A few days ago I was speaking at a church in the mountains, and asked a question that dated me.
“Does anyone here recognize the name of Gabriel Heatter?”
Quite a few hands went up, which also dated them. Gabriel Heatter was a nationally respected radio newscaster during the dark days of World War II, well known for his signature sign-off: “There’s good news today.”
His name came back to me recently when my wife and I were watching the national news, and it was all so bad that I got up and walked away.
Later I remembered a little story tucked away in the Bible. The Israelis in the city of Samaria were desperate, under siege by an enemy army. Food was running out. Even children were being eaten.
Four leprous men were sitting outside the city, shut out because of their disease. One of them finally said, “We’ll die if we stay here. The worst the enemy can do is kill us. Let’s take a chance and go to their camp and see if they’ll spare us.”
When they got there they were astounded. The enemy camp was deserted! The Lord had sent in the wind the sound of a great army coming and the enemy had fled. The four leprous men started to grab for themselves the food, weapons, treasures left behind. Then one said, “This is wrong. This is a day of good news. If we don’t tell it we will be guilty.” So they ran back to tell what they had found.
They were evangelists those four men! Evangelists in the sense of being good-news-tellers.
I was ordained as an evangelist. Some times I am hesitant at first to be introduced that way, only because “evangelist” is a much misused and abused term. Advocates of any one of many causes are often dubbed evangelists. And some evangelists have given the word a negative connotation.
I am honored to be an evangelist because the word itself, classically and in the Bible, simply means a bearer of the evangel. Five centuries ago William Tyndale, one of the first translators of the English Bible, wrote that the Greek word “signifieth good, merry, and joyful tidings, that maketh a man’s heart glad, and maketh him sing, dance, and leap for joy.” Nothing to be ashamed of there!
I was ordained years ago to preach the good news of Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. That I hope to do as long as I live. I have also decided that I want to notice some everyday good news, and tell about it.
“What good news do you have” I asked a ninety-year old retired pastor who is suffering back pain. “We talk too much about health, not enough about hope,” he said. “Health is blown away like the wind. Hope opens a door to the future.”
Over lunch I asked a young public defender who he was representing last fall when he walked as a peacemaker between the police lines and the protesters. “Just me,” he smiled. “I had friends among the police. I knew many of the protesters. And I knew God wanted me there.”
I know a woman at a local Y who interrupts her morning workout each day to listen to a veteran of two wars, who is recovering from surgery, and just needs someone to talk to.
You and I can hardly avoid the bad news that bombards us 24/7. And we may not be able to stop the violence, cruelty, and the bitter divisions and name-calling on a macro scale. But, as my late friend George Beverly Shea used to sing, “Little is much if God is in it.” Small acts can be good news
So I want to be like those four men outside Samaria who could not keep quiet about what God had done. I plan to look every day for some bits of good news, and to pass it on.
I invite you to join me!
Originally published in the Charlotte Observer on July 8, 2017