Some Good News
by Nolan Astley
I had lunch in Edmonton recently with a friend who told me, “We really need to hear some good news.” He was referring to our church body, both at the national and district level and perhaps also to life in his congregation. To be sure, it’s been a rough time for us in Lutheran Church–Canada recently; there seems to be more than enough bad news. I wondered for a day or two what I might find to talk about that might fall under the heading of good news. Then I realized I did not have to look too far to find some very good news; it was in fact sitting right in front of me.
On my last trip to Western Canada I spent almost the entire time in the Edmonton area and in the mornings I had the opportunity to teach at our Edmonton seminary. This is where I found some very good news. Right in front of me for ten mornings were seven students who God has led to enter our seminary and begin preparing to become pastors someday. Five of those students were in their second year, another is in his fourth year, and one is preparing to return to Ukraine. In addition there are five students in their first year of study and several more who have indicated they are planning to enroll in the seminary in the not too distant future. This is good news—very good news indeed!
One of the sometimes celebrated feasts of the Epiphany season is the conversion of St. Paul. We don’t always make a big fuss about the day, but it focused on a very good event. Saul a Pharisee who hated Christians was on his way to Damascus to arrest followers of Jesus and bring them to Jerusalem for trial. The Lord Jesus intervenes and you probably know the rest of the story. Saul is blinded for a time, then restored to sight, baptised, and commissioned by Christ to be an apostle. (All the details are in Acts 9.) It’s a remarkable story and it’s great good news for us today.
The same Jesus who called Paul is still at work among us, even with all our problems and all the bad news. He is at work among us to lead men to consider service to the Lord and to the church as pastors. It’s remarkable, really. In the world around us, when a company runs into trouble, especially if it’s financial trouble, it can be nearly impossible to find any workers, let alone folks who have strong skills and a heart to serve. Yet this is what the Lord has continued to do in our midst, not because we deserve it, but by His grace and love alone.
Paul reflects on his conversion and calling a few times in the New Testament, but in the Letter to the Galatians he captures the Good News in a unique way. He reflects on how God actually had set him apart to serve before he was born and how his election was not due to anything he did but purely the work of God’s grace. At the end of that reflection Paul says the early church glorified God because of him (Galatians 1:11-24).
We glorify God because the Gospel is still at work in the hearts of our people and in spite of all our woes the Good News has not been taken from us!
We too glorify God for Paul and for all that He did through this amazing man. We glorify God because He still continues to call men to proclaim the message Paul proclaimed—Christ and Him crucified. We glorify God because in the midst of all the bad news we have heard about our church body in the last year, God is still at work, still doing what He promised to do. We glorify God because the Gospel is still at work in the hearts of our people and in spite of all our woes the Good News has not been taken from us!
Rev. Nolan Astley is Lutheran Church–Canada’s Interim Pastoral Leader for Alberta and British Columbia.