Jonathan Dodson 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. Jonathan’s local newspaper is the Austin American-Statesman. Here is Jonathan Dodson on the Good News.
THE GOOD NEWS
Walking out into the backyard, I could see the Cape Cod peninsula on the horizon. The Boston skyline stood tall to my right, while the Atlantic waves crashed into the shore below. With my pipe packed with black Virginia, I took a deep breath, inhaling New England beauty. Taking in the glories of this veritable paradise, my thoughts climbed the trees around me, jumped to the clouds overhead, and scrambled into heaven. What force, what greatness, what creativity could will such beauty out of nothing?
Why Care About the Environment?
This was my weekly ritual for three years until we moved to Austin. Moving from East to South, more than the climate changed. Austin possesses its own beauty—the Hill Country, the lakes, the urban greenery—but this city has shown me a different side of creation. Austin has taught me, not only to enjoy creation but also to care for creation. I recycle more, waste less, garden more (didn’t take much!), and recently joined Greenpeace. But, honestly, I wouldn’t have embraced creation ethics if it weren’t for my theology.
See, the good news of the Gospel of Christ compels me to care for creation. The Old Testament tells me God made it and that its good. The New Testament tells me that all things were made in, through, and for Jesus. As a result, creation has divine worth. The NT also tells me that Jesus is reconciling and renewing all things through the blood of his cross (Col. 1:20). This is good news. Unfortunately, this isn’t what springs to mind for Austinites when they hear “gospel.” Some think of a narrow dogmatism, “gospel truth” that finds no truth outside the Bible. Others think of hellfire and brimstone preachers or a way to “get saved.” But if we read the Bible closely, this isn’t what Jesus meant by the “good news.”
The Gospel Renews Everything
When I hear the word gospel, I hear overtones of creation, of Jesus making all things new. This is especially good news because, if polar bears and the Amazon need to be renewed, I, a broken, very imperfect, dare I say sinner need to be renewed. In fact, it is humanity that has wrecked so much of creation. The gospel holds out hope not just for a broken creation, but for a broken humanity. The gospel is much more than a collection of facts to be believed or a set of rules to be followed. It is the good and true story that Jesus died and rose to defeat sin, death and evil in order to make all things new.
The question for me is: “How do I get in on the renewal?” I’ve discovered that being honest with God about my incongruity with him, about my selfishness, and my impatience has brought me into an experience of grace and forgiveness. This remarkable grace renews me everyday, slowly but surely. I’ve come to embrace that I am far more broken that I dare to admit, but in Jesus by sheer grace, I’m perfectly forgiven, accepted and continually renewed. This compels me, not just to be nice, but to worship God with everything, especially creation. After all, Jesus died and rose not only for my brokenness, but also for the brokenness in all things. It holds the promise of a new New England and a new me. Now that’s something I can raise my pipe to.
|Jonathan Dodson is the lead pastor of Austin City Life and is married to Robie, father to Owen and Ellie. Jonathan graduated from college with a B.A. in Anthropology and earned two masters degrees at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, one in Divinity (M.Div) and another in Biblical Theology (Th.M). Jonathan blogs at Creation Project, Church Planting Novice, and is currently writes for various journals, ezines such as Boundless, Journal of Biblical Counseling, and Resurgence. He is currently working on his first book. Among other things, he enjoys smoking his pipe, chewing on a good piece of theology, and listening to M. Ward.|