October 22, 2020

Sundays in Easter: The Very Good Gospel (1)

Through the Field… another walk. Photo by David Cornwell

Shalom is the stuff of the Kingdom. It’s what the Kingdom of God looks like in context. It’s what citizenship in the Kingdom of God requires and what the Kingdom promises to those who choose God and God’s ways to peace.

• Lisa Sharon Harper

• • •

On Sundays in Easter, we will hear from Lisa Sharon Harper about The Very Good Gospel: How Everything Wrong Can Be Made Right. Her book is about the fullness of the good news that Jesus lived, died, rose again, and ascended into heaven to give us. Harper tells us that this good news is about shalom, the opposite of what she calls our commonly “thin” understanding of the gospel.

Today, a quote from chapter one. Here are three points she will flesh out in the rest of the book.

1. If one’s gospel falls mute when facing people who need good news the most— the impoverished, the oppressed, and the broken— then it’s no gospel at all.

2. Shalom is what the Kingdom of God smells like. It’s what the Kingdom looks like and what Jesus requires of the Kingdom’s citizens. It’s when everyone has enough. It’s when families are healed. It’s when shame is renounced and inner freedom is laid hold of. It’s when human dignity, bestowed by the image of God in all humanity, is cultivated, protected, and served in families, faith communities, and schools and through public policy. Shalom is when the capacity to lead is recognized in every human being and when nations join together to protect the environment.

3. At its heart, the biblical concept of shalom is about God’s vision for the emphatic goodness of all relationships. In his book Peace, Walter Brueggemann wrote, “The vision of wholeness, which is the supreme will of the biblical God, is the outgrowth of a covenant of shalom (see Ezekiel 34: 25), in which persons are bound not only to God but to one another in a caring, sharing, rejoicing community with none to make them afraid.”


  1. john barry says

    In full disclosure I am a very handsome , tall, lean physically fit, conservative politically and cultural Christian. My wife and friends find fault with my self description which baffles me as they know I am a Christian. However I want to make it clear that I am coming from what is commonly called the right side even though I do not like broad brush descriptions.

    Many of my conservative Christian friends get frustrated with me when I disagree that 2 Chronicles 7.14 is about the USA as a nation, it was written for Israel as a nation. However , just for the record, as individuals we can certainly pray and follow your beliefs as individuals to effect change.

    Does not Ezekiel apply to Israel and David? It is a typical OT Testament Convent like 2 Chronicles , a promise to protect and prosper Israel and the line of David? To use the convent of Shalom as a guide would be fine but no more of a Biblical imperative than 2 Chronicles 7.14.

    To tie in white privilege, climate change, current social issues and politically issues with Biblical references is fine of course as long as people know what the agenda is. Again, I know the majority of good people here are not of my viewpoints and that is why I am here . No preaching to the choir and most commenters make valid points. I take a lot of good blowback when I get into the 2 Chronicles thing from my tribe, to dredge up some recent dialogue from here, in that they want to use an OT convent and move it to what some here call Merica, which I find amusing not offensive.

    I think I know why my friends and wife disagree with my self description, I am not really all that tall, that is got to be it.

    • Robert F says

      I think you make valid points in this comment. On the one hand, Old Testament texts that address Israel as a nation should not simply be appropriated for the church, either by conservative or liberal Christians who want to use them to advance a particular political or social agenda; on the other, it has been common and appropriate throughout church history to affirm that, at least in some ways, OT Israel’s encounter with God is transferable to the church, which is an offshoot of Israel. I think it’s wise for the church to see where the OT aligns with the express teaching of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount, and other places, in assessing which OT texts more appropriately may be transferred in application to the church, with regard to social and political values. I think that when this is done, it will be seen that the texts quoted from Ezekiel align more readily and naturally with the teachings of Jesus, and with the cruciform life of self-giving, forgiveness and reconciliation he calls his disciples to walk in, than does 2 Chronicles 7:14.

      • john barry says

        Robert F. Like beauty appropriation and transfer of OT teachings is in the eye of the beholder. My KFC right wing friends would say they are praying for God to intervene in the affairs of the good old USA because America was founded on and has/will defend the teachings of Christianity and like you said the convent made to Israel is transferable. They would probably agree with you on your interpretation and analysis of Ezekiel and say that is what America is doing. Or other than fore shadowing let the OT speak for its side of the cross and let Jesus speak for Jesus side of the cross.

        • Robert F says

          We have a difference of interpretation. Different interpretations sometimes lead to places where we must part ways; just ask the Mennonites.

    • Christiane says

      Hello J.B.

      you wrote ” Again, I know the majority of good people here are not of my viewpoints and that is why I am here .|

      I think you will find that people here may disagree with you but I don’t think anyone is going to be calling for you to be thrown off the blog because you are ‘not like them’, no. As a matter of fact, I think the whole intent of Michael Spencer who originated ‘IMONK’ was to bring diverse people together so they COULD share with each other.

