Where the Good News Begins


Bad word?  For some maybe? 

It oughta be four letters long.

The word gets a bad rap.  It flaps about in social spheres like a bat intruding on a pool party at dusk.  Big black bold CAPITAL letters darting aimlessly to and fro; threatening our heavenly existence.  Folks duck and dodge its presence, mocking and running away…even in churches.

The word belongs to the crazy man dressed in tattered clothes and a sandwich board standing on a stolen milk crate down on the corner of ‘F’ and 6th streets


No.  The word belongs to God.  And while it’s really where the good news begins, it’s often where the good news stalls out in conversations.

You know what it means, don’t you?  Simply put, it means “turn around and go back.”  That’s not bad, is it? 

Have you ever been lost?    

I remember getting lost when I was young.  My Mom, myself, and my siblings were back-to-school shopping in town at a sidewalk sale.  Back in the day stores could get away with moving inventory outside during summer days without the threat of stuff getting stolen. 

Somewhere in the mix of maneuvering the racks of cloths and walls of people, either I got left behind or got too far ahead.  Stopping at one point, I turned in circles, feeling frantic.  My eyes darted from face to face to face…  No one looked familiar.  Standing in the middle of dozens of strangers, all alone, I cried.  I was lost. 

Then the voice of a kindly lady: “Can I help you?”

Sobbing, I nodded my head: “I don’t know where my Mommy is.” 

She invited me to get into her car and together we’d drive around the shopping center looking for my Mom, who surely would be looking for me too.

I did…get into her car!  (Let that settle on you a minute.  I got into a stranger’s car!  Different days back then?) 

She backtracked with me, driving past each of the stores I remembered shopping at with my Mom.  At last we found her.  Thanking the kindly lady for her help, my Mom was overjoyed to find me. 

I was lost.  I turned around and went back.  Then I was found.  That’s “repent” and that’s not bad, right?

There was another time I was lost.  I had graduated from high school and decided to move away from home.  I packed up what I owned and left everything familiar; my home, my family, my faith.  I settled in nicely to life on my own and took great pride in making my own decisions. 

Time proved every one of those decisions to be dead ends.  I meandered down roads and ways wholly unfamiliar to me.  I got tangled up in social settings that enticed the lusts of the flesh, lured the desires of my eyes, and tempted the pride of possessions.

After countless sidetracks and detours and rabbit trails, I had to own the reality that I was lost.  Oh, I knew right where I was on a map of the land.  But I was lost on the map of life.  My heart and mind and strength were broken.  My spirit was tired and weary from searching every trail spur in hopes of finding what I wanted.  I came to the end of myself.  I resolved to return to the familiar; my home, my family, and eventually my faith.

I was lost.  I turned around and went back.  Then I was found.  That’s “repent” and that’s not bad, right?

Of course, the next stall out point for the good news is the whole “lost” thing. 

Who are you to tell me that I’m lost?     

Most often, when we tell stories of being lost or losing something, the stories move forward toward being found.  But the whole idea of “lost and found” revolves around the bigger, deeper, and richer idea of being owned

Nothing is lost that isn’t first owned by someone.  Or, phrased more positively, everything that is truly lost is first truly owned. 

We don’t think about that, do we?

That frightened kiddo lost at the shopping center was “owned” by someone first.
That frightened young man lost on the map of life was “owned” by someone first.

In a sense, before every “lost and found” story, there is a story of ownership or possession.  For you and me, who live in relationship with others, before our “lost and found” story, there is a story of belonging and being known.

If you and I searched through the pages of the Bible to learn who we belong to – who made us, knows us, owns us – we’d keep peeling back pages all the way to Genesis 1. 

The first chapters of Genesis reveal the beginning of the grand story that is history.  There, in the earliest of time and space, the God of time and space who is One, yet uniquely and mysteriously three persons, set’s the cosmos in motion:  Day and Night, Heavens and Earth, Water and Land, Trees and Plants, Sun and Moon and Stars, Sea Creatures and Birds, Livestock and Beasts.  Everything was good…

“Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness…’ 
So God created humankind in his own image,
in the image of God he created him;
male and female he created them.”  (Genesis 1:26-27; cf. Genesis 2:7, 21-22)

Who made who? 

God made humankind.  God knows humankind.  God owns humankind.  You and me, we belong to God. 

But then the story takes a turn.  Humankind veers off path.  Genesis 3 chronicles the immediate details.  The rest of the Bible chronicles the breadth of the details.  In short, we left our home, our family, and our faith in pursuit of ourselves rather than God himself.  Humankind – you and me – got lost. 

Page after page, story after story, humankind becomes more and more lost.  Reading them, we notice ourselves depicted time and time again.  Selfishness.  Greed.  Lies.  Adultery.  Anger.  Pride.  Their stories.  My story.  Your story.  The story of one who belongs, becoming lost in the muddle of our private kingdoms.     

The perpetual plea from the Prophets of old calling out to any and all who may listen: 

You’re lost.
You’ve gone your own way.
Repent… Turn around and go back!
If you don’t, there’ll be judgement.
But even still, there’ll be hope for more.
                A new Kingdom and a new King.

Largely, folks didn’t listen. 

Who are you to tell me that I’m lost?     

Their consequences were swift and heavy.  That’s generally the case on unknown paths.  Foreign kings became their ruler.  Foreign kingdoms became their home.  Foreign gods and decrees became their religion.  Foreign ways of life became their reality.

But then a god, The God, now foreign to them and us came on the scene searching for what He’d lost; His crowning creation, made in His image, humankind itself.  After 400 years of prophetic silence, a prophetic voice, John the baptizer, cries out in the wilderness – because where else do you find lost folks – with good news: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”  (Matthew 3:1-2)

And where the Kingdom is, so there is the King, Jesus Christ, proclaiming the very same good news throughout the land: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”  (Matthew 4:17 & 23)

Turn around and go back.  The One who made you and knows you and owns you; His Kingdom is near enough now to touch!  Turn around and go back. 

The message expands into a sermon in chapters 5-7, and we’ll get there in blog posts to follow.  But here, at this turn in the path, I hope you’ll hear that “repent” is not only good news, it’s the start of the good news for you who may be lost and looking for where you’re known and belong. 


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