AJ Sherrill on The Good News
This entry is a part of an on-going blog series called The Good News, which is taking place throughout the Easter Season, from Easter to Pentecost. A full list of the contributors can be found here. AJ’s local newspaper is the Long Beach Press-Telegram. Here is AJ Sherrill on the Good News.
THE GOOD NEWS
We have heard so much tragic news that when the news is good we cannot hear it. -Frederic Buechner
My wife’s father is dying of cancer. As I write, he lies in the next room hooked up to an oxygen machine while his body receives much needed saline to keep his extremities from cramping. It is precisely in moments like these that the good news of the resurrected Jesus has utmost potential in life’s inevitable tragedies.
For the past several weeks my wife and I have been living with her parents in a small Georgia town – quite a shock from our home in Long Beach, California. I have found myself yearning to make meaningful contributions to the family, most of which have been realized in the backyard. But a breakthrough came today. A package arrived in the mail, creating a whole new task for me to undertake – drum roll please â€¦ The Pressure Washer!
Now, as a child this would have posed a threat to my pre-scheduled afternoon activities including, but not restricted to, reruns of Mark Summers, wearing a grey suit and tennis shoes while coaching contestants running through a ridiculous obstacle course in the Nickelodeon game show Double Dare. This to be followed by some punk contenders embarking on an all new quest for the prestigious Agro Crag.
But, as an adult, pressure washers spawn new possibilities, grand visions, and profound callings. Need I go on? Pulverizing decades of dirt, grime, oil, and fossilized feces from the driveway is one of the greatest experiences a son-in-law could ask for. What did people do for kicks before this fantastic piece of machinery came into being?
As you read this you are probably thinking, “He’s right. We have feces. We should get a pressure washer.” See.
I write tongue and cheek, but I seriously had an encounter with God and his good news while pressure washing, which is why I bring the matter up. Water without pressure makes no difference. It will not remove the grime. But when the right amount of force is placed behind the water, the cement is cleansed. The pressure literally expunged years of filth.
Coming off the Easter season, I cannot help but view the cross of Jesus with this kind pressure-like force. I’ve recently immersed myself with works by scholars who deny the reality of vicarious atonement, and it baffles me. I spend my weeks as a church planter dreaming up opportunities for our church to love the neighborhood. I seek to heal and give my money to strangers daily, I mentor kindergartners weekly, serve on the school board monthly (I don’t even have kids), I count it a joy to write for an online publication for free, and I am faithful to my wife and church community at all costs.
But with my smiling I hide the darkness, with my working I mask the brokenness and through my teaching I shield the shame. When it comes to the depth my spiritual depravity there is no amount of goodness I can offer to purge the decades of dirt I carry within. Perhaps the pressure washer is a cheesy example, but it serves as an accurate metaphor for the topic at hand. With eternity in mind, if I’m left to fend for myself, this is entirely bad news. But the place for good news to shine always illumines from the shadows of bad news.
And the good news about the good news is that wholeness found in Christ is both cosmic and personal. It is cosmic in that the good news is not merely something that happens to you but something that transforms through you. The cosmic good news means justice for those who have been treated unjustly, dignity for all and the renewal of all things. And although salvation from a cosmic perspective fascinates me immensely, it brings great peace to know that cancer will not be the last word in my father-in-law’s life. For the personal covenant he has with God will surely carry him through this life and into the next.
So the good news is not just cosmic, it is also personal. And we can live in the reality of the good news as we allow the force of the cross to expunge the depth of our dirt!
|AJ Sherrill is a church planter in Long Beach. He is a teacher and community designer at Orgins Church Long Beach, which is part of the origins movement, a new church planting movement committed to multiplying missional communities thorugh the influential urban centers of the world. AJ is also a coach and consultant with (R)innovation a ministry devoted to renovating the church and innovating the city.|