10 February 2009

Just gimme some Gospel...

Just thinking this morning and I remembered a church back in the seventies that had as it's motto:

Anchored to The Book and Geared for the Times.

A wee bit corny, but at least expressing a sentiment that stuck in my mind for almost 40 years.  (40 years!)

And I keep thinking, are we really "anchored to The Book?"  And by that I'm concerned that we say we are, but even in saying that do we know what we mean? 

It's a hermeneutical problem.

We hold the Book as an authority - as a church and as a society. (After all President Obama swore to uphold the Constitution with his hand on Abraham Lincoln's Bible.  And apparently saying you will do something while actually touching a Bible means something...  Causes me to shrug.)

Perhaps our hermeneutical problem is all wrapped up in the term "Gospel."  It seems to me that running around between pulpit and pew, home and workplace, TV and Laz-e-boy, there are both "the Gospel of Jesus" and the "Gospel about Jesus."  Subtle distinction, but nonetheless, real. 

The "Gospel about Jesus" talks about who He was, what He did and said, and what that meant and means for us.  It has been compacted and formularized so that it can be told in an elevator, between floors.  It has incorporated short-hand phrases and idioms (like "born-again" and "rapture") so that it can be reproduced easily and quickly.  It seems to use caricatures of people, places and events. It is concerned about salvation and escape from hell, punishment and judgement. It's pretty much about another world; not this one.  It's pretty easy (sorta).  It's about what Jesus did.  Bang!  And that's basically The Book.  Anchor me here.

But then there's this pesky "Gospel of Jesus." It's hard to put into any A+B=C kinda formula.  It's illusive and complicated.  The "Gospel of Jesus" is more about who He is and the good news of how He ushered in a new world order in which we  - as Jesus-followers - participate.  Seems to be more about us entering into something, perpetuating something and being in this world to change this world.

The Gospel of Jesus (that Paul says he preached) is more about integrating who He is and what He practiced and taught into our lives.  And the taking His Gospel (after all it is the "Gospel of Jesus") in word and deed into the world.  Make sense?

The "Gospel of Jesus" is about proclaiming the extension of grace by feeding the poor, clothing the naked, loving the love-less, accepting the disenfranchised and fixing the broken.  The "Gospel of Jesus" is good news to anyone who listens.  This "Gospel of Jesus" is a pain in the ego; a hindrance to social advancement. 


But it seems to me that it's the kind of Book to which I can be anchored.

I probably shouldn't have even began writing about this, because I've only half-expressed my heart.  And answered none of my questions.  I'm sure I've kinda just muddied the waters and never explained what I mean. 

But I'm concerned that this Gospel, from this Book be real, relevant and reliable.  That the Story of the Book be told with compassion and power in it's complicated entirety.  And that seems to best be done in actions as the Gospel of Jesus.

And, hey!  Gimme a break.  It's in process.  I'm just trying to gear for the times...


  1. Glenn, when you started this one, I thought the distinction you were headed for was between the Gospel ABOUT Jesus (i.e. the good news of what He did) and the Gospel OF Jesus (i.e. the good news that He Himself proclaimed). And my thought was that that would be something like, "The time has come. The Kingdom of God is at hand." (Mk 1:15) Maybe that fits in your evolving distinction somewhere.

  2. You're right George! The Gospel OF Jesus is a much more KINGDOM-centered approach. But it is also about WHO He was and is that just what He did. Maybe that didn't come through!

    Thanks for the dialogue! I am honored by your input! Always!


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