At Broadway Baptist Church in Fort Worth, Texas, new deacons are asked to share their testimony with the church. I spoke on Epiphany Sunday, the traditional celebration of light shining in the darkness. The actual date of Epiphany is January 6th (but we’re Baptists, so we cheat). Some of the rioters at the Capitol saw themselves as light-bearers. They had drawn so close to the most powerful man on earth that their thinking had become perfectly addled. Under the direction of our pastor, Ryon Price, Broadway has embraced the concept of ACT, which I explain below. I took this project as my starting point.
When Pastor Ryon invited me to share today, I asked for a little direction. “Just give us your understanding of the gospel”, the pastor said. My understanding of the gospel mirrors the ACT process on which we are embarked: Acknowledge, Confess, Transform. The kings of Israel had a simple task (it is our task as well):
To “defend the cause of the poor.
To give deliverance to the needy,
and to crush the oppressor.”
King Herod was down with this job description. So long as he could do these things without relinquishing power. But if we truly care for the people who walk in darkness, power must be relinquished.
Herod couldn’t do it. So, by the time the Wiseman arrived, he had become the scowling face of oppression.
Lord Acton had it right, “Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” And absolute power was what Herod was after. It defined him. He could never get enough.
Power is twitchy, power is paranoid, power is ruthless and in love with the making of myths.
We use the phrase “speaking truth to power”, which suggests that truth and power are at odds. If we are closely allied to power, we will pretty up the past.
But we cannot move ahead if we forget the road behind. Like Ebenezer Scrooge, we must revisit our particular past. And, like Scrooge, we may well recoil in horror from what we find there.
To quote the prophet Isaiah, “we have called evil good and good evil; we have put darkness for light and light for darkness; we have put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!”
We cannot bring light to a people walking in darkness until our own shadow places have been illumined. The evil confronted and called by its proper name, the darkness owned, the bitter taste on the tongue.
Power never looks back. Called to account, power says, “I can’t remember”. Power is rigid, shackled to the ramparts of its own mythology.
Truth is a vagabond, a refugee inhabiting the wilderness and the wild places; pitching its tent in the haunts of misery.
Truth inspired the holy family’s desperate flight into Egypt, where Mary, Joseph and the babe retraced the story of slavery and deliverance.
The Spirit of truth drove Jesus into the wilderness, where he would relive the story of his people; forty days and nights, for forty years of wilderness wandering. Only then, could he take up the scroll of the prophet Isaiah and read his title clear:
The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me
to preach good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives,
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to set at liberty those that are oppressed.
The Spirit of truth demands that we revisit our shadowlands, freeing us from our bondage to cherished myths and easy assumptions. Truth demands that we acknowledge and confess. Truth is the foretaste of transformation.
And that’s why this ACT process feels like gospel to me, in fact, it feels for all the world like a Holy Ghost revival. The journey ahead may be rocky and rough. The journey will be rocky and rough, but it will lead us from the gloom of denial into the glorious light of God. And that sounds like gospel, brothers and sisters. That feels like good news!