It is well know that the meaning of Gospel is "Good News." It is supposed to be a message that when you hear it, you feel as if you have received a good gift. If you are feeling down, feeling like you have messed up, if you carry a lot of regrets for decisions and mistakes you have made, the message is supposed to be good news, that that past has been forgiven by God and you no longer have to carry that load of negative stuff around letting affect your life. If you are feeling insignificant and worthless, if you look at the vast universe and feel like "the lowest form of protoplasm in existence", if you believe that your life has no value, the message that you are a child of God and you matter to the one who created you. If you are frightened by the thought of where you may spend eternity, the good news is that "we all may be received in Graceland."
The trouble is that somehow the preaching of the "good news" has become the blasting of negative messages. The most common of those negative news is the preaching that urges us to go out and do better, to work harder, to do more. The members of the church are preached that we are to make the world a better place, to care for the poor, to feed the needy, to shelter the homeless. Supposedly we have been working and focusing on the wrong things, and we need to repent and go out and do different and do better. In the end, that is not really good news to those who have come to worship for they are usually the ones who have been trying to balance their home life, the work life, their recreational activities, their educational efforts, and they have way more to do than they can do now. The message to go out and work harder and do more is not a good news.
The message that is preached in many places may sound good news to some in the church but it is not heard as good news to many outside the church. The message is one of judgment and condemnation of many people and activities. The message may make the people in the pews feel good and superior, but the message is not good news to the "sinners." The ones like the gays and lesbians, the drunks, the sexually active college students, the live together young professionals, the immigrants, the woman who has chosen to have an abortion, and the list goes on.
The message of good news in many places is drowned out by the behavior of the leaders of church groups. The Roman Catholic clergy in the sexual abuse cases have made it very hard to hear the good news of Pope Francis. The Roman Catholic Church's opposition to birth control and contraceptives put them in direct conflict with the necessity of world population control and environmental climate change. The Religious Tea Party people are so negative in their opposition to have government assist the widows, the children, the Veterans, the immigrants that any "good news" is never heard. What kind of "good news" was ever heard from the people at the Westboro Baptist church?
There is a message of Good News in the Christian faith. There is a gift of forgiveness, love, welcome and acceptance that is given for free. It is a free gift that liberates us from a legalism that demands that we behave in certain ways. It is a gift that frees us to be generous, helpful, and active in our world without regard to all the red tape, divisions, regulations and requirements. Freely we have received the assurance of love and welcome, freely we can give to others. It is not that we have to, but that we may. Not that there are sinful things we must not do, but that there are now some lovely things that we may enjoy doing. It would be delightful to hear a lot more of the "Good News."