Whose Gospel?

(Click here to listen.)

Today is my one year anniversary as the pastor here at Clackamas Park Friends Church. I have the privilege of getting up here almost every Sunday and proclaiming the good news of the coming of God’s kingdom through the redeeming work of Jesus’ incarnation, life, death, and resurrection and that each person now has access to the Holy Spirit if they stop and listen with the intent to obey. I get to proclaim the good news that every person can be in a relationship with God that will transform their life no matter what has gone on in the past or is going on now. I have experienced that good news and witnessed the way it is at work in your lives. God brought us together so that we could all grow in our relationship with Him. There was a time in my life when I was a bit confused about the gospel. I knew that I was supposed to share the gospel with my friends and family. I knew that I had the gift of salvation and that was part of it, but other questions whirled through my mind: What exactly was this good news? How did it work? What am I supposed to do with it? Who is it for? Who does it belong to? One thing to note about our scriptures for the last few weeks is that 1 Peter verses 3-12 are all one sentence in the Greek. These concepts are all interconnected, so a brief review of what leads up to these words is important for understanding them. Peter began this sentence with thanks to God who, in his mercy, gave us new birth into a living hope in a living savior with an imperishable inheritance. He continued by telling us to rejoice in our trials and suffering because of the salvation to come. The trials can be redeemed as we have been and used to refine us into a faith that is genuine with the impurities burned away. Our salvation gives us joy in knowing that the brokenness will not last because our faith will. This sentence is entirely about the ways our salvation is manifested and what it does in us. In today’s passage, Peter helps answer some of my questions and, of course, raises some new ones.

10Concerning this salvation, the prophets who prophesied of the grace that was to be yours made careful search and inquiry, 11inquiring about the person or time that the Spirit of Christ within them indicated when it testified in advance to the sufferings destined for Christ and the subsequent glory. 12It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you, in regard to the things that have now been announced to you through those who brought you good news by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven—things into which angels long to look!

The salvation we have been gifted with is not a surprise. Peter reminds us that there is at least a thousand years of people anticipating and searching for the salvation that was to come from God. The prophets were God’s messengers, letting Israel know how it was doing at living into the covenant. Spoiler alert: The prophets usually had bad news about Israel getting things wrong again, but there were always these notes of hope that God was going to send someone that would change everything. Peter specifically is referring to the words from the Isaiah scrolls that said:

13See, my servant shall prosper; he shall be exalted and lifted up, and shall be very high. 14Just as there were many who were astonished at him—so marred was his appearance, beyond human semblance, and his form beyond that of mortals— 15so he shall startle many nations; kings shall shut their mouths because of him; for that which had not been told them they shall see, and that which they had not heard they shall contemplate.

53Who has believed what we have heard? And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed? 2For he grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. 3He was despised and rejected by others; a man of suffering and acquainted with infirmity; and as one from whom others hide their faces he was despised, and we held him of no account.

4Surely he has borne our infirmities and carried our diseases; yet we accounted him stricken, struck down by God, and afflicted. 5But he was wounded for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the punishment that made us whole, and by his bruises we are healed. 6All we like sheep have gone astray; we have all turned to our own way, and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all. 7He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth. 8By a perversion of justice he was taken away. Who could have imagined his future? For he was cut off from the land of the living, stricken for the transgression of my people. Isaiah 52:13-53:8

The messiah was going to suffer, but that suffering that would be meant for evil would be the source of our redemption. The prophets did not usually enjoy the messages they had to bring, and strongly desired to see God’s children living up to the love of God revealed in his covenant with his people. They searched for hope, and our loving God, knowing the trials his prophets would face, gave them the hope and encouragement they needed by revealing that even though times of trial lay ahead, the coming of the Messiah was ahead as well. Those prophets did not live to see the messiah who came hundreds of years later or the way that messiah remained with his people to teach them and write his word on their hearts through the gift of the Holy Spirit. The gift of the prophetic voice was not a self-serving gift. Sharing the voice of God with the powers that be tended to have negative consequences in their lives, but they still prophesied so that the good news would be revealed to us, to Peter, to every generation of those who follow God. Our deliverer has come, Jesus the Christ has come and is come and will come again. That good news is that God will not hold the ways we miss the mark against us if we come to him in relationship has been attested to and made possible through Jesus’ act of self-sacrifice on the cross. We are free from the chains that bind us, free from the chains of addiction, free from the chains of idolatry, free from the chains of pride, free from the chains of all things that would divert our attention from the purposes of God. “I’m free, praise the Lord I’m free! No longer bound. No more chains holding me. My soul is resting. It’s such a blessing I see praise the Lord! Hallelujah! I’m free!” That is our good news and it is for each of us. But is it only for us? Aren’t there others living in bondage that need to receive the Good News of freedom through Jesus? The prophets knew this and, as James said, served us who were coming after them. Even Jesus spoke of whom he had come to serve at the beginning of his ministry.

16When he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, he went to the synagogue on the sabbath day, as was his custom. He stood up to read, 17and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written: 18“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, 19to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” 20And he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. The eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. 21Then he began to say to them, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” Luke 4:16-21

Peter reminds the churches in Asia that others served them by bringing them the good news, and that the angels themselves longed to see the ways that Good News would be manifested. We have received the Good News that is available to anyone regardless of economic status. Unlike in Washington DC you don’t have to “pay to play” here. The Good News that everyone can be freed from the things holding them captive, the good news of freedom for the oppressed, that because of the incarnation, life, death and resurrection of Jesus God’s favor has come and that which had fallen can once again be called “good, very good.” Our work is to pass along that good news to those who are coming after us, and like the prophets we may have to find new words to express the message of Christ’s salvation, we may have to try new methods that make no sense to us, but are themselves a sign to the world around us. I know that Hosea had to be wondering what God was thinking when he was told to marry the woman who had been in prostitution. Sharing the good news will require us to be open with the ways God’s salvation has come to us, to be open about what we have been rescued from. During our time of communion with God and each other in open worship take the time to consider the good news that you have received and whether God may be prompting you to follow Jesus lead in proclaiming good news to the poor, coming alongside Jesus to bring freedom to one who is captive or oppressed by sins or systems of this world. Consider who in your life needs to hear that God’s favor rests on them.

Let us listen together.

<Open Worship>

Starting on October 20th we are going to spend time on the third Sunday of the month sharing and listening to the ways we have received the good news. Someone has already agreed to be the first, but I would like to extend an invitation to share the story of God’s work in your life with us. I will make myself available to help you put it together if you desire assistance, but if you feel God prompting you to share with us please contact me and I will schedule you for a future Sunday. Let us pray.

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