Responsively Yours: What Does Good News Look Like?
Good news comes in many variations. When I encounter traffic on the way to the airport and still arrive in time for my flight, that’s good news. Not just because my travel plans are not disrupted, but also because someone is waiting for me and/or I have responsibilities at the destination. Good news can be like that. Something advantageous when I expected the worst is good news for me but can also have broader implications.
Jesus’ conversation with the woman at the well was like that. He offered water that would not leave her thirsty; a relationship that she could depend on, unlike her relationships with her previous five husbands. This message came to her from someone taking remarkable cultural risk to speak to her, a person who, because of his religion and ethnicity, could usually be expected to consider himself privileged or superior. This is good news.
United Methodist Women helps bring God’s good news, even at some risk of crossing cultural boundaries expected to keep us “safe,” even to people of other religions and cultures, people who may be braced for bad news and judgment from us about their losses and hurts.
Our subway sign campaign for peace and against hateful anti-Muslim speech has been greeted as “good news” by an amazing number of people — United Methodist Women members and many in the general public. The response on social media and from women I encounter in gatherings around the country has been incredibly positive. I wonder why. This is not the first time United Methodist Women has spoken up for peace and against hate in a context of conflicts that invoke race, religion or nationalism. Often, however, our voice is lost in the cacophony of media. Our signs campaign promoting peace and respectful speech seemed to break through the noise.
Not long ago I was chatting with someone about our work, and she said, “I saw the signs in the subway too. That’s what prompted me to come back to church.” I teared up immediately. For her, good news is women of the church caring enough to act on an issue important to her. Good news is people of faith speaking words of truth and peace to quell a climate of polarization and name calling that maintains division. Good news is that God has a message of peace—and she wanted to be part of it.
The woman at the well reacted similarly. She told the people of her town, “Come and see!”
The signs are an example of the possibilities of peacemaking in a context of hatred, distancing and fear. The strong response to the subway signs indicates that many people are longing for such good news.
God’s love, grace and invitation are ours until the end of time. It becomes good news for me right at my point of fear. It becomes good news for the world when we engage issues that matter with a message of reconciliation.
May we be strong enough to listen to hate and bold enough to share the best news: God is with us.
Harriett Jane Olson
General Secretary United Methodist Women