News Too Good Not To Share: Sermon for the Feast of St. Nino of Georgia
Updated: Dec 16, 2022
This sermon was preached at Advent Vespers at St. Thomas Episcopal Church on 12/15/20. A video of the full service, including the sermon, can be found here.
Scripture texts: Psalm 96, 2 Kings 5:1–14, Luke 13:10–17.
As for so many others, my hangouts with my best friends have turned into weekly Zoom meets. There was one meeting back in September I was particularly eager for. I had had a date the day before. It was just for coffee and a walk outside, the only safe option for dates these days, and I had news to give my friends. The fifth sentence out of her mouth was, “I'm listening to The Lord of the Rings audiobooks.” I, on the other hand, am running out of fingers to count the number of times I've read the greatest work of literature there is. Some of her favorite music are film scores. When I was a Music Composition major during my undergrad, my favorite projects to work on were film scores. After recounting shared interests like these, one of my friends joked, “Are you sure she didn't look you up ahead of time and this is a scam? She's just going down your list!” It was news too good not to share and after many dates, there continues to be news.
At the end of 2020, we need good news. Our news has primarily consisted of the COVID19 crisis and the tremendous loss it has brought to so many. It has disrupted families, stolen loved ones, and brought many livelihoods to a standstill. We have also painfully faced our nation's original sin of racism in the unequal effects of the pandemic on our black and brown neighbors and the tragic reality of bias in our criminal justice systems. And that is not to mention that it's been an election year! We need good news and that is where Advent comes in. If there was ever a year we needed Advent, it is this one. Advent is brutally honest that there is something wrong with this world, but it is equally bold and defiant. It looks at the chaos and violence that seem the order of the day and boldly declares, “You have lost! Christ has died; Christ has risen; Christ will come again.” This is news too good not to share.
The saint we celebrate tonight, St. Nino of Georgia, lived to share this good news. The fourth century of the Christian church is famous for its big church councils, battles over matters of heresy, and the rise of the church's power in Constantine's empire. St. Nino is often lost in our telling of the church's history. I never learned about her in my seminary classes. But amid a century of controversy and conflict, she lived a life of faithfulness and witness. She spent her life in the Kingdom of Iberia, the modern-day nation of Georgia, proclaiming the news of Jesus. When she first arrived, she placed a cross in the first town she came to on the border, a symbol of the faith she preached as she moved to the capital city. By the end of her life, even the powerful king had converted to Christianity, the Christian Church was established and organized in the nation, and, at her death, a new monastery was built over her grave. To this day, her very body serves as the foundation of a praying community, witnessing to the life of Christ in that land. It was news too good not to share.
She stands as one in a long tradition before and after her, that includes the unnamed girl from our first lesson. She lived far away from home, her freedom and autonomy stripped from her, and her labor at the service of her conqueror without compensation. Yet she knew her subjugation was not the final order. Her God was in the business of leading his people out of slavery. This news was so good, she even shared it with her master, troubled by a terminal skin condition of some kind. Soon, even her master, the general of the Syrian armies, was freed of his illness in the Jordan River and bowing before a prophet from a conquered people, in awe of the God who healed him. It was news too good not to share.
This is God's own pattern, who descended into human life to proclaim news too good not to share. In Jesus, we see the divine in a human body, declaring, “You are set free from your ailment." Our reading from St. Luke's Gospel this evening focuses on one particular example of Jesus speaking these words to a specific woman to heal her physical body. Yet it is Jesus' normal way of speaking, setting the world free from sin, selfishness, and violence, suffering, pain, and yes, even death. He doesn't merely proclaim good news; he becomes good news. He bears the weight of suffering and death in his crucifixion and breaks their stranglehold in his resurrection. Advent is a bold declaration: Jesus has brought about God's victory that His people were waiting for. Now we wait for the day he will come again with the bold declaration that Jesus' victory is the final word of the day, not the chaos that seems to reign. This is news too good not to share.
Our presiding bishop, Michael Curry, has made the task of evangelism a centerpiece of his ministry. He says, “It involves two people actually sharing their lives with each other. They share their stories and a new story gets written. That's what evangelism is. It helps all of us find our way into a deeper relationship with God. And if there's a deeper relationship with God, there's going to be a deeper relationship with each other as well.” Consider a new Advent practice this year: who can you share the good news of God's work in the world with and witness to the work He is already doing in the world around us? Let us together follow the model of our Savior Christ, St. Nino, the young girl, Bishop Curry, and the psalmist: “Tell it out among the nations: “The Lord is King!” Amen.