A sermon preached by Becky Hartwell at Highbury.
I start this evening by asking you, what is the best news you have ever had?
This might have been hearing about the birth of a grandchild, hearing a marriage proposal or hearing you had got a job. For me I think the best news was hearing my nephew had been born safely and hearing the results for my degree, a mixture of great relief and joy went with both of these.
This evening I am going to talk about good news, not the news like birth, exam results, new jobs and things like that but in fact about the good news that has come from Jesus. So you might be able to remember the best good news you have ever heard but can you remember how you felt when you first heard the story of Jesus? Do you remember where you were, who shared it with you and what age you were? Maybe you are not sure what exactly the good news is?
Not only are we thinking about receiving the good news this evening, we are also considering sharing the good news with others and what the reading from Romans tells us about that. Can you go back again to the best news you ever heard, did you share it with others or did you keep it to yourself?
In fact just how do we share the good news of Jesus with others?
But lets start with what the good news is for us.
The reading from Romans, that I am focusing on this evening starts with a message for all.
The reading tells us that we can all put our trust in God, God blesses all who call on him and all who do call on him will be saved. “If you confess with your mouth Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”
Now we could just say so that’s the good news and move on to the rest of the reading. But that is quite an incredible verse. God blesses all who call on him. So many places in life you can fall short of achieving the best because you are not clever enough, attractive enough, good enough at sports, or even been born in the right area or country or being the right race. In fact the list goes on and on, there are so many places where we are not enough of something to achieve. But this verse challenges that straight away.
God will bless all who call on him.
It says in the verse, it doesn’t matter if you are Jew or Gentile, it is telling us it doesn’t matter who you are, African or South American, Mensa material or someone who hasn’t got a high IQ, Dame Judi Dench or Dame Edna Everage. ALL who call on him will be saved,
God blesses all.
No matter who society or media tell us are worthy of one thing or another, we can go back to the bible and it tells us that ALL who call on him will be saved.
In fact if we just confess with our mouth Jesus is Lord and believe it we will be saved.
It sounds simple but I think it’s not.
Although we know that we can be saved, which sounds so easy, we can remember that this reading is talking about a relationship. And as we know from our relationships with parents, children, family and friends relationships are not easy, they do take work.
In fact if we link this reading with the verse in Luke 9 where Jesus tells people that if they want to follow him they need to daily deny themselves and take up their cross we can see a recognition that following Jesus is a day to day commitment. It isn’t something that can be breezed in to but takes work, takes effort and takes dedication every day.
Every day we need to look in the mirror as we wake up and remind ourselves that if we call on the Lord we are saved. That no matter who we are and the life we have led that God will save us because we have called on him.
Now, maybe that isn’t what you think when you wake up in the morning, most days it is a struggle to drag myself out of bed when the alarm goes off let alone look in the mirror. But this chance to have a new life, to be loved unconditionally happens every day and sometimes we need to remind ourselves of that.
Jesus said to take up our cross daily and walk but in this we can remember that we are saved.
So we can continue to build on this relationship with God, reminding ourselves of the good news. However, the church isn’t a closed club for the best and funniest characters, it is open for all. If this is the case then the good news needs to be shared with others.
The reading we heard involves forwarding instructions.
Imagine the best news you’ve ever heard but that before you heard it you just kept missing it, your answer machine wasn’t working, the person kept missing you face to face – in the style of most soaps. Maybe the information went missing in the post or the messenger pigeon got ill.
There are so many different ways to contact people these days but it still takes time for news to be shared with all people. And good news should be shared.
Here is a story about a man missing out on good news.
“John Currier, a man who couldn’t read or write, was found guilty of murder and sentenced to life in prison in 1949. Later his sentence was commuted and he was transferred from prison and paroled to work for a wealthy farmer near
But Currier never saw the letter or even knew it had been written. One year went by...then two...then five, and finally ten. And still he didn’t know that he was free.
By this time the farmer to whom he had been paroled was dead, but Currier kept working, serving out his life sentence. He was given a little money for personal needs but life was hard and filled with labour. He slept in a drafty trailer, taking baths in a horse trough. Life held very little joy and no promise of hope. This went on until 1979. Then a state parole officer learned of his plight and told him about the missing letter.”
This can be like hearing the good news about God. People can be living in a world where the news is known by some, but unless anyone tells them, they have no way of knowing the truth. People miss out on hearing something that would change their lives for eternity.
This links in to the story we heard earlier of the women at the tomb of Jesus who were charged with sharing the news of Jesus’ resurrection. These women were not the likely ones to be chosen to share this news. In the time of Jesus women weren’t considered the greatest witnesses, they could not be legal witnesses in that society.
But this does in fact make them great examples for us. Maybe we don’t consider ourselves the best people to be sharing the good news but as Christians we have been chosen to share it with people. And it is possible for us to ask God who he wants us to share the news with, to ask him to put us in the lives of those he wants us to speak to.
The exact point in the reading is “how can people believe in the one of whom they have not heard?”. That says it all.
