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(Editor's Note: Thank you to Erika Henderson of the Port Orange United Church of Christ for sharing this uplifting lesson about "Good News" )

 

Our wired word lesson, which notes the launch of a new YouTube channel called Some Good News, or SGN. The topic seemed particularly appropriate for Resurrection Sunday, when the best news ever was delivered to frightened women in a graveyard.

The Some Good News program, created by actor John Krasinski of The Office and Jack Ryan fame, was an immediate hit, trending #1 on the internet. We take the opportunity to examine what the Bible says about the gospel and good news, how Jesus is God's ultimate good news, and how we can communicate that good news to others hungry for hope in these anxious times.

Here is the facebook mini lesson I posted on this:

Proverbs 15:30
"The light of the eyes rejoices the heart,
and good news refreshes the body."

This Easter Sunday's Wired Word is on the need for good news. When so many news stories present bad news, whether they deal with the pandemic, natural disasters, war, the refugee crisis, political divisiveness, racial conflict, violence, etc., we may be tempted to despair. The biblical message of the gospel presents Jesus as God's ultimate good news. We consider how we can communicate good news to others hungry for hope in these anxious times.

Actor John Krasinski, of the TV shows The Office and Jack Ryan, wondered for years why he couldn't find a news show dedicated entirely to good news. Finally he asked himself, "All right. Enough is enough, world. Why not us? Why not now?"
So he invited his Twitter followers to share good news stories with him. When they began to pour in, Krasinski started a YouTube channel called SGN, which means Some Good News (currently, the show is known by both names). The show is trending #1 this week, an indicator, perhaps, of the hunger of people for good news in a time when bad news seems to be overwhelming the airwaves.

Questions for discussion: 1. What news would you consider good news today? 2. Who needs to hear some good news from you today? 3. How can you become part of a movement to spread good news rather than bad in your community and sphere of influence? Why does Easter and spring cheer people up so much?

During Anxious Times, People Crave Good News
The Wired Word for the Week of April 12, 2020

In the News

Actor John Krasinski, of the TV shows The Office and Jack Ryan, wondered for years why he couldn't find a news show dedicated entirely to good news. Finally he asked himself, "All right. Enough is enough, world. Why not us? Why not now?"

So he invited his Twitter followers to share good news stories with him. When they began to pour in, Krasinski started a YouTube channel called SGN, which means Some Good News (currently, the show is known by both names). The show is trending #1 this week, an indicator, perhaps, of the hunger of people for good news in a time when bad news seems to be overwhelming the airwaves.

So we decided to check out some of the websites that focus on good news recommended by Krasinski. Here's a sample of what we discovered:

A Detroit man spent $900 to fill the gas tanks of nurses' cars to thank them for their work during the outbreak.
The Roush family in Ohio started a "drive-thru chat" so people could have someone to talk to face to face while practicing safe social distancing. Corrine Roush said the family's initiative has been "such a light during what has felt like such a dark time."
Students at MIT have been working on developing an affordable alternative to scarce and expensive ventilators desperately needed by hospitals in this country and across the globe. Another student has been making face masks with windows so the hearing-impaired can read the lips of their health-care providers.
Everyone from celebrities, major companies, tattoo artists and professional athletes are donating money and supplies to hospitals to help in the fight to save lives.
People who have recovered from COVID-19 are donating their blood plasma to help those now sickened by the disease.
Teachers are driving by the homes of their students to drop off supplies, leave balloons in driveways, and stand outside windows with whiteboards to explain a math lesson to a child confined indoors.
Communities have mobilized to place stuffed animals in windows so children can "hunt" for bears while riding in cars or getting some exercise.
A Colorado woman sends her golden retriever dog Sundance, aka Sunny, to deliver groceries to a neighbor who has been advised not to leave her home because an underlying health condition makes her more at risk of infection.
Instead of writing a ticket to a motorist who had been speeding, a law enforcement officer donated some of his own N95 face masks to her after learning that she was a doctor.
Health-care professionals, firefighters and law-enforcement officers are coming out of retirement to relieve exhausted front-line workers.
Chefs whose restaurants are shuttered have taken to making sack lunches and hot meals for staff, students, the unemployed, the homeless, the hungry. A Sacramento eatery is donating all its March profits to help other struggling restaurants. Meanwhile, singer and philanthropist Bon Jovi is washing dishes at a restaurant, and the queen of Malaysia is preparing meals for hospital workers.
Kroger, the largest grocery chain in the United States, is giving employees bonus pay for working during the pandemic.
Brewers, glove makers and auto manufacturers retool their factories to produce hand sanitizer, PPE (personal protective equipment) and ventilators.
Hotels are providing rooms for use by health workers who are unable to go home, and average citizens are loaning RVs to medical personnel for the duration.
Texas Roadhouse announced that its CEO, W. Kent Taylor, will redirect about 10 months worth of his base salary and bonus to pay front-line workers.
While the pandemic and shutdown of major swaths of the global economy are causing undeniable pain, satellite images from space show a reduction of pollution in many areas, which scientists say should have at least small, if temporary, benefits to the environment and health.

