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Overhearing The Gospel

Overhearing The Gospel

Have you ever read someone else's mail? Perhaps it was a letter written to your spouse from a friend, or even a letter exhibited in a museum reflecting a particular time period--a letter from a soldier to his parents or wife, for example. Such readings always involve listening in on a conversation where you don't know “the whole story” and you try to imagine, not just what the words individually mean, but what was meant by the writer. What lies behind the words? What is the context for what was said? You also must try to understand how the recipient of the letter originally heard what was said. If this letter was received by mom and dad, what did they hear their soldier son saying? What emotions did they feel as they read the letter?
There is a sense in which our reading of scripture is always the same “overhearing” experience. We are listening in on a conversation between the biblical writer and his original audience. We try to understand both sides of that conversation as we read those words. When we read the four Gospels, we are listening to what some early Christian audiences first heard from each of the writers. More than that we are imagining with them what the conversation was like between Jesus and his audience. Our task is always to overhear the gospel, to listen in and become part of that original audience to hear the good news with them.
As we ask the question in our own lives, “What would Jesus do?”, we discover the answers by listening to those ancient conversations, understanding what he did do, listening to what Luke and Matthew and Mark and John were sharing with their Christian audiences. As we learn what Jesus did, we will better understand God vision for each of us, and better equipped to live out what Jesus would do in our own time.
John O. York

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