      And I hope you will enjoy this ‘novel’ way of conducting a Christian blog because it IS a contrast to some other blogs that can not tolerate a diversity of opinion and traditions, but instead feel ‘threatened’ and are ‘fearful’ of anyone they identify as ‘not our kind’ or ‘not hating the same people we hate’ or ‘being a wolf in sheep’s clothing’.
      I don’t think ‘Imonk’ carries within it the same amount of ‘be afraid, be very afraid’ as some other Christian blogs. And I find that a SIGN that Imonk, because it does not promote ‘fear’, is more reflective of the mind of Christ in the ways that diversity is not only accepted but celebrated.

      I’m glad you’re here. I don’t feel at all uncomfortable around people who have a different viewpoint and are willing to share it. I welcome the diversity as long as folks are respectful of one another, and I think you ARE a person who is respectful of others. I enjoy your comments, even the ones I don’t agree with. I think diversity of opinion is accepted on this blog in a way that makes it one of the most unique and insightful blogs around.

    • John I don’t have a conservative bone in my body but I detest historical revisionism as much as you do. Paul really did support Gay rights! Not. There’s a reason why these folks do this kind of thing. They understand that social progress has moved beyond the Bible but of course they want to privilege the Bible as a source of wisdom relevant to today. It must be a hard place to be in which is one of the reasons I’m glad not to be a fundamentalist.

      • john barry says

        Stephen, thanks for you comments. The only true fundamentalist belief I have is that Jesus is Who He Said He Is and we find Jesus, the word, in the Bible. I love in when people on both far sides , actually all sides of the political and social spectrum cherry pick and use the Bible for their own advancement.

        If we are not on the same page on this we at least on in the same chapter

      • Burro (Mule) says

        What if you don’t believe in progress, but more in the Law of the Conservation of Evil?

  2. Burro (Mule) says

    As always, the problem is what to do with all the pissants, of whom I am the king.

    It’s when shame is renounced and inner freedom is laid hold of. I shudder to think of what I would capable of if I had no shame. Shame may not be ideal as a regulator of behavior, but its better than nothing….

    • john barry says

      Burro, As you r King, I am reminded of an old joke about getting too excited and emotional at times. A young man stepped into a ant hill and they went up his pants, his yelled out “Step ants, piss on them”,

      Sorry it sounds better than it writes. Once a King always a King, once a Knight enough. I raise the bar as usual. Shame on me and I concur with your shame observation. Have you no shame is rattling around my head and cannot remember where the quote came from. When I go to Wal Mart , not only do some of the people have no sense of shame, they must not have a mirror or self awareness.

      • David Cornwell says

        “When I go to Wal Mart , not only do some of the people have no sense of shame, they must not have a mirror or self awareness.”

        Ha. My wife and I have spoken of this more than once. Now, shame on me. I have concurred with your shame observation.

    • Robert F says

      A joyous Pascha to you, Mule (from one pissant to another)!

    • The problem is not shame but being ashamed of the wrong things.

      • john barry says

        I am ashamed of being in Wal Mart (I am joking). Pretty soon at least 15 percent of Wal Mart shoppers will be on the little scooters going around but they may have to increase the weight limit, I think many are maxing out on that.

  3. Ronald Avra says

    The older I get, the more skeptical I become of everything being made right. I’ve become increasingly convinced that individuals who assert that everything can be made perfectly whole haven’t made a thorough examination of how badly things are broken. At this point, I would be satisfied with a tolerant and civil brokenness.

    • Iain Lovejoy says

      If God can raise a broken and destroyed Christ from the dead, then he can raise this broken world and us from the dead also. If Christ is not risen, our faith is in vain.
      I am not certain that Christ is risen. I am not certain that Christ’s kingdom will come. I am not certain that when I die I will rise again in the world made new in Christ’s kingdom, which I now feebly do what I can to bring about and prepare for. But, sod it, I am out of any better ideas and I am going to give it a go.
      Hopefully that counts as faith.

    • Robert F says

      The older I get, the more skeptical I become of people who say that everything can be made right, and they know how. They remind me of the one who recently said, “I alone can fix it,” even when they claim to be his political and social polar opposite.

    • Ron, it’s an “over the rainbow” perspective, isn’t it? But while we wait for the tornado of God’s intervention to blow it all to pieces and then put it back together, I’ve been heartened by those who point to the Jewish teaching of Tikkun Olam (repairing the world) as a good interpretation of what biblical religion calls us all to do. Repair the tapestry, one thread at a time.

