The Scandal of the Good News! (Jer. 1:4-10; Lk 4:21-30)

Our God is a missionary God and the God who calls people to his mission! In (Genesis 1:31), the scriptures declare that “God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good.” Our current realities hardly reflect the truth of this verse, but thanks be to God! God decisively moved to restore the creation after sin tore apart the goodness of God’s creation.  God called a couple (Abram and Sarai) and from them a nation and a people not as favoritism but as a mission strategy so that through the couple’s obedience to God’s call, all families of the earth shall be blessed (Gen. 12:3b) God has always called people and continues to call people today.

It is the same God through the Holy Spirit who captured the heart and mind of 11 yrs old John H. Mellinger at Strasburg Mennonite Church to asked his father a question following a sermon from the Great Commission which did not mention “God to the whole world and make disciples” which he thought was very clear from the reading.  John later became the first president of Eastern Mennonite Board of Missions and Charities current Eastern Mennonite Missions.  It was the same Spirit who spoke to the heart of the young Phoebe Yoder out in Kansas that God was calling her to Africa and her saved up funds later became the seed funds for the Africa mission through Eastern Mennonite Missions in 1934.  The impact of this obedience to God’s call in East Africa is evident and I am standing before you today in God’s service   because Mennonites, your family members and friends came to Africa as missionaries.

In our first text, God called Jeremiah who was baffled by the call and wondered how he could be God’s spokesman to the world! God assured him of his protection and gave him the mission, which was characterized both by judgment and hope, grace and truth, deconstruction and reconstruction.  The implication is that such a mission is not easy and Jeremiah would soon meet resistance and rejection.  God’s good news is scandalous!

One of the most memorable texts in the New Testament is Mary’s song also known as the magnificat (Lk. 1:47-56).  It is a revolutionary song, a song of salvation that declares the same dynamics in Jeremiah’s misison; “my soul magnifies the Lord, because he dethrones the mighty while exalting the lowly, filling the hungry and sending the rich away empty.”  The world we live in is messed up place so to speak.  It is so far from the perfect picture in Genesis that we referred to earlier.  We read, see and hear of horrible news of poverty, disease, war, violence, the gap between the rich and the poor, injustice and the list goes on.  These realities around the world call for a righting of the wrongs, salvation!

I believe that it takes the Gospel, God’s good news to bring about that salvation.  But this word has come to mean so many different things to different people, so I will let Christopher Wright define it for us this morning.  He writes, “Salvation is holistic.  It touches the whole of life, the whole of human need.  It encompasses individuals and nations.  It addresses the depths of the human person and the breadth of human society.  It spans the realms of the physical and the spiritual; the past, the present and the future; the historical and the eternal; this life and the world to come.”-Christopher Wright from “Salvation Belongs to our God”).

This Good News which we see in Scripture and human history, threatens the status quo and hence scandalous.  It has social implications! John H Yoder in “The Original Revolution” writes thus, about the Good News, “Good news” is the report brought by a runner to a Greek city, that a distant battle has been won, preserving their freedom; or that a son has been born to the king, assuring a generation of political stability.  “Gospel” is good news having seriously to do with the people’s welfare.” –(pg. 15).

What might the good news look like today? It might take different forms but we receive this good news through repentance, a change of narrative if you will.  It involves a change of allegiance, lifestyles, attitudes, agendas, priorities ideological positions etc.  What might our Mennonite voice contribute to the debate on violence? Immigration, discrimination, inequality, greed etc? Are we prepared for the consequences?

Jesus was rejected by his own people! but he was and is the ultimate bearer of the good news! He proclaimed the inclusiveness of God’s grace and forgiveness.  Jesus gave examples of the good news from the wrong people, non-Israelites. This is a phenomenon that we have seen and continues to see when the Good News is preached and embodied.  Jesus himself was finally crucified by the powers that be because his message was scandalous. The Gospel still does this today, when it challenges all interests and agendas with the news of God’s surprising grace for all people.

Jesus pointed out what happened in the days of the great prophets Elijah visited a foreign widow, the widow of Zarephath and Elisha healed a foreign commander of the army.  Jesus was a prophet like Elijah and Elisha.  In short, While Israel waited for their God to rescue them; their God was rescuing the wrong people so to speak! This was not what the Nazarenes wanted to hear especial from one of their own no wonder they resorted to violence! They were offended and scandalized by Jesus’ examples.

In Luke 4, through the voice of prophet Isaiah, Jesus had declared the indiscriminate grace of God that was for all people not only for Israel.   Jesus read the larger vision of Isaiah; servant-Messiah did not come to punish the nations, but to bring God’s love and mercy to them.  Jesus’ message was to heal all people, and time had come for his people to repent from their ways, narratives (Pharisees, Zealots, Compromise, Withdrawal from society) which were futile attempts at getting God back to Israel (Yoder, N.T Wright).  Jesus instead announced a new way of being God’s people and this was and is the way of repentance.  Failure to accept God’s new way would lead to disaster and destruction as indeed occurred in 70AD.

Today, we are being warned for example that the church is loosing a generation. How are we responding to this reality?  What priorities occupy our church life and community life as the body of Christ?.  How would Jesus address us? How might we respond to his pronouncements? How might Jesus address violence, inequality, discrimination, immigration and the list go on?  I would suggest that we look at what Jesus did and pay attention to his call and remain connected to him and do his will.  We do missions because our God is a missionary God who has purposed to restore the creation through his chosen son Jesus, the ultimate bearer of the Good News! As disciples of Jesus, we must be prepared for the holistic and all inclusive Good News of Jesus and be ready for the implications of serious faithfulness and obedience to the call.

Amen!

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