Using the hashtags #FlowerBoostChallenge and #BuyFlowersNotToiletPaper, the Dutch Van der Ende manufacturing company spearheaded an initiative to encourage businesses to buy plants and flowers to give to hospitals, care centers, workers and ordinary citizens to cheer them up. More than 1,000 companies in the Netherlands answered the call, purchasing over 1 million flowers to support the nation's hard-hit floriculture sector.

From the "Clap for Carers" tribute in the UK to the belting of operatic arias in hard-hit Italy, people are applauding medics and cheering neighbors from balconies, lawns and rooftops. Though physically separated, they are joined in sentiments of patriotism, pride, lamentation, anxiety, gratitude and hope. From the silly to the sublime, artists, dancers, comedians and musicians cocooned in their own homes behind multiple computer screens are creating beauty, good humor, community, harmony and unison through the wonder of technology.

Canadians Mita Hans and Valentina Harper began a "caremongering" movement on social media to counter "scaremongering," connect volunteers with people who need help, and create camaraderie, hope and "a contagion of kindness." Paul Viennau said that the help he received through the Halifax caremongering group felt "like a hug." Another participant, Rhia Rave Fae, said the caremongering group was "a safe haven to restore my faith in humanity ... shows the good in people, and proves we can do amazing things when we come together."

In the few episodes Some Good News (SGN) has produced thus far, Krasinski concludes with some version of this statement: "Remember, no matter how tough things get, there's always good in the world."

More on this story can be found at these links:

Some Good News With John Krasinski, Episode 1 (Video 15:43). Some Good News
Good News Network Home Page. Good News Network
Good News Dashboard for COVID-19. InspireMore
Tank's Good News Home Page. tanksgoodnews.com
Coronavirus: The Good That Can Come Out of an Upside-down World - BBC News
Italians Find 'A Moment of Joy in This Moment of Anxiety.' The New York Times

Applying the News Story

When so many news stories present bad news, whether they deal with the pandemic, natural disasters, war, the refugee crisis, political divisiveness, racial conflict, violence, etc., we may be tempted to despair. The biblical message of the gospel presents Jesus as God's ultimate good news. We consider how we can communicate good news to others hungry for hope in these anxious times.

The Big Questions

1. What news would you consider good news today? What is the good news you think people are yearning to hear?

2. Where have you heard or seen good news since the outbreak of the coronavirus?

3. What is the good news or gospel described in the Bible?

4. How is the gospel like and unlike the common, everyday variety of good news?

5. Who needs to hear some good news from you today? How can you become part of a movement to spread good news rather than bad in your community and sphere of influence?

Confronting the News With Scripture and Hope
Here are some Bible verses to guide your discussion:

Proverbs 15:30
The light of the eyes rejoices the heart,
and good news refreshes the body. (For context, read 15:30-33.)
Proverbs 25:25
Like cold water to a thirsty soul,
so is good news from a far country. (No context needed.)