  4. Burro (Mule) says

    Can we talk beyond liberal hug-words for a moment. There is this man who came to my door asking for money. I heard him out and remembered thinking that I had never heard such a tapestry of lies in my life. Nevertheless, I gave him some money and he went on his way. I also gave him the phone number of a local church that has a ministry for homeless men, a very despised population.

    Consulting with one of my neighbors the next day I was told that he was a regular in the area. He drank every dime he got his hands on and wasn’t above a little petty larceny to get what he wanted. He’ll be back, they said. We don’t want to tell you your business but the best thing you can do is call the cops on him.

    Sure enough, he came back. This time I sat him down at the table and had a talk with him. I told him what my neighbor said. He didn’t defend himself but stuck to his story. At least he had the decency to tell me he hadn’t been to the local church. ‘They treat a [body] like all hell there’ he said. Meaning, I believe, that they didn’t allow him to drink. I gave him some more money, less this time, but I also read Matthew 25 to him. It was hard sledding because the only religious background he appeared to have was with the JWs. I told him I was giving him the money in response to Christ’s commandment, but the next time I’d do what my neighbor suggested and call the cops on him. I’ve seen him about five or six times walking about but he hasn’t been back to bother either me or my neighbors.

    Walter Bruggeman, Lisa Sharon Harper, what does the Gospel look like to a ruin of a man like this?

  5. Robert F says

    Shalom is when we are no longer afraid of death, when even the memory of death has been long forgotten, because death itself has been left far behind.

  6. Burro (Mule) says

    If this guy was a monk or a holy fool, I could deal with it. If he was uniquely a victim of ‘systemic racism’ and/or “Trumpism” I could deal with it, but my neighbor is as black as he is.

    This guy’s a drunk, just a run-of-the-mill drunk. He came around like a stray cat because I fed him. What he appears to be seeking is oblivion. Is that in some sense shalom, the only kind he is capable of receiving? Should I be assisting that? I just want to get on with my life and that of my family. I give this guy money like a john gives a whore money – not for sex but to go away.

    In the comments to Fr Stephen’s post, there was reference to a retired couple who took in a homeless man with AIDS and cared for him until he died. I would like to capable of that sort of sanctity, but I have a low tolerance for being played as a mark.

    • Robert F says

      Well, the money didn’t work, but your threat certainly seems to have run him off. It’s not the kind of thing that you are going to feel good about, though. That’s not what you’re expecting, is it? To find a theology that will let you feel good about getting him to stay away? Listen, I’ve done things to make needy people just get away from me too, but the problem is that you realize that it could just as easily be you getting run off, and one day it just may be; this is a frightening thing to ponder, and leaves no room for peace of mind, no room for shalom.

      • john barry says

        Guys, Our society has made this a very complicated, complex problem. You have the ACLU suing on behalf of the involuntarily committed people with severe mental problems to be let out of mental institutions in the 1980’s. Couple that with the conservative Regan era that also wanted to shut down the treatment centers and mental hospitals that treated and medicated the mentally ill to cut cost.. Then the drug culture, the welfare state and the general disregard to a growing problem in the late 1980’s and 90’s.

        I would say in every major city there are places the homeless can go if they wish to get involved in a realistic program that most do not wish to be in. The homeless today are not the Joad family from the Grapes of Wrath. If you enable and tolerate an action you will get more of it. The eroding of the nuclear family is one of the prime causes of this problem.

        Offer a homeless person a contact, money or take them to a responsible shelter and if they refuse it is on them. 80 percent of homeless people are self inflicted wounds or BS who want to keep their addicted lifestyle..

        Again the Bible is quoted by many who have absolutely no belief, trust or real knowledge of the Bible to garner support for the homeless or the program they advocate..

        Have bare bones, livable and temporary quarters for those able to become self supporting and for those who truly have mental issues put them in treatment centers. The poor in the days of Jesus are far different than the poor and homeless in the USA today.

        • Robert F says

          The nuclear family is the stage of critical mass left when all the other extensive kinship networks of traditional societies have dissolved; it is the weakest of kinship connections, and is the last stage before the kind of societal meltdown we are witnessing in the West. The nuclear family quickly swivels over into transience, alienation, atomization, addiction, rootlessness, addiction, homelessness; it is far too weak to bear the burdens that modernity puts on it. That’s not BS.

        • Robert F says

          P.S. Does addiction lead to homelessness, or does homelessness lead to addiction? There is a complicated dialectic involved in the homelessness/addiction relationship, and it doesn’t just run in one direction, as you and most seem to assume. Homelessness is so terrible and scary that people often turn to substance abuse to blunt the experience of it. Homelessness causes addiction; take it from someone who’s been homeless.

        • Robert F says

          P.S.S — Homelessness also produces and/or exacerbates mental illness