Brian Russell 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. Brian’s local newspaper is the Orlando Sentinel. Here is Brian Russell on the Good News.
THE GOOD NEWS
One of Walt Disney’s core maxims reads: “If you can dream it, you can do it.” Over the last forty years, Orlando has morphed from a sleepy Central Florida town centered on the citrus industry and World War Two era military bases into a gateway city that welcomes the world with top-notch resorts and attractions. Orlando is in the business of fun and offering its visitors a respite from the suffocating status quo of the daily grind of life. The dream of carving out an international city in the midst of former wetlands and citrus groves has largely been achieved. Orlando is known as the City Beautiful. At least, this is what the marketing campaigns proclaim. But as an almost decade long resident of the area, I wonder if perhaps we haven’t dreamed big enough?
It is undeniable that millions of persons enjoy their vacations in Central Florida. But is an existence rooted in manufacturing memories for others of mouse ears, sun tan lotion, roller coasters, chain restaurants, and convention centers truly a dream worthy of our lives? What if instead we were in the business of life transformation? What if people came to Central Florida for a vacation and instead found life? What if vacationers did not encounter only employees of Orlando’s extensive service industry but women and men joyously serving as part of a radically different Kingdom? What if Orlando embraced a bold and daring vision for what it might become-a gateway city that welcomed and ushered the world into a radical new reality?
For this to be possible, we will need a new story to ignite a fresh vision for our community. Let me suggest an encounter with a largely forgotten storyline. The Bible offers an audacious narrative of a God who is looking for a people with whom to partner to extend blessing and good, life and wholeness, and hope and reconciliation to all peoples, nations, and tongues. This God is the creator of a world in which the final words are Rest, Love, Justice, Mercy, and Peace. In the life of Jesus, this God came to live among us. Jesus modeled true humanity while at the same time subverting strongly held misconceptions about divinity and religion. Jesus came to invite us back to life the way that God had intended. To this end, Jesus announced a liberating message that can be summarized this way: “(Re)align yourselves because the long awaited good future has now arrived in me.” Jesus immediately called into being a new community to embody his life and teaching and freely sacrificed his life for this new vision. But this isn’t the whole story. Jesus was no mere martyr who inspires us and serves an example to emulate. The full story is this: Jesus is alive. The Creator God of all that exists delivered Jesus from the grave so that he stands today fully alive as the triumphant Lord of a new Kingdom. If we have ears to hear, we can still hear him calling to us today to dream new dreams and envision new possibilities. But most all of all he promises to stand as the vanguard who will lead us to become the women and men whom we were created us to be-a people that exist to reflect and embody the character and nature of the God in and for the world.
What if following Jesus was the way to taste and experience true life-the life that God alone dreams for you and has acted in Jesus to make possible? That would be good news indeed. What would our lives and city look like if we (re)aligned our lives in response to this good news?
|Brian Russell lives in Oviedo, FL with his family. He serves as Professor of Biblical Studies on Asbury Theological Seminary’s Orlando campus. His research interests center on engaging the Scriptures from the perspective of God’s mission. Brian’s forthcoming book on missional interpretation will be published in 2010 through Wipf and Stock. He blogs regularly at Real Meal Ministries. His local paper is the Orlando Sentinel. Brian enjoys surfing, swimming, and engaging in reckless fun with his family.|