A good reminder from Douglas John Hall to those who proclaim, preach or share the gospel that it is, in fact, good news!!!
The words preach and sermon have moralistic connotations for most people because, alas, that is how preaching has been used—as a form of exhortation, cojolement, pep-talk. If you listen carefully to the linguistic mood of most sermons, you almost invariably find that they are full of shoulds and oughts and musts: laying down the law, sometimes bombastically, more often today nicely, with gentle persuasion—but still, the law. It is not accidental that preaching, for most people, connotes admonition: “Don’t preach at me! Don’t sermonize!” we tell those who would have us alter our ways.
But for the New Testament the proclamation of gospel in the biblical sense is a completely different matter—in fact it’s almost the antithesis of laying down the law—as we can see in the Isaiah passage Jesus quoted:
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good tidings to the poor…to proclaim release to the captives…recovery of the sight to the blind…liberation of the oppressed…the year of the Lord’s favor (Luke 4:18-19).
It’s more nearly a matter of releasing people from the law—social laws, penal systems, economic laws, moral laws, gender and sexual laws, dehumanizing ideologies, conventions and man-made injunctions by which human beings have been falsely bound.
As George Buttrick, the unforgettable twentieth-century preacher of Madison Avenue Presbyterian Church in New York City, used to tell us in his homiletics classes, the whole mood of the sermon should be “The most wonderful thing has happened!” – not “You had better get to work, you underachievers, and make something wonderful happen!” Gospel is always in the indicative, not the imperative mood.
Waiting For The Gospel, Douglas John Hall (p. 5-6)