willing to put their trust in authoritarian leaders who promise rescue and security; and currently we have become so polarized, we can’t seem to agree on much of anything even the little things. Good news is needed.
I am convinced that the one thing the church can offer to the world in all times, places, and circumstance is the Good News that there is hope. Christians are a people of hope. We believe that in the midst of a dark and sinful world, God is with us and not abandoned us. We believe that the hope of the world lay in a first century Jewish carpenter who was crucified as an enemy of the state. When it is said in that way, such hope sounds strange beyond all reason. It did as well to Jesus’ first followers—that is, until three days after his death. In Jesus’ resurrection that strange hope was brought into the reality of a broken and dark world. Those first disciples proclaimed this new word of life-giving hope in a world where violence and death had the last word. Although it took them a while to understand what Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection meant in all of its profundity, they knew from the start that at the very least the empty tomb indicated that the violence that led to Jesus’ death did not have the last word. At long last, there was hope.
The spirit of the Lord God is upon me,
because the Lord has anointed me;
he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed,
to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives,
and release to the prisoners;
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor… (Isaiah 61:1-4)
Isaiah understands that his anointing, his calling is to proclaim a word of hope in a world where many had given up hoping for anything good. It’s not easy being hopeful in the midst of hopelessness. It sounds insane to the realists in our midst who hear Pollyannaish words that fail to take stock of the trouble all around. But Isaiah has God’s Spirit to speak the word of hope—not a “don’t worry be happy” shallow wishful thinking hope—but a hope that embraces the truth that God has entered into the darkness, the violence, and the death to bring the world out of the trouble all around.
Jesus embraced this same calling from Isaiah when he preached his first sermon in his hometown of Nazareth (Luke 4:16-30). His message was not well received, but he continued to preach the Good News to all who would listen. He could do so, after all, because he had the same Spirit that Isaiah had in his ministry as a prophet.
And here’s the thing. Jesus’ people have the same anointing and calling. We have the same Spirit of God dwelling in us that makes it possible to offer the same hope to a world still broken and dark and violent and deadly. We can offer such hope, not because Jesus stayed above that world, but entered into it in order to bring us out of it.
We have Good News! We are a people of hope.
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