When you haven't heard from a loved one for a long time, you may feel concern over their welfare. Such concern is likely to be heightened in a time of tension, stress, or danger. You may lose sleep or not eat properly because of your anxiety. Then you get a long-awaited phone call, text, email, or message on social media, telling you that all is well. Suddenly your appetite returns, and you can get a good night's sleep again.

In these verses, the writer of Proverbs speaks to the reality that good news has a positive impact on physical and emotional health. Even if you are unable to be together with your loved one at that moment in time, just receiving good news about that person is enough to brighten your mood.

Questions: Think of a time when good news refreshed your soul. What made it so special? How did the good news affect your thoughts and actions?

Isaiah 52:7-10
How beautiful upon the mountains
are the feet of the messenger who announces peace,
who brings good news,
who announces salvation,
who says to Zion, "Your God reigns."
Listen! Your sentinels lift up their voices,
together they sing for joy;
for in plain sight they see
the return of the LORD to Zion.
Break forth together into singing,
you ruins of Jerusalem;
for the LORD has comforted his people,
he has redeemed Jerusalem.
The LORD has bared his holy arm
before the eyes of all the nations;
and all the ends of the earth shall see
the salvation of our God. (For context, read 52:3-10.)

The prophet reminds the people of their history as aliens in Egypt and of the oppression they suffered at the hands of the Assyrians (vv. 3-4). God announces his presence with his people (v. 6); he has not abandoned them.

In Luke 4:18-21, Jesus quotes from Isaiah 61:1-2, identifying himself as the one the Spirit of God has anointed "to bring good news to the poor." Combined with the Isaiah 52 text, we see Jesus as "the messenger who announces peace, who brings good news, who announces salvation, who says to Zion, 'Your God reigns'" (v. 7).

That matches the description of his ministry as the proclamation of "the good news of the kingdom," which Matthew combines with his "curing every disease and every sickness among the people (Matthew 4:23-24). His consistent message of good news was that "the kingdom of God has come near" (Mark 1:1, 14-15).

But Jesus does more than convey a message from God; he is God's message. An angel of the Lord announced the birth of Christ the Savior, Messiah and Lord, as "good news of great joy for all the people" (Luke 2:8-14). John called Jesus "the word of God" in John 1:14, 18. That message is contained in another of his names, "Emmanuel, or God with us" (Matthew 1:23). He not only carries God's message to humanity, he is God's good news.

So when deacon Philip met the Ethiopian eunuch on the road to Gaza, "he proclaimed to him the good news about Jesus" (Acts 8:35).

Questions: Why would the poor hear the announcement that God's kingdom had come near as good news? What does Isaiah say accompanies the inauguration of God's reign?

Who are the sentinels who lift up their voices, singing together for joy at the sight of the Lord's return to Zion (v. 8)?

Why is Jesus at the heart of God's good news? How is Jesus good news for us today?

Acts 13:30-33
But God raised him from the dead; and for many days he appeared to those who came up with him from Galilee to Jerusalem, and they are now his witnesses to the people. And we bring you the good news that what God promised to our ancestors he has fulfilled for us, their children, by raising Jesus; as also it is written in the second psalm, 'You are my Son; today I have begotten you.' (For context, read 13:13-39.)

In Antioch in Pisidia, Paul gave a lesson in the history of the Israelites, from the Exodus to the gift of a Savior, Jesus, as God had promised (vv. 13-23). Paul recounted how Jesus was unjustly condemned to death, executed, and buried (vv. 27-29).

Paul quoted from the psalms about how God would not let the body of his chosen one decay. Jesus' ancestor, King David, died and was laid to rest in a tomb, so he could not have been the one to whom the passage refers. But because God raised Jesus from the dead, his body did not decay as all mortal bodies do after death (v. 37). Therefore, he is the one who fulfilled God's promise. And it is through him, Paul said, that the good news of forgiveness and liberation from sins is proclaimed (vv. 38-39).

In 2 Timothy 2:8-9, Paul defined the gospel or good news, for which he suffered hardship and being shackled like a criminal, as the person of "Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, a descendant of David." The good news refers specifically to "Jesus and the resurrection" (Acts 17:18).

