Wednesday, January 14, 2009

A "bigger" gospel

In some circles "gospel" has been reduced to forgiveness of sins. Yes, it includes that; but it is much more when we look at the whole Story in the scriptures. And, that has massive implications for how we live our lives, portray hope, care for creation, seek peace, work for social justice...essentially, all the practical details of our lives in how we "love God" and "love neighbor."

In a recent blog post, Scot McKnight defined gospel in this way: "it is the work of God to restore cracked Eikons [image], in the context of the community of faith, through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ and the gift of the Spirit, and this restoration is to both union with God and communion with others for the good of others and the world."

I've added that to my catalogue of definitions of "gospel."

Saturday, January 3, 2009

As 2009 begins, what question are you asking?

As I begin 2009, I'm thinking about the questions I'm asking walking into a new year. I'm thinking about the questions that others are asking, as well.

For most, I don't think it's the question that I was told my freshman year of college.

I attended a very conservative church that year, one which emphasized evangelism- in a very specific form. I was eager to be an evangelist, in a personal friendship evangelism, and I wanted to learn everything I could about how to be an effective evangelist. (I still carry some of this "first love" but in an entirely different way and theology.)

So, I attended a weekly class on a popular method of evangelism in those circles. What interested me was not only the teaching from this book but that we would put this in practice- going out in two's or three's. When we went into homes to visit folks who visited the church, or had a "prospect" from our own lives, we were trained on how to do small talk. Knock on their door, get into their home, chit chat for awhile, and then- Zing! Get to The Question.

Here it is: "If you were to die tonight, do you know for sure where you will go?" (That is, to heaven or hell.)

That's the question I don't find most people asking. I'm not suggesting it's unimportant nor that to be a follower of Jesus doesn't include the issue of what happens after one dies. I do think it includes this but I see it framed in quite different ways than just, "If you were to die tonight..."

So, here's one of the questions I am asking: "How do I want to live my life?"...And, I find others, many others, asking that question or ones similar to it.

When asking this question, it is sometimes prefaced with, "If you had only 2 years to live, how would you want to live your life?" Some are facing this kind of question and it is a real question. Most of us are not facing this question (that could change overnight, of course, with some sad news of a terminal illness). If I did receive such news, it would alter my life radically.

But, I want to ask myself something more along these lines: "If I have a bunch of years left to live, how do I want to live my life?" I think that's a question more engaging, with more potential, and that many more persons are asking- or, perhaps waiting to be asked.

But, this question also fits more, from my vantage point, into The Story of God- Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and the message of Good News- the gospel. It's teeming with life, and life is fundamental to what this story and message of Good News is about.

"The kingdom is near! It's at hand! Change, turn around and believe this good news!" So says Jesus in Mark 1:14-15. Jesus, God in the flesh, has come announcing this message of life, freedom, joy, hope and good news. It is in the very person of Jesus- God breaking into our world to redeem, save and restore.

And yes, this life that can begin now will find it's ultimate form for all eternity in the new heavens and new earth.

Standing at the edge of a new year I'm asking this question again and filled with hope as I think of Jesus' words on the kingdom, pregnant with meaning and hope.

It gives me more energy than to think of just going through the motions or asking where I'll go when I die. This question of how I want to live already includes the issue of life after death.