What’s New about the Good News?
Homily By The Rev. Marcia McRae
At St. Margaret of Scotland, Moultrie, GA
1st Sunday of Lent Year B RCL: Genesis 9:8-17; Psalm 25:1-9; 1 Peter 3:18-22; Mark 1:9-15
Jesus says: ...The kingdom of God has come near;
repent, and believe in the good news.
“Believe in the good news.” “Believe in the good news.”....I have trouble with that news part. My decades of work in the news business bring to mind a scene from an old movie. It goes something like this:
The editor is in the newsroom, chewing on his cigar, anxious for a lead story – breaking news worth the headline. A reporter rushes in. The editor demands, “Wattaya got?” Reporter: “12-car pileup. Dozens injured.” “When did it happen?” “Yesterday.” “That’s not news!” A second reporter rushes in. The editor demands, “Wattaya got?” “Thief robs little old lady in her home. Escapes with $2 million!” “When did it happen?” “Late last night.” “Hmmmm.” A third reporter rushes in. “Wattaya got?” “Cop shoots fleeing suspect!” “When?” The reporter pauses, listening....Sound effects from outside: Bang! Bang! Bang!
Reporter: “NOW!” Editor: “THAT’S NEWS!”
Would our Good News of Jesus make today’s headline? Do we even report our 2,000-year-old Good News? Jesus says: "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near..." Does it look like the kingdom of God has come near? Not from our headlines – with us tearing each other apart like wild beasts.
Our Gospel says there are wild beasts in the wilderness where Jesus goes after his baptism – impelled to go there by the Holy Spirit – that peaceful dove that descends from heaven forces Jesus into the wilderness with wild beasts. The wilderness is their territory where they roam – the leopard, the bear, the wild boar, the jackal.
Those terrifying beasts I would fear and avoid if I were in the wilderness. I know a bit about wild beasts....As I said, I worked decades in the news business, and I know what we are like at deadline.
One Bible commentator gives a different perspective on those wild beasts with Jesus. The beasts keep Jesus’ company as do the angels. The beasts with Jesus echo Isaiah’s vision of God’s kingdom when enmity between humans and beasts will end. In God’s kingdom “the wolf (will) dwell with the lamb...”
God’s kingdom IS community. God, the Holy Trinity, IS community. Community IS the essence of God. We are made in God’s image. We are made for community. Jesus is not alone in the wilderness. We are not alone. God gives us each other as community in the Body of Christ to love and to serve.
Even in the news business, we function as a community. Each member of the news team has a specific task to do. Each member of the news team – from the front desk to the back shop, from the on-scene reporter to the person behind the camera – each has a talent, a gift to bring to our work so that we can report the news – the bad, the helpful, the inspiring, and the good news.
You and I have the BEST Good News to report. Part of our Good News IS that God gives us community. Part of our Good News is that God does not leave us on our own. Part of our Good News is that God acts. We respond.
Our Prayer Book tells us that God acts in our sacraments. In Holy Eucharist we pray that God will bless and sanctify the bread and the wine. In our sacrament of reconciliation, God absolves our sins. In our sacrament of Baptism, God sanctifies the water. To bless the oil for Chrism at Baptism, the Bishop prays that God will “...consecrate this oil that those who are sealed with it may share in the royal priesthood of Jesus Christ...” Community IS the essence of God’s kingdom.
Do we share this Good News? Maybe we don’t report our 2,000-year-old Good News because we don’t see that the kingdom IS near us. Maybe we don’t see the kingdom because of the direction we look. We need to change the direction we look. To repent is to turn to a new direction. Turning can give us a new perspective to see the vision with new eyes, to hear the Good News with new ears, and to work with new hearts for God’s kingdom, to work as sisters and brothers of God’s Beloved – God’s Chosen One. The Chosen One refers to an act of will – not a feeling”.
God’s kingdom IS Good News WHEN we share it with brothers and sisters who do not know the Good News of Jesus. IF we share this Good News, then our faith “can become a solid wooden bench for (our brothers and sisters) to stand on to see over the hedge that keeps (their) awareness so limited that (they) sometimes feel hog-tied and wish they were dead” (to use the imagery of a 14th century mystic).
Our faith – your faith – can become a solid wooden bench for our brothers and sisters to stand on to see over the hedge that keeps their awareness so limited that they sometimes feel hog-tied and wish they were dead..... (That’s my paraphrase of Hafiz, the 14th Century Persian mystic.)
Hafiz also says that the language (your) illumined heart speaks can do for another what rain does for a well. The Good News you speak from your illumined heart can fill a brother or sister like rain fills a dry well. Your faith can fill a dry well. Your faith can be a solid wooden bench for this brother or sister to see over the barrier that blocks them from life in community through Jesus Christ:
life in Community, life in God’s kingdom, life in God’s image!
Jesus says: "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news." God acts. God IS the newsmaker:
God tears apart the heavens and speaks. God places the rainbow in the sky and tells Noah that God makes a one-way covenant and says, “I will see this sign and I WILL remember.”
God makes us the Body of Christ to be God’s sign of God’s promise of Good News – the new kingdom of community. God calls us together to feed, nourish, strengthen, and empower us in the work of ministry God has for us in our time and place. God calls you here in this time and place to be the Church – the Body of Christ.
My brothers and sisters of St. Margaret’s – YOU ARE God’s visible sign of God’s promise of community for all people. This is Good News. This is Good News each day.
You ARE God’s news team in this time and place. Beloved, chosen sisters and brothers in Christ: Report the Good News!
Barclay, William. The Gospel of Mark. Revised Edition. Philadelphia:The Westminster Press. 1975.
Benhase, Bishop Scorr. Ecrozier #123 – 17 February 2012. Accessed: Feb. 17, 2012.
Harper’s Bible Commentary. General Ed.: James. L. Mays. San Francisco: Harper & Row Publishers, 1988.
Holy Bible with the Apocrypha. New Revised Standard Version. New York: Oxford University Press. 1989.
Holy Women, Holy Men: Celebrating the Saints. New York: Church Publishing. 2010.
Jewish Study Bible: Jewish Publication Society Tanakh Translation. New York: Oxford University Press. 2004.
Landinsky, Daniel. A Year with Hafiz: Daily Contemplations. New York: The Penguin Group.2010.
Lectionary Page. http://www.lectionarypage.net/. Accessed Jan. 17, 2012.
New Oxford Annotated Bible with the Apocrypha. Eds.: Herbert G. May, Bruce M. Metzger. New York: Oxford University Press, Incorporated, 1977.
...With God’s help we will respect the dignity of every human being.
...Con el auxilio de Dios, respetaremos la dignidad de todo ser humano.
Book of Common Prayer p. 305
El Libro de Oración Común pj. 225.
 Barclay, William. The Gospel of Mark. P. 23.
 Ibid. P. 24.
 New Oxford Annotated Bible with the Apocrypha. Eds.: Herbert G. May, Bruce M. Metzger. P. 1213.
 Landinsky, Daniel. A Year with Hafiz: Daily Contemplations. P. 58. Text adapted in part.
 Landinsky. Ibid. P. 59. Text adapted