I helped edit and am contributing an essay to a book which will come out this Spring from Ecclesia Press (part of the Ecclesia Network) called Viral Hope. The book is written by authors from all over, each expressing their take on the Gospel for their city.
Here's mine- the Gospel For Portland.
It would be impossible for me to estimate how many times I’ve said that sentence over the last decade and a half of living in the Rose City.
There’s so much to recommend it, but I honestly think one of the things I love so much are the people. At times a bit eccentric, but almost always kind and polite, they are concerned about each other and the world. If you believe in community, in caring for the environment, in taking care of others, especially those on the margins, then Portland is for you.
And interestingly enough, those are also very same reasons I love Jesus.
As I read the Gospel accounts of His life, and as I see the nascent church movement He left behind, I see exactly those things- a deep love for community, a care for the oppressed, the marginalized and the poor and not only a desire, but a commitment to put back together in our world that which has been ruined and spoiled.
“Look, I am making all things new,” says Jesus.
The man whom the religious leaders of His day despised, in part because of the company He kept and in part because He threatened their power structures came bringing what He called “Good News.”
And that was this: God has not forgotten us. He’s on the move. Though it’s hard to see, especially in the midst of tragedy and pain, God is busy. Bringing hope out of despair, bringing redemption and forgiveness, bringing life.
The story of redemption that God is writing in history is hard to see because we live before the final conclusion, but we see the foreshadows of it all around us. We see it in the person of Jesus and His resurrection which showed- this man who dared to speak truth to power and proclaim light in darkness was no fraud or crackpot. We see it in those who follow Jesus and how with their love for each other, their love and care for the poor, their care for creation and generous, sacrificial responses to tragedy they point to a future reality that’s both amazingly different and incomprehensibly better than our present.
Yes, those followers of Jesus often fail to live up to and adequately picture all that Jesus taught and is doing in the world. And when they do so, they are, however inadvertently, pointing to a common truth we all share as humans: none of us, no matter how well-meaning, ever live up to even our own ideals, or those of the people around us, much less what God has envisioned for humanity- and so we all need grace, we all need forgiveness.
Which is another reason I’m so glad for Jesus.
The Good News is that God, in Jesus, has turned back, is turning back and will someday completely turn back evil and death and completely restore all of creation. And through Jesus He’s offering us a redeemed community, in a renewed creation, in relationship with God Himself.
That is great Good News, Portland.