To Be the Good News
SONGS ABOUT FEET
When I was a child, we sang a song at church about feet. I thought it was odd at the time but everyone else was doing it so, "ok". Don’t get me wrong, I loved songs about body parts. “Do your ears hang low” was one of my favorites and even a song about your feet being too big for the bed. This song about feet however, was a serious song. I think the lyric came from the Bible, "Beautiful are the feet of him who brings good news.” Kinda odd right? A bigger problem existed, although I did not realize it at the time. The good news we were singing about wasn’t really that good. Good for the, “us" but not so good for the, “them.” The "Good News” that I grew up singing about was the message that if you believed in the, “Good News” about Jesus, you could be saved, and you could become the “us.” If you did not, the news was not so good and you would be squarely in the “them” category.
In Jesus’ first public sermon in the synagogue at Nazareth, He laid out his purpose by reading a passage from the Isaiah Scroll. In that passage, Jesus affirmed that He was anointed to bring “Good News" to the poor, set the captives free, open the eyes of the blind and proclaim the year of the Lords favor. All of these things Jesus did in his ministry. In doing these things He helped us to see that this “Good News” is bigger and better than anyone could imagine.
What might it mean today for us to bring “Good News” to the poor? I doubt that it is merely a message that if “they” believe the right things “they” will no longer be poor in the next life. Jesus worked to change the structures that kept people from succeeding. One of he biggest hurdles was the religious culture of the day, that looked down on the poor and scapegoated them as unclean.
Proclaiming the year of the Lord’s favor was the part of Jewish Law that forgave debts and set the debt slaves free. It also made sure everyone had a share of the land. At the time of Jesus there were the, “us” who owned land and the, “them” who worked it for others. This law that redistributes the wealth and land was called the “Year of Jubilee.” It was to happen every 50 years but there is not one recording in Jewish historical sources that it ever happened.
Bringing "sight to the blind" was so much more than the healings Jesus did for those who were physically blind. He opened the eyes of the people to see God in new ways. Instead of seeing a tax collector, Jesus saw a person. Instead of seeing an outcast, Jesus saw a child of God. Instead of seeing someone’s social status, He saw their hearts.
To be the good news is more than to share the good news. It is not enough to say the right things. The church needs to be about doing and being the right things. It breaks my heart that the Christian Church throughout history has been more concerned with conserving it’s power than setting captives free. Sadly, I have been a willing participant in this too. The best we have been able to do is to give handouts to the poor. When is the church going to work for justice? When is the “Good News” really going to be good.
At Spirit of Peace we celebrated the opening of the, “Urban Gathering Center” this past March. It is a place where we will gather and teach leaders to work for Justice by building relationships across racial and class lines. To come together and learn and grow from each other. This is a pretty new idea in the modern church. We have been good at helping but not good at befriending. When we help, we are in control. When Jesus was washing his disciples' feet, He came around to Peter and Peter tried to stop him saying, “Lord, you will never wash my feet.” Jesus then informed Peter that if he did not let his feet be washed, he had no part in this new kingdom. Being “Good News” is about building the kind of friendships that remove the barriers of “Us” and “Them.” Maybe then we can make the shift from our feet bringing “Good News” to being “Good News.” Then, we can work together, to dismantle the structures that prevent the coming of the Year of the Lord’s favor.