Monday, July 7, 2014

Small-g gospels, and Being Poured Out

Christian or not, we're all evangelists for something.

For those who self-identify as Christians, as evangelists and/or evangelicals, the principal "good news" they share is the Gospel: the story of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus the Messiah, and how that story leads to our salvation.  (Sadly, it's sometimes seemed easier for those who share this Gospel to condense it down to "bullet points," which can impoverish the story and over-emphasize the "bad news" side of it; but that's a rant for another day.)  But in a more general and sometimes more secular way, we all share good news about something that we're most excited about.  
True, "gospel" in the vernacular has come to mean something more along the lines of a given, a foundational truth -- as in to "take" such-and-such "as gospel."  But the sense of such "good news" as something to be shared survives too, even if it's often hidden simply because we don't usually use the word gospel as a shorthand in that way.  Social media testifies to this, every minute: while Facebook, Twitter, and the like can be chock-a-block with inane details that we forget as soon as we scroll past, they're also great platforms from which to proclaim "good news" in words and pictures: new engagements, wedding photos, pregnancies and births, memorably funny interactions with children, anniversaries, graduations, new jobs, and even the bittersweet memorials of lives that were long and well lived or cut tragically short.  The same social media platforms boast less momentously good news, too -- of encouraging thoughts, purportedly laugh-out-loud jokes, or the announcement that there'll be another season of that BBC program with whats-his-name, that detective who lives on Baker Street. 

We do the same in our daily lives, sharing all these and other little joys.  In a similar way to the "lowercase" sense of words like spirit and inspiration that I wrote about a few days ago, we can't help but spread lowercase-g gospels about the thing we're currently most excited about.

That's my cue to mention one an unpopular "gospel," one that can make people's skin crawl a bit (perhaps a little like the uppercase-G Gospel does, for those who may not want to hear it...?).  Namely: donating blood.

Bragging time: I've donated a total of 40-some-odd times, counting donations in both the US and Canada.  At the maximum pace of a donation every eight weeks, which works out to 13 every two years (these are whole blood donations; if you donate platelets, you can give more often), my official number of 31 donations in Canada will reach 100 around, oh, the year 2025 or so.

Confession time: I really don't actually like giving blood.  It makes my skin crawl, too.  I'm not afraid of needles and I don't get faint when I see blood, but I'd really rather they just beamed the blood out of me instead of sticking something in my arm that shouldn't be there.  But I still donate, and I still share the need to give blood as good news, as something that I'm eager to share, to see more people do.  I don't share it to the extent that it eclipses the uppercase-G Gospel; giving blood is a practice that informs my life, not the foundational story of my life.  But it's still quite literally vital: it saves lives -- in a less eternal sense than the Christian "good news," yes, but in a very important earthly sense nonetheless.

And there is a connection, even if it's a mite subjective, to the Gospel.  Philippians 2:17: Paul writes of his own mortality, knowing that he may not live to see the end of his imperial imprisonment, yet still joyful.  "Even if I am being poured out like a drink offering on the sacrifice and service coming from your faith, I am glad and rejoice with all of you."  Paul may not have had much control over his circumstances -- but he sees his own expendability as an act of worship.  Contrast: I do have control over how much I'm being "poured out," at least in this blood-donating regard -- one pint at a time.  

But it can still be an act of worship.
An act of service to fellow human beings.  
A regularly scheduled reminder of precisely how expendable I am.

We say we "give our lives" or "spend our lives" in service to a given goal.  The good news is that there's another way in which we have the privilege to mean that, and to do something about it.

Even if it doesn't mean quite all of that to you -- if it's an act of service, say, but not worship -- will you join in, if you're eligible?

And whether you will or not, it's probably worth your time to think about this: what's your best "good news"?  And why do you share it?

We're all evangelists for something.

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