Paul proclaimed Christ's death for our sins, burial and resurrection, as good news "of first importance," citing multiple resurrection appearances as evidence that Jesus came back from death and lives again (1 Corinthians 15:1-8).

From these verses, we conclude that the good news or gospel, as Paul defined it, is found in God's fulfillment of his promise, in the person and work of the risen Christ, and in the freedom from the power and consequences of sin experienced by those who believe and receive Jesus as God's message.

Questions: What makes God's promise keeping such good news for us? What makes Jesus' resurrection good news?

In what sense are God's people still witnesses of Jesus' resurrection? How do you bear witness to others that Jesus is alive today?

1 Thessalonians 3:6-10
But Timothy has just now come to us from you, and has brought us the good news of your faith and love. He has told us also that you always remember us kindly and long to see us -- just as we long to see you. For this reason, brothers and sisters, during all our distress and persecution we have been encouraged about you through your faith. For we now live, if you continue to stand firm in the Lord. How can we thank God enough for you in return for all the joy that we feel before our God because of you? Night and day we pray most earnestly that we may see you face to face and restore whatever is lacking in your faith. (For context, read 3:1-13.)

In the previous chapter, Paul wrote that he and his coworkers had courageously declared the gospel (good news) of God to the Thessalonians in spite of great opposition (2:2). He said that though they could have made demands of the Thessalonians, they were "gentle" with them, "like a nurse tenderly caring for her own children," caring so deeply for them that they shared "not only the gospel (good news) of God but also [their] own selves," working "night and day" so as not to burden them (2:7-9).

Later in the chapter, Paul characterized the agony they felt at being separated from the Thessalonians as being "made orphans," though he said they were distanced from them "in person, not in heart" (2:17), blocked from reuniting with them by Satan (2:18). Finally, when Paul couldn't stand the separation any longer, he sent Timothy to Thessalonica to see how the believers were faring and to strengthen their faith and encourage them to persevere in the face of persecution (3:1-5).

There is something deeply moving about the language Paul uses to describe his relationship with the Thessalonians, especially when we consider the sacrifices being made every day by EMTs, nurses, doctors and others on the front lines of the fight against the pandemic. Many, if not most of the patients they attend are complete strangers, yet they treat the sick with gentleness and tenderness, as if they were their own family members. Some even give their own lives in the effort to save others.

Paul was greatly encouraged when Timothy brought back the good news of the Thessalonians' faith, love and faithfulness. Again and again Paul expresses his longing to see them face to face, gushing fairly rhapsodic in his affection for them.

In this period of social distancing, health-care workers may well feel like orphans, in many cases unable to be with their own family members, for fear of passing contagion to those they love. They are separated "in person, not in heart," blocked from rejoining their loved ones by a power that seems as overwhelming as evil itself. So when they receive messages of love and appreciation from members of their families and communities, they may feel, as Paul did, that their labor has not all been in vain.

While the "good news" of the faith and love of the Thessalonians doesn't rise to the level of significance of the gospel or good news of God in Jesus Christ, Paul still prizes that good news highly.

Questions: When have you been encouraged to persevere in your faith by good news that others are growing in their faith, love and faithfulness? How might you be motivated to keep following Christ when you realize that your endurance encourages others? How can you become "good news" to encourage others during this challenging time?

