Thursday, March 07, 2013

What is "gospel?"

In front of the traditional site of Jesus' tomb
at Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem
with the Bible open to Mark's resurrection account.
This week in my Gospel and Global Media Cultures seminary course, I've been challenged to publicly answer the question, "what is 'gospel?'"

In about 500 words. 

Okay, here goes. Game on. 

What is gospel? Gospel is the Word from God that gives life. Through no doing of our own, through no merit of our own, but simply out of sheer grace, God came to us took on flesh in Jesus. The One who was present at the creation of the universe, the Word who spoke all into being with a word, the One in whom we live and move and have our being, lived and moved and dwelt among us. In his life he brought new life, he brought healing, he took the outcast and the sinners and the oppressed and downtrodden and brought them in, erasing the human made lines and walls that had served to exclude them. He proclaimed these things as a sign of the inbreaking reign of God. But we wouldn't have any of that, and killed him for it. When our structures of power and authority are threatened, we respond with violence. The cross was our ultimate no to the ultimate yes of Jesus, but through Jesus' resurrection it became God's ultimate yes to humankind. God decided that violence would not have the final say. God decided that death would not have the last word. God was so relentlessly insistent on being who he is for us--a God of boundless grace and infinite love, that he defeated what we thought was our ultimate power--the power of death. God raised Jesus from the dead, and now Jesus lives, and that was a gift for all of humankind, because through that gift of new life we too are promised new life. Abundant life now, and eternal life even after death. Not as the solution to any sort of divine equation, not as the balancing of some sort of scales of justice, not as the appeasement of anger, but as a loving gift to you. For you. With absolutely nothing on your part to do to earn it or deserve it.

Gospel is therefore both now and not yet. It is now in the promise of baptism, it is now in the body and blood, the bread and wine broken and poured for you in Holy Communion. It is now when we love God and love our neighbor, when the hungry are fed and the sick are healed and the lowly brought high and the outcast brought in and the community we were created to be a part of with each other renewed and restored. That is where we find Jesus--in the broken things. That is where we see Jesus' face--in the faces of the lowly, in the faces of the sinner. That is where we experience Jesus at work--on the margins, on the other side of the walls we have built, on the other side of the lines we have drawn. We experience all of these things as a foretaste of the feast to come, as a glimpse of God’s final reign in the New Jerusalem at the end of time, and so Gospel is also not yet. It is not fully consummated. At the very heart of Gospel, then, is hope. Not wishing, not wondering, but the hope that is born from trust in God’s promises.

And that's my first shot at a definition of Gospel, Charlie Brown. What do you think? What did I write that you would affirm, what would you challenge, what would you add or leave out?

1 comment:

The wandering and wondering of a Seminary student... said...

I appreciate the now and not yet conversation! I didn't include that in my thoughts on what gospel is, but not because I don't think it doesn't belong, only because there is so much to say about what the gospel is that I got caught up in some of the other aspects. So thanks for including the now and not yet aspect of the gospel!