instruere...inlustrare...delectare Disputations

Monday, April 12, 2004

The Gospel According to You

In his Easter sermon yesterday, my pastor preached along these lines: "Everyone here could take pen in hand and write their own Gospel account of dying and being brought back to life." And I think that's true, even literally true in a way that most generalizations aren't.

Of course, it's also not literally true, since there were babies in the church who couldn't hold a pen, and, more significantly, there may well have been grown-ups there who could hold a pen but who have no knowledge of the deaths and resurrections they have experienced in their lives.

Still, what is literally true is this: we who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death, and just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too live in newness of life.

Now, maybe most of us don't live in newness of life in a way that causes constant wonder in ourselves and others, but that doesn't change what happened when we were baptized. That we aren't usually, or even ever, aware of Christ living in us doesn't mean He isn't, however feebly due to our preoccupations and sins.

We need to keep in mind that, though a Gospel account could be written by (or at least for) each of us, in every case it's the same Gospel. Some people object to language like "the Gospel of Mark" or "John's Gospel," because it's actually the Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Mark or John -- or you or me. They do have a point, although I don't object to the language myself, since in such cases the word "Gospel" refers to a literary work rather than "the Gospel."

What makes ours all the same Gospel is that they are all retellings of the same death and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth, Son of God and Son of Mary. "My" Gospel is the story of Jesus' life, death, and resurrection told from my perspective, or refracted through my own life. But if "my" Gospel isn't really Jesus' story, then it isn't really the Gospel.

It seems to me, then, that though we may all be able to write our own Gospel accounts, we aren't always the best commentators on our own accounts. I am not necessarily adept at drawing the meaning of Jesus' act death and resurrection out of the ways I've participated in it, even though I necessarily benefit from His act. For that matter, my Gospel account, such as it might be, is not necessarily intended, primarily or at all, for my own use. My account might just be a record of events, maybe just a quick story I tell someone in a parking lot, which God will inspire someone else to understand more fully than I ever will in this life.

This, I think, is one of the reasons the Church Militant is a community and not just a union of individuals. We exchange the Good News with each other, in ways intended and otherwise, showing each other over and over that the Word of God, spoken once and for all in Galilee and Judea two thousand years ago, is still sounding through the world. And the bodily resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth, that historical fact of the first Easter morning, is being repeated in countless marked and unmarked ways in the lives of all who believe in Him.