Thursday, August 16, 2007

The gospel: how is it good news? VI

Good news!
Jesus is king. It’s good news – because fear and terror don’t rule. Neither terrorists nor the politics of fear run the lives of those who trust the prince of peace.

Jesus is king. It’s good news – because injustice doesn’t rule. Oppression has a used-by date. So we are freed from the nightmare of having to achieve a perfect world now, free to work in small ways to make the improvements we can. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for justice, for they will be filled.

Jesus is king. It’s good news – because karma doesn’t rule. We don’t need to take revenge, to even the score ourselves. Nor are we trapped irredeemably in our mistakes. Where Jesus is, grace reigns, not karma.

Jesus is king. It’s good news – because the church doesn’t rule. We are Christ’s body and his ambassadors, but we are not him. We don’t need to confuse our opinions with his truth. We follow as best we can, but no one person or institution is beyond error. We are free to admit our mistakes and learn from them.

Jesus is king. It’s good news – because my mortgage doesn’t rule. If Jesus is the Christ, then nothing else need rule my life, not a quest for wealth, for security, for status or influence. These all take their place as secondary things, tertiary things, quarternary things! I am free to be content and generous, enjoying God’s good gifts by sharing them wisely and liberally.

Jesus is king. It’s good news – because our children don’t rule. I don’t need to make my life revolve around maximising their every possibility, preventing every possible misfortune. I am free to love them enough to want to see them grow up as children of God, relying on him, not me.

Jesus is king. It’s good news – because my plans don’t rule. I am not left to my own devices to muddle out a path of my own devising in a mix of dream and nightmare. I am called to high and noble task: to love God with all my heart, mind, soul and strength, and to love my neighbour as myself. Or to put it another way: To be faithful to God by loving my neighbour, and to be faithful to my neighbour, by loving God.

The crucified Jesus is king. It’s good news – because my past doesn’t rule me. Broken relationships are not final. Guilt is atoned for. Forgiveness and reconciliation are possible because, as Paul said, Christ died for our sins.

The risen Jesus is king. It’s good news – because sickness and death don’t rule. We may fall ill, we may get cancer, we may be in accidents, or be intentionally injured. But death will not have the last word since we follow the one who is the resurrection and the life.

But how does he rule? And how can we know he does - when so often it seems like the bullies get the last laugh?
Series so far: I; II; III; IV; V; VI.
Five points if you can guess the Australian state in which this picture was taken.


Anonymous said...

Hi Byron. I've been enjoying these posts. Thanks.

I can't help but feel, however, that in this whole series you have made one moment in the gospel, the exaltation of Jesus, into the whole thing. I feel like the gospel is the whole story of the incarnation, death, and exaltation of Jesus, and that it is better summarised by a phrase like "God has come to save the world," than "Jesus Christ is Lord." This kind of approach might give a more central place to the forgiveness of sins than your approach has.


Skjou said...

I'm just catching these posts on Gospel now. Nothing but enjoyment here on your blog.
I'm still mulling over the statement "Jesus is king. It’s good news – because the church doesn’t rule." I can think of 4-5 scriptures that speak of the church as co-inheritors and co-rulers with him, and i think the idea fits well into the overall story of restoring humanity back into its image bearing vocation, which is through the risen Jesus. However, i'm sure you have your reasons, and i would enjoy seeing you expand on the point...

Justin said...

Re Andrewe's comment: Maybe Redemption is the key here: With a Mighty and Outstretched Arm, he rules over injustice and saves his people and brings them home.

Enjoying the posts.

John David Penniman said...

Hey Byron -

I love the bit about your reminded me of the movie Thank You for Smoking. I dont know if youve seen it, but at one point the main character ruminates on how many wars, acts of injustice or violence could have been avoided if people simply didnt have to pay a mortgage. When asked why he would do PR for Big Tobacco, he said he didnt like it...he was just good at it; and it paid his mortgage.

This, I think, was a striking image of a Christ-less world in which people simply do "what they are good at" in order to pay the bills.

byron smith said...

AndrewE - I did summarise my first four posts with this claim: The gospel is the good news that the crucified and risen Jesus is God’s king, the Christ. To proclaim the gospel is to announce this reality, by telling his story.

And even in this post, I have tried to make it clear that it is the crucified and resurrected Christ who reigns. As you say, it may be possible to give an account that would make forgiveness more central than mine, but is forgiveness the centre of the good news?

Bath's summary was even briefer than "Jesus is Lord" - "God with us".

byron smith said...

j.skjou - yes, good point and one I'd pondered a little as I wrote that claim. Nevertheless, while there is more to say (perhaps: "Jesus is king. It's good news - because humans are/will be back in charge"), I stand by this claim. I put a few more thoughts on this point back here while quoting Williams. I think it very important that the church is a witness to the coming reign of God, rather than aiming to directly execute that rule ourselves.

The claims about ruling with Christ (e.g. 2 Tim 2.12; Rev 5.10, etc) are - as far as I remember - all future claims. Nonetheless, this is something worth pondering further. In what ways has this reality broken into the present with the resurrection (and exaltation) of Jesus?

Justin - thanks for the suggestion. Yes, the reign of God in Christ is a saving rule because it brings justice and peace, and the defeat of God's (and humanity's) enemies.

John P. - yes, I included the bit about the mortgage because after my last sermon, one of my parishioner's said "That was all very good, but what does it mean for my mortgage?"

Nice link with Thank You For Smoking.

Anonymous said...

Hi Byron. I did see that summary, and at risk of disagreeing with you and Barth, I still feel like it has too much emphasis simply on the fact of Jesus' exaltation: it says, this Jesus, who was crucified and raised, is king. I think the gospel is more about the good-news-ness of this story: God has come to save the world. The exaltation of Jesus is the moment of vindication of this gospel, but not the thing itself.

byron smith said...

No, I disagree - the rule is itself the salvation. It is that this Jesus is Lord that means that other (negative) options are not. This is itself good news, not simply the vindication or execution of it. Although there is a point in the story at which Jesus is proclaimed king through resurrection, I am not reducing the gospel to this point. There is a public vindication of his rule (ultimately at his return, but proleptically in his resurrection), but he is king through his life of service and saving death too. I am not reducing the gospel a moment of the story, but saying that the kingdom/reign of God arriving in King Jesus is the theme of the whole narrative.

Anonymous said...

I might as well give this phote a shot: looks somewhat South-Eastern (too much verdure for SA or Qld.) Given the angle of the shot (what with that blue tinge towards the right end of that photo), I'm reminded somewhat of Lithgow's vicinity. NSW, then?

byron smith said...

Michael - well done, it is indeed NSW. A couple of hours away from Lithgow, but not too far wrong. Five points.