This year I've had numerous conversations about the Gospel. As a graduate student, a campus minister, a pastor, a friend, a family member, even a random guy on the street, I've heard people, myself included, talk about the importance of the Gospel.
What rarely happens, however, is a vital clarification, namely what we mean by the word Gospel. It seems that, whenever we speak that word, we assume that everyone knows what the word signifies. More to the point, that translates to us assuming everyone agrees with our interpretation of the word. I'm guilty as much as the next person of this.
Something to consider at the end of this year and the launch into the new one is the dynamic reality of the Gospel. Whatever our conceptions of the Gospel, that good news likely expands well beyond our expectations and even hopes.
The Gospel is an historical event, namely the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.
The Gospel is that person, Jesus of Nazareth.
The Gospel is the story of Jesus' selflessness that transforms creation.
The Gospel is a promise, not only of forgiveness of sin, and even more than acceptance by God, but of the redemption of all creation.
The Gospel is performative, a word that does what it says. Much like saying, "I forgive you," the Gospel carries action within the speech.
The Gospel is justification, God's return of humanity back into right relationship with God.
The Gospel is reconciliation between creations of the Creator.
Each of these manifestations of the Gospel is intrinsically related to the other. We may understand one more, or experience one profoundly, but the fullness of the Gospel requires each of these, and a myriad more beyond my own memory recall. Jesus, the Word of God who is the Gospel promise, can't be pigeon-holed by our preferences or controlled by our preconceptions. The Gospel is more powerful, more active, and more meaningful than we can comprehend.
In the year past and the year forward, look for the work of the Gospel, especially in places you don't expect to see it. There we may all find God at work, in the person of Jesus, working to redeem the world in ways we never imagined possible.
Simultaneously a sinner and a saint.