For Further Discussion

1. "In Ephesians [1:4], we are told that God chose us to be his children 'before the foundation of the world.' Do you realize that this refers to you, to me, to each one of us?" So wrote Archbishop Desmond Tutu in his book, God Has a Dream: A Vision of Hope for Our Time.
"Before the foundation of the world, before we were conceived," Tutu continued, "God had already decided he wanted us. Long before we could have done anything to earn it, to deserve it, God freely, graciously chose you, chose me, chose each one of us to be his children. It could not depend on whether we were good. It could not depend on our ability to impress God, on our success.
"That is the Good News: that God loved us, that God loves us, and that God will love us forever unchangingly. You don't need to do anything at all because God loves you already long before you could do anything to impress him. ... in a sense, it actually doesn't matter what we do. For nothing we can do, no matter how bad, will change God's love for us. ... Just like a mother loves her child no matter what, so God loves you even if you don't succeed, even if you don't win."
"Your goodness can't win God's love. Nor can your badness lose it," echoed Max Lucado in his book, 3:16 - The Numbers of Hope. "Mark it down: God loves you with an unearthly love. You can't win it by being winsome. You can't lose it by being a loser. But you can be blind enough to resist it."
When, if ever, have you found it difficult to believe the Good News that God loves you unconditionally? What has hindered your belief in God's love? Why would anyone resist the love of God?
What has strengthened your belief that God loves you? How might the conviction that God loves you unconditionally help you face trials and endure hardship?

2. In her book, Catching Fireflies: Teaching Your Heart to See God's Light Everywhere, Patsy Clairmont describes an early-morning telephone call she received from an unknown woman who wanted to tell her about a dream she had in which she was conversing with Patsy on the phone.
When the caller woke up, she couldn't figure out what the dream meant. So she prayed for illumination. She felt God saying that she should tell Patsy Clairmont that God had not forgotten her. The problem? The woman had no idea who Patsy was.
Then one day, when the woman was doing a bit of spring cleaning, she pulled a book off her bookshelf. It had been given to her many years before, but she had never read it. It was an anthology of essays by a variety of authors, one of whom was Patsy Clairmont. Suddenly, the instruction she had received about giving Patsy a message came back to her.
So the dreamer tracked down Patsy's phone number and delivered the message to the author: "God has not forgotten you."
Patsy was deeply touched that God would send such an encouraging message to her through a stranger's dream. But she marveled even more at the wonder of God's love when she remembered that she had been asking God to clarify what message she should share with the women who would attend conferences where she was to speak that year. She realized that the message, "God has not forgotten you," delivered by a total stranger, was the answer to her prayer, and the message God had for Patsy's listeners.
"My friend, God has not forgotten you," Patsy wrote in Catching Fireflies. "He knows your sorrow, your troubles, your finances, your fears, and your dreams -- and he has not forgotten you. He promises to redeem our hardships for our good. Sometimes we think that if God doesn't fix or change our struggles, then he must have forgotten us. Nothing could be further from the truth."
Who do you know who may be feeling lonely and forgotten? How can you reach out to convey the good news that they are not forgotten, but that they are loved, appreciated, and remembered?

3. From a post on social media, author unknown:
"If they cancel the rest of the school year, students would miss 2.5 months of education. Many people are concerned about students falling behind because of this. Yes, they may fall behind when it comes to classroom education ...
"But what if ...
"What if instead of falling 'behind,' this group of kids are ADVANCED because of this?
"What if they have more empathy, they enjoy family connection, they can be more creative and entertain themselves, they love to read, they love to express themselves in writing?
"What if they enjoy the simple things, like their own backyard and sitting near a window in the quiet?
"What if they notice the birds and the dates the different flowers emerge, and the calming renewal of a gentle rain shower?
"What if [they] learn to cook, organize their space, do their laundry, and keep a well-run home?
"What if they learn to stretch a dollar and to live with less?
"What if they learn to plan shopping trips and meals at home?
"What if they learn the value of eating together as a family and finding the good to share in the small delights of the everyday?
"What if they ... place great value on our teachers and educational professionals, librarians, public servants and the previously invisible essential support workers like truck drivers, grocers, cashiers, custodians, logistics, and health-care workers and their supporting staff, just to name a few of the millions taking care of us right now while we are sheltered in place?
"What if among these children, a great leader emerges who had the benefit of a slower pace and a simpler life to truly learn what really matters in this life?"
What is the main point the author of this post is trying to make? What biblical principles might undergird the author's point?

