Matthew, Mark, Luke & John. We all know that these are the names of the four Gospels, the ‘biographies’ of Jesus in the New Testament (of course to simply call them biographies is misleading, they do talk about Jesus life, but ponder about what they miss out, what they include and what they’re trying to achieve). But is there a Fifth Gospel?
I have heard of many suggestions. Some point to other apocryphal books such as the Gospel of Thomas or Peter, but there are good reasons for why the four Gospels were chosen and others rejected. Some call the Holy Land the Fifth Gospel, and there’s certainly a good argument for that. Having been fortunate enough myself to go to Israel, I found it helped bring the stories to life in a surprising way as I could see the way places fit together and get a feel for the sounds, smells and colours of the place.
I came across another suggestion. You.
Martin Wroe wrote a book called ‘The Gospel According to Everyone’. The blurb for the book reads:
‘How come in Church we only ever hear the gospels of four men in Palestine 2,000 years ago? What if we heard a reading from a Fifth Gospel, from the stories of the people sitting next to us? The woman who gave up her child for adoption. The gardener who notices God in the roses. The gay man shunned by his children. The atheist who found he’d become a believer. What if we heard from The Gospel According To Everyone? Twelve short stories of faith and doubt, of love and longing by people you may recognise from a church you’ve never been to.’
If we take the idea that Jesus changes lives today through his Holy Spirit and faith, then this should be seen in us. Not necessarily by dramatic stories of Damascus Road conversions, but in the way we deal with the stuff that life throws at us, by the way we treat others, by our character and drive.
I’ve said it before, one day I’d like to try and find a way to compile our Gospel in the way that Martin Wroe did that of his community. I think we’d be surprised by what we discovered, by the ways God has been at work amongst us in the ordinary and extraordinary. Maybe for now though, the best thing we can do is listen to each other more carefully when we share our stories over coffee at the end of the service, keeping alert for the fingerprints of the Spirit in what we hear and see.
Church Newsletter Article for 16.09.12