THE GOSPEL FOR 2018
Jesus said, “The time is at hand, the kingdom of God is near,
repent, and believe the gospel!”
Mark 1: 14
The word “gospel”, as you know, means “good news.” Brothers and sisters, I am writing to tell you - there is good news for the year 2018!
Dr. Francis Collins is a scientist held in the highest regard around the world (he played a key role in the Human Genome Project.) Not many may know that Dr. Collins is a man of faith and conviction. His book “Faith” is well worth the read.
Francis Collins sees a vibrant, new reality emerging in the world; the re-birth of a vigorous spirituality and commitment to faith. His observation is that a decades-long era of scientific empiricism and rationalism is coming to an end. (An era when something was true only if it could be proven scientifically, is a rough definition.) But the spirit of a living God cannot be denied or ignored forever. A profound and transformational spirituality is being born all around us!
Recently I read an article by Diane Butler Bass, a theologian widely recognized as an expert in mainstream church life in the United States. For most of her career, she watched in despair as mainline denominations were being pushed to the sidelines. If there was ever a time when a nation needed a spiritual renewal it is now! She writes:
Strange as it may seem in this time of cultural anxiety, terrorist fear, political violence, environmental crisis, and partisan anger, I believe that the United States (and not only the United States) is caught up in the throes of a spiritual awakening, a period of sustained religious and political transformation during which our ways of seeing the world, understanding ourselves, and expressing faith are being, to borrow a phrase, “born again.”
I am convinced that Dr. Francis Collins and Diana Butler Bass are onto something. As I talk to younger people and read the blogs, articles, websites on the internet, younger people are rediscovering the reality of the human soul, a higher power, the need for deeper connection to one another and the world we live in. Young people are actively seeking and uncovering the reality of spirituality.
Now, the catch is, this renewed spirituality does not have much to do with religious traditions, denominations, church structure, or structures. As Jesus said, “The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.” Jn.3: 8.
It is an exciting time for people of faith. The question for those of us who have been main-line Presbyterians for decades is this: can we catch up? Are we willing to let the wind blow us where it pleases? I am reminded of a startling thing God spoke through the prophet Isaiah when God was rebuilding the nation and the faith of Israel:
Forget the former things;
do not dwell on the past.
See, I am doing a new thing!
Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness
and streams in the wasteland.
Isaiah 43: 18-19