Friday, May 08, 2009

Is Good News Still Good in Bad Times?

by Bishop Dave Bena
May 8, 2009

Did you ever notice that some days have kind of a deep sucking sound to them? Like water in a bathtub being sucked down to the sewer? Or maybe you go out into the parking lot and then remember that you forgot where you parked your car? Then after a half hour of searching (sun's out and the temp's about ninety-five), you find it only to notice a big dent in the door and NO NOTE from the friendly motorist who hit you? Yeah. You know what I'm talking about. THAT kind of a day. Now string a bunch of those days together. Yeah. That's what I'm talking about. Ever have that kind of a week? If so, how does the Good News of Jesus Christ feel now? Is it still good news? Or is it irrelevant to your situation? Let's talk.

Those of us on the orthodox side of the Anglican coin have been reading and watching the media disgorgings, and the church news is not good, not good at all. We read of bad goings-on in Jamaica, San Joaquin, Binghamton, and UP Michigan. And our stomachs turn at the ridiculous stuff happening. "Hello, Lord God? Where are you? Do you see what's happening? When will you send in the cavalry? Any time in the next five minutes will do... In Jesus' name. Amen." It's pretty easy to begin believing that the Good News of Jesus may not be all that Good in bad times.

In fact, that's probably how David felt as he shivered in the cave down at Engedi, hiding out and hoping upon hope that King Saul would not find him. He had every reason to be alarmed. King Saul, his father-in-law, was out to murder him. Saul had taken David's wife Michal and given her to someone else. He had forbidden his son Jonathan from communicating with David. Everybody knew Saul was insane. Everybody knew that one of David's jobs was to keep the king calm. But now when Saul was insane, there was no one to calm the king. Because the king-calmer was running from the insane-Saul.

Those days had a deep sucking sound for everybody in Israel, especially David. You might suppose that David would be angry, bitter, and fearful. But in fact, scholars believe that David wrote Psalm 23 during his time of hiding out. David was a man of many talents, one of which was that he was a song composer. He was probably skulking in a cave when he took stock of his feelings, gave them over to the Lord, and received comforting words - Psalm 23. "The Lord is my shepherd," David wrote. David knew about shepherding because he had been a shepherd. And he saw the Lord as HIS shepherd, a Shepherd who would lead him to safety, nourishment, and hope. He said, "I shall not want." How strange that David would say this...

Here was a man who had been married to the King's daughter, who could have had everything he desired, and now he was skulking in a cave with nothing. And he still said, "I shall not want?" I think he penned these words because God had gifted him with a spirit of contentment. Not only that, but David had confidence even in the valley of the shadow of death. Ever been there? When you think it is just not worth it to go on? Or when you fear that whatever route you take, it will be the wrong one? So you just get paralyzed in fear. David knew about that. But he also had hope. Why? "His rod and his staff, they comfort me." He so believed that God was shepherding him even when he could not see any good news, that he envisioned himself being rubbed down and cared for by the shepherd's staff. David was so confident in God, he even had a vision of sitting right beside his worst enemy, Saul, with his swinging sword, and enjoying a fabulous dinner... "He prepareth a table before me in the presence of mine enemy" - "Pass the salt, will you, Saul? Thanks. By the way, could you cut my steak with that swinging sword of yours? That's a good king. Appreciate it!"

David visualized the Shepherd anointing him with healing balm, healing his fears. David had such confidence while he skulked in the cave that he said, "My cup runneth over!" For all he knew, Saul the Insane might be within five feet of his cave. But David could feel that his cup "runneth over." And that, my friends, is a lot of runnething over. By this time in the Psalm, he was bubbling over with hope and joy, IN THE MIDST OF PERSECUTION AND FEARFUL CIRCUMSTANCES. So full of hope was he that he could end the Psalm by stating matter-of-factly that he expected to have goodness and mercy all his days upon the earth, and an eternity in God's house.

Now watch this. Just as God the Father was David's shepherd, so God the Son is ours! Jesus said, "I am the Good Shepherd. I know my sheep and my sheep know me." Jesus says to you and me, "I have spoken these words to you so that you might find peace in me. In the world you will have tribulation. But be of good cheer. I have overcome the world." Now that's what I call good shepherding.

And I need to remember that Psalm when my car has a dent in it, or when another church building is given to someone who ethically and morally shouldn't have it, or when a friend is kept from an important meeting simply because those with power have made up a rule to keep him out. How about this? Jesus took our sins to the cross that we might die to sin and live for Him. That's bedrock faith, and it is the reason we go to the cross for comfort. Bedrock faith - Jesus died for your sins. AND Jesus rose bodily from the dead to bring us to life everlasting. Bedrock faith - your resurrection life starts anew every day, and goes on forever, even after your peepers close for the last time on this earth. That is good news. And it's still good news even in bad times. That's good news even as we face persecution by those who want to stop us from building a beautiful Anglican Province in North America. Cut us down, and three more will pop up. The Good Shepherd is good - all the time!

Let's end by reciting the close of the Communion service in the Prayer Book of the Church of Kenya.
All our problems...We send to the cross of Christ.
All our difficulties...We send to the cross of Christ.
All the devil's works...We send to the cross of Christ
All our hopes...We set on the risen Christ.

That is good news, my brothers and sisters. And it will always be good news.


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