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Bearers of Good News in Difficult Times

November 16, 2013

Luke 21: 5-19

Today’s reading is part of the teachings of Jesus which are usually described as Apocalyptic. This title however can mean all sorts of things (thanks to Hollywood, so lets try an forget hollywood images for a moment). One of the main elements of this apocalyptic way of thinking is that conflict is inevitable. Conflict between the kingdom of God (the rule of God) and the powers that rule the world. Not just governments (but yes Jesus does talk about nations and governers) but all the powers, military, economic, spiritual will come into conflict with the power of Abba God (as Jesus knew his Father).

In short, when Jesus talks apocalyptic he is saying, ‘If you follow me, expect to be in trouble.’

I want to suggest that it’s not a matter of Jesus reading his tea leaves and predicting things. It’s a matter of him deeply understanding the way in which the spiritual order that he was part of differed from everything around him. Worlds. Will. Collide.

There is a kind of trouble that comes to us randomly in our lives. And when it happens we are deeply disturbed by how unfair and inexplicable it is – maybe its cancer or whatever. And we look back at it in confusion and anger at the injustice in our lives.

But there is also trouble we look forward to (anticipate). And the trouble that Jesus is looking forward to it’s not exactly random. It’s a product of an inevitable collision of worlds. Because of the invasion of God’s kingdom, you will face disasters, you will be betrayed by those close to you, they will put some of you to death.

Then he turns it around and says.

“This will give you an opportunity to testify” (now there’s an old-fashioned word). These disasters of apocalypse are, in Jesus mind, an opportunity! An opportunity to bear good news, to testify!

Each month I visit a Spiritual Director. I tell him all about my work here in the parish, about how hard it is to pray and how hard it is to know what to do, and about all the exciting things, and all the difficult things that are going on in Coastal Unity. And he listens carefully and provides insightful observations… The last time I was with him he turned to me and his face lit up and he said something about how much there was going on and then he said something like: “And you can be a bearer of good news in the midst of all of that!”

I guess I’d been sitting there thinking in terms of problem solving. As if it was my problem to solve. And he refocused my attention completely… on being a bearer of good news.

It’s an interesting thought isn’t it… especially in difficult times… to be the bearer of good news… to have your eyes on something else.

Since then I’ve been thinking. I’ve got the easier job than you folk, really. I work in an organization in which the good news is enshrined in our vision statement. It’s on the front of every bulletin. Christ has come. The Kingdom of God has broken into the world and Christ is gathering us together to share in this newness and to be an embodiment of this kingdom of God for the sake of the world. You can read it on the front of our bulletin. God is with us. Love has invaded.

And so my job is much easier than yours. This organization called Coastal Unity (which is my workplace) believes in the good news (at least in theory). You, however, are involved every day of the week in organizations for whom this good news is completely invisible. To those around you, this good news has got to appear like a fantasy… if not craziness then at least dreamy idealistic nonsense. At your work I imagine they will tolerate you giving your time and care to customers or other staff, so long as it doesn’t affect the bottom line, right? It has to make economic sense. It makes no economic sense for a company to sacrifice itself for those in need. Business is business (not charity, we are told). So it’s not that easy to be a bearer of this unbusinesslike good news… And that’s just in the good times, when the Tsunamis are safely overseas in the Philipines.

Jesus says, if you really follow me… you’ll get into conflict with the world you live in. So what do we do when that conflict arises?

Jesus says, Don’t prepare your defense. Don’t rehearse your speech as you enter the room. Jesus knows we will immediately want to defend ourselves and justify our own life before others. Our survival instinct will kick in. We say we are not frightened of death, but the truth is when we are under threat our survival instincts are strong. Our first inclination will be to defend ourselves. Jesus says: Don’t! Try believing the good news instead.

The words you need will be given to you. And what kind of words? Jesus says not words of defence (note!) but words of wisdom – wisdom that your opponents will not be able to withstand. It’s more of an offence than a defense. It’s about testifying. The simple fact is, it’s not about YOU. It’s not about your innocence or guilt. It’s actually not about you or me at all. God is the main agent in this apocalyptic struggle that we find ourselves in. God who is invading this world, will give us the words… I can hear some of you thinking that defending yourself sounds a helluva lot easier than talking about God in public. Self-defence is, I suspect, a much more familiar habit.

But Jesus word about not preparing our defense is less about ‘lack of preparation’ and more about ‘lack of defensiveness’. Every Sunday we are preparing our minds to be bearers of good news. We spend a lifetime listening to the Word and to the Spirit, so that we may be bearers of this good news.

The thing about being a bearer of good news in difficult places is that those who think they are bearing good news discover they are actually being born along by it.

 

Thanks be to God

 

 

 

 

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