I started auditing a course at Union-PSCE and the professor, who is a very bright woman, made a comment that struck me last week. She said that one of the elements of the current religious situation in the West is a “weak version of the Gospel.” I had to question her on this. Can the Gospel ever become weak? In my mind, it is not the “weakness” of the Gospel that is the problem, but weak interpretations and weakness in communicating the Gospel.
To me, the Gospel is beyond humanity. It is something that transcends ordinary existence. We cannot weaken, strengthen, dilute, pollute, or terminate it. The Gospel is the Good News that we have a new king and a new kingdom! It is the Good News that Christ is Lord–not Caesar, Dinsey, or even Obama. And this Gospel radically challenges the status quo, for it is all about raising the lowly and lowering the mighty. Just look at the words of the Magnificat:
My soul glorifies the Lord
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has been mindful
of the humble state of his servant.
From now on all generations will call me blessed,
for the Mighty One has done great things for me—
holy is his name.
His mercy extends to those who fear him,
from generation to generation.
He has performed mighty deeds with his arm;
he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts.
He has brought down rulers from their thrones
but has lifted up the humble.
He has filled the hungry with good things
but has sent the rich away empty.
He has helped his servant Israel,
remembering to be merciful
to Abraham and his descendants forever,
even as he said to our fathers. (Lk 1:46-55).
In this wonderful song of praise, Mary speaks of what the Good News of the new kingdom means: rulers are brought down, the oppressed are raised up, God’s mercy extends to those who remember God, and the poor have their stomachs filled. This is Good News! (Well, the rulers and oppressors might not see it that way, I suppose).
Unfortunately, this Good News of the Gospel, while it has remained strong and powerful, has been miscommunicated and misinterpreted by humanity for thousands of years, and in thousands of different ways. We make it about “saving souls” and not saving lives. We misconstrue it to say that we have the God-given mandate to go to war. It has been used to keep African Americans in slavery, to kill the First Nations people of North America, and to take over much of the planet for the name of God. But in spite of all of this, the transcendent Gospel has remained strong. Rather, it is us who have been weak and have miscommunicated the Good News to others, often for our benefit. Let’s always remember the inherent strength of the Gospel message that we preach, teach, and live out. Amen.