As I was working from home today, my smart home device randomly displayed a trending topic, ‘Good News’. The bottom of the screen invited me to ask Alexa to, Tell me some Good News.
I decided to play along and was pleased to learn from ‘The Good News Network’ that a leading U.S. fabric manufacturer was set to begin donating material to anyone willing to sew masks, gowns, or other supplies for healthcare workers.
My spirit was encouraged to hear about this act of generosity. In fact, earlier in the day as I went to collect the mail, my neighbor shouted across the considerable distance of her driveway that she and her three daughters were going to spend some time this week sewing masks. These two examples of ‘good news’ once again reminded me that in the space of a few weeks our entire world has been upended by the COVID-19 pandemic.
What it means to be a ‘good neighbor’ today includes intentionally creating physical separation by practicing spatial distancing. At the same time, it means urgently and regularly connecting through prayer and re-imagining creative ways to provide for others. And, of course, it also means revisiting and dedicating ourselves afresh to the Good News at the heart of the Christian tradition.
Good News and New Decisions
Prof. N.T. Wright teaches that good news creates a new situation that calls for new decisions. In the course that parallels his book, ‘Simply Good News’, he identifies in the Gospel a triple pattern:
- News that something has happened
- News that something will happen
- News that there is a radical change in how things are right now
The foundation of the Christian Gospel is that Jesus of Nazareth was crucified, buried, and raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures (1 Corinthians 15:3). Therefore, the Good News cannot be reduced to simply good advice, or news about a new way of behaving in the world. Rather, it is about something that has happened in and through Jesus’ death and resurrection, which will also happen in and through us. Without minimizing the acute suffering, pain, anxiety, or fears many of us are experiencing, we can be assured by the knowledge that everything is now—and one day will fully be—transformed by the power of the cross and the empty tomb.
The Good News that the early Christians proclaimed was about God decisively acting through Jesus Christ at a specific time and place in history, fulfilling the promises narrated in the great story of the Bible. This new situation then, as now, declares the arrival of the radical love of God in person, and the transformation of God’s people, through Jesus and by his Sprit, for the benefit of the world he so cherishes. Thus, rather than seeking to avoid or escape the world, we decisively embrace our calling to embody the assurance of his divine presence—including how we choose and are enabled to respond to our current global crisis.
What Does Good News Look Like?
So, what does this look like? How does this Good News transcend good advice and directly impact our lives in the midst of disease, disorder, and desperate times? The Gospel is generative of what Prof. Wright characterizes as genuine Christian spirituality: the awareness of the loving and guiding presence of God that energizes men, women, and children today to envisage and embody the Kingdom of God on earth as in heaven. In this course, you will learn that this Good News creates in us:
- A love for God and for our neighbors
- Sorrow for sin and gratitude for forgiveness
- Possibilities and challenges of prayer
- A desire for holiness and the moral work it requires
- The gradual or sudden emergence of particular vocations
- A lively hope for God’s eventual new creation
- The assurance that all we see and experience now, is not all that there is or will be
These are just a few examples of what we might characterize as ‘simply good news’ in today’s world. The Gospel announces that something happened in Jesus, will happen again in and through him, and as a result there is a radical change in how things are right now by the Spirit’s power, through Jesus’ followers in the world.
Finally, if you are in need of some good news today, here is what I have personally seen in the past week:
- Friends in the healthcare profession and other essential service providers sacrificing comfort and time with family to serve others.
- Volunteers reaching out and caring for vulnerable people who were socially isolated by addiction and mental illness before many of us started intentionally distancing.
- People responding to a social media request to send cards to an elderly mother in a senior living facility.
- Emails sent to encourage those in prison no longer able to receive visitors.
- Grandparents using video conferencing to babysit or read bedtime stories to their grandchildren.
- A couple making home cooked meals for exhausted families adjusting to school and work life at home.
- Pastors and church leaders stepping out of their comfort zones to worship and connect with congregations in new ways (the pastor of my own church sent me an encouraging video message using the Marco Polo app!)
As we continue to press on over the next few weeks and months, may we be re-energized to devote ourselves to prayer for those around us, and those in countries around the world. As the Apostle Paul exhorts, be watchful and thankful (Colossians 4:1). May we speak kindly, wait patiently, and practically donate and serve others in need with lavish generosity and selflessness as the Spirit leads. Above all, may we cling to the hope found in Jesus Christ, and be ready to answer when someone asks, Tell me some Good News.