Tuesday, July 13, 2010

The Problem of Preaching and Good News

What does Gospel actually mean? For those of you with some background in Greek you know that the word itself literally means "good news" but the Gospel of Luke never technically calls itself a Gospel. Only the Gospel of Mark uses the term gospel to describe itself in its opening verses. If we look a little deeper we'll notice that a simple word search shows that the word gospel only shows up twice in Luke 9:6 and Luke 20:1. (The Book of Acts will more than triple the number of uses to a whopping 7 times! [note sarcasm])

What I find interesting in the Gospel of Luke and in the Book of Acts is that 'gospel' is almost always something preached. You don't get this good news from the mouth of Jesus or even the disciples without it being preached. And therein lies the modern irony of the Christian gospel. Twenty-first century North Americans don't associate the word or act of preaching with anything good at all. Preaching is synonymous with moralizing and moralizing means that the preacher is pronouncing judgement. There's nothing 'good' about the news preaching brings to the minds of most non-Christians because preaching is by definition an act of self-righteous judgement.

What a distance between the message of Jesus in the Gospel of Luke and the modern 'flinch' reflex where preaching is involved or mentioned! In the Gospel of Luke (especially the 10th chapter I've been studying) Jesus is speaking about a reorientation of the human heart toward a deeper love of God and a deeper love of neighbor. Maybe the 'good news' of this message is that there is a different way to live and act in the world with one another without standing in judgement of whether our fellow human beings hit the mark or don't. Deeper love of God and deeper love of neighbor seem so far from modern preaching. How can we preach 'gospel' without becoming the judgmental moralists that preaching presupposes?

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