Really Good News
Isaiah 40:1-11; Psalm 85:1-2,8-13; 2 Peter 3:8-15a; Mark 1:1-8
December 4, 2005
Ladies and gentlemen I am proud to announce to you that
The providence which has ordered the whole of our life, showing concern and zeal, has ordained the most perfect consummation for human life by giving to it our lord and savior, by filling him with virtue for doing the work of a benefactor among men, and by sending in him, as it were, a deliverer for us and those who come after us, to make war to cease, to create order everywhere. . . . ; the birthday of the god [Augustus] was the beginning for the world of the good news that has come to men through him. [from What Saint Paul Really Said by N. T. Wright]
The trouble with this proclamation is that it was written about a decade before Jesus was born and the subject of this proclamation was the Roman Emperor Augustus Caesar. The term "Good News" was commonly used in official Roman proclamations about their leaders. It was a headline in propaganda announcing a royal birth, the ascension to the throne, or the victory of a king. And yes, Roman Emperors were often referred to as savior, lord and god.
Today the situation gets even more complicated. Major discount stores roll back prices and announce that to the public as "good news." Entire web sites are devoted to the idea of delivering only positive news. The Washington Post in the past year ran over four thousand articles with "good news" in the headline or text of the story. Now there is nothing inherently wrong with lower prices or positive news stories but the world around us has lowered the bar so that when we hear Isaiah quoted announcing good news, we yawn because we are jaded by good news in our world and we miss the political irony Mark intended by using a propaganda term from the Roman empire.
So just what is this good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God and how could we recover this Good News so we get the same impact from ...
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