4. Discuss this, from TWW team member Bill Tammeus: "It's good news when people have homes in which they're stuck; it's good news when they have running hot water and soap with which to wash their hands; it's good news when they have Internet service and electricity and phones to stay connected to the world outside; it's good news when they have a faith community and clergy who care about them in this difficult time."
How should we view our own challenges, given that many people around the world, including some in our own country, lack many of the basics that we often take for granted?

5. Author Max Lucado wrote in his book, 3:16 - The Numbers of Hope, "Life at times appears to fall to pieces, seem irreparable. But it's going to be okay. How can you know? Because God so loved the world. And, ... if God can make a billion galaxies, can't he make good out of our bad and sense out of our faltering lives? Of course he can. He is God."
Where do you see evidence of the love of God for the world today? Where do you see God making "good out of our bad and sense out of our faltering lives"?

6. A few years ago, former U.S. Army officer Michael Michalko suggested that creativity could be sharpened by what he called "assumption reversal," which amounts to a paradigm shift of accepted notions and norms.
When assumption reversal happens, new business models can carve out niche markets or even change an entire industry. For example, what if, instead of assuming that taxi companies have to own cars, you envision a taxi company without car ownership? Now you have Uber and Lyft.
New ways of thinking can also change social structures, how governments operate, and how people relate to one another, to their environment and to their culture.
Matthew Syed, author of Rebel Ideas: the Power of Diverse Thinking, suggests that while the pandemic is causing undeniable pain, we may find unexpected opportunities if we use the disruption to "reimagine the world and [our] place within it."
What if core ideas we presume to be true may not be? If we "disrupt conventional thought patterns," what new, creative ideas might emerge?
Try using assumption reversal to rethink just one sector of our society. Take education, for example. Now that brick and mortar schools are shut down, how will we educate our children? How will we even define education? How will the relationship between parents and educators change?
What subjects and skills will we emphasize after the pandemic (hopefully) subsides? Will we place more emphasis on nurturing qualities such as generosity, kindness, altruism and emotional and social intelligence, and teaching skills such as improvisation, collaboration, debating, or thinking on one's feet rather than just memorizing data?

7. In the book, Attitudes of Gratitude: How to Give and Receive Joy Every Day of Your Life, M.J. Ryan wrote:

"Our attitudes determine everything, because they are the glasses through which we see the world. Is the world a wonderful place or a hellhole? ... the answer to that question depends on our attitude on any given day."
"Expectations are the killers of gratitude and joy. If you expect to live in the Taj Mahal, your cozy little cottage will feel pretty awful; if you expect your son to become a doctor, you can't appreciate him for the fine bodyworker that he is; if you focus on how you are going to be miserable without a BMW, your trusty, rusty Toyota that reliably gets you around will only bring you misery. Having hopes, dreams and visions for the future are one thing; it's important to have goals and schemes pulling us into the future. But we need to be careful that such envisioning doesn't get in the way of appreciating the things we have in the here and now. Let's not miss the beauty of our actual lives while we're lusting after a mythical perfect life."
"Practice No Matter What. Before you go into a situation, ask yourself, 'What is it that I can learn, accomplish, or experience here, no matter what happens?'"

Discuss how your attitudes and expectations have impacted the way you experience life.

Responding to the News

1. You may want to add links to good news websites (some are listed above) to your favorites or bookmarks on your computer or phone so you can find them easily when you need encouragement. Consider sharing these links or others like them on social media to brighten the day of others who need some good news.

2. Here are a few links to online resources that may help you deal with cabin fever while social movement is more restricted.

Discover the Museums. Museivaticani.va
Nightly Met Opera Streams. Metopera.org
The Good Road. aptonline.org
Art Camp from Home. The Bass Museum of Art
How to Turn Yourself Into a Potato (and Other Things) for Zoom Meetings, Teams Calls and More. Pocket-lint.com

3. You might want to tie a piece of yarn or string around your finger to remind yourself that God has not forgotten you, nor will God forget you during this time of social isolation.

Prayer

God our Father, who sent your Son as your message of good news to humankind, help us to hear your message clearly, to embrace it and share it with the world, in the hope of eternal life and power of your Spirit. Amen.

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