Imagine again the best news you thought of at the start of the talk, I want to take you back to that. Imagine having that news again but keeping it to yourself, expecting others to be joyous about it but never telling them the actual news.
Good news should be shared, we as his followers have been entrusted to do it.
So we need to share it with other people.
Maybe you are wondering how we can tell people. Evangelism as a concept has quite a bad reputation in some areas, people envisage door knocking, cold calling, in your face contact. But actually it works best by building on friendships, being there for our friends and neighbours, inviting people to events, socials and services at church, sharing things about our lives while being honest about what we believe and this commitment we have to God and all the while praying for them.
Our actions are important.
The way we treat people is recognised by others, the way we act in certain situations is noticed. The way we are as a church locally, nationally and as different denominations is reported on. For example in the last couple of weeks there has been reporting via the internet and other articles on the arguments that happened at Church of England synod.
I’ll say it again, our actions are important.
There will be people in our lives that won’t necessarily remember the things we have said about God or stories we have told but will instead remember how we acted to the homeless person every one else ignored or how we made a decision not to be the way that everyone else was at a social occasion.
Our actions are surprisingly important.
Sharing the good news can be done in a variety of ways and can change everything.
There is one further thing the reading tells us, that people need to be sent.
This is our role as a church, whether it be to encourage those in training, support people through prayer or by being there for those involved in the things that are already happening.
In that way we can celebrate the work done with others. For example linked to this church is the Open the Book team, not to be confused with the Thursday night bible study. The Open the Book team go into primary schools and act out various different bible stories. The team includes people from other churches but it also includes people from our church - Phil Arnold, Mary Michael and Jean Gregory. We can celebrate what this team does and the fact that children are learning about Jesus and the bible through their work.
People were also invited to the recent Alpha course and Back to Church Sunday by their friends and got to hear some of the great stories and things about God. We should be celebrating this and also praying about it. Sending out people from our church to tell others about Jesus is an important part of the churches mission.
There is also a story a parent told me about six months ago, something they heard their child saying to their friend as the parent was walking past the room. The child was talking to their friend about what they thought about church, and believing in God.
Members of our church from the youngest to the oldest are spreading the good news, we can be supporting them, praying for them, giving them the chance to learn about and worship God.
Sending people out is part of our role as a church. We may not know the affect we have on others, on their faith and knowledge of God, in fact it might take years for there to be any affect, but sometimes we can get glimpses of it. Glimpses of a changed personality, of a commitment to learn about something new, of a person who wants to tell lots of others about what they have learnt. There is something here about the inventions of Goldberg.
Now, I’m not any way near as intelligent as Richard, I don’t even know how he has time to read so many books, but every so often I come across a gem of information that makes me feel a bit more clever and I love sharing these with you all. Goldberg’s inventions.
Goldberg was a man who did compositions of the work of Bach. He also did inventions. These inventions aimed to make simple tasks complicated by adding dozens of gears, arms, wheels, handles, etc. He used one to squeeze orange juice and one to open a window. You may have seen similar things in the film Chitty, Chitty, Bang, Bang or the Honda car advert from a couple of years ago where all the different connections had to happen for the car to be driven at the end.
The effect we have of sharing the good news might not be realised for a long time it might be like the Honda advert, taking a lot of different connections for something to happen but the seeds are sown, we pray and we leave it in God’s hands.
There is another important reason to share the good news with others – out of respect to the person who took the time to share the good news with us. Out of respect to the disciples and the long line of people who have passed down the good news. If it hadn’t been for the disciples and other people following down through the ages from them we wouldn’t know the amazing stories of Jesus. It would have been easy for the disciples to have been comfortable in knowing they were saved but they cared about future generations, they also had the great commission that Jesus had given them, to make disciples of all nations.
The same commission that we have been given as we are also Jesus’ followers.
So the reading ends with an interesting statement, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring the good news!”
The feet that brought the news of Jesus’ resurrection would have been dusty and dirty. The feet of the missionaries are tired and sometimes sweaty. The feet of the Open the Book team and that child I told you about wouldn’t have been perfectly manicured and ready to do foot modelling. What it means is that the feet of someone who is telling the good news, going out to people and sharing the love of Jesus are beautiful because they’re doing good work, they are doing God’s work.
Maybe we can make it our aim to bring the good news and so have those beautiful feet.
We can remind ourselves of the great commission, to “go and make disciples of all nations” – to honour Peter, Paul, the Wesleys, John Williams from the London Missionary Society, the Open the Book team in schools, the child who was talking to her friend about God and the person who took time to share the good news with us.
It doesn’t mean we have to get on a plane and be internationally travelling missionaries but instead being honest about where we were on Sunday or what we do in our spare time and why we have chosen to do it.
Imagine the best news you ever heard again, there is someone out there who is waiting to have that joy, it is our role to share some good news with them via our beautiful feet.
And we can always remember, as the beginning of our Romans reading told us, that for all of us it starts and continues with a personal relationship with Jesus and that if we call on him we will be and we are saved.