Sunday, April 28, 2013

What is Gospel (again)?

A. Hanson (Denver, CO 2012)

For my Gospel and Global Media Culture class we were asked to reflect again this week on Gospel and how that interfaces with our varying contexts, in particular, digital contexts.  If anything, after twelve weeks of discussing Gospel, I am even less clear about what this means.  Although I am not sure that is necessarily a bad thing.  

If you ask most people what "Gospel" means, if they have any answer at all, they will tell you that it is confined to Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.  Which is not wrong.  

If you ask a Lutheran seminarian, they will probably try and demonstrate their knowledge and show off and talk about law and gospel in preaching and theology.  Also, not wrong.  But confusing to anyone not in seminary.  

You might also get some variations on “good news” or “salvation” when asking about Gospel. 

I guess after all this discussion this semester I have settled on Gospel as promise.  We call Matthew, Mark, Luke and John “gospels” because they tell the story of the life and work and saving action of Christ.  We speak of law and Gospel throughout the Bible because the promise of God is not confined to these four books.  Gospel is the most basic promise made by God that your sins are forgiven and you have been given new life.  Gospel happens not only in preaching, but also in the way that we interact with one another.  If we are living out of the Gospel promise we are not going to condemn another person for their identity or actions, because we are all redeemed in the same way under Christ. Gospel means that our past sins do not define us and that we are a new creation. 

What does this mean for digital cultures?  It means that we have an even wider, deeper, and more expansive world.  It means that our words and actions have greater reach and greater consequences.  It means that more is at stake and more is possible.  I think that is also means that we need to rethink how we look at what it means to be and do church. 

In my Holy Spirit, Church, and the Triune God (Pneumatology) class we have been spending a lot of time talking about Church.   I have figured out that my definition of church is the place where the Gospel is heard and where we are equipped to take that message into the world.  So I guess that means a discussion of where the church exists.  I do not believe that church should be contained within the four walls of a building.  I believe it is anywhere people are gathered.  For convenience sake, sacraments and preaching often happen in a church, but what would it look like to take church out into the world? 

My teaching congregation here in St Paul, Humble Walk Lutheran Church, is planning on moving church to the park for worship this summer.  It will probably be a little clunky and there will be some things to work out, but it also has the potential to be really great.  Taking church out into the world also means engaging in digital conversation.  How can we create safe digital spaces for exploring matters of faith? How can we foster the same hospitality online as we do when we take church into the park?  I came away from this semester with far more questions than answers, but maybe that is the point.  

1 comment:

Sharon said...

This post and your previous one "Being Church" are getting at the same thing, at least to me. We are to be "everywhere" a child of God and proclaiming God's love through the Son, Christ Jesus. When we start with who we are and how we can express God's love through our own dispossession of power and status for the sake of the other, whatever medium we are engaged in - online or face to face - that is where we are living out the gospel. Gospel is more than descriptive of belief. Gospel is active in and through people - people forgiving, and loving each other into relationship with a God who loves us enough to seek relationship through incarnational connection to human reality.