One of my favourite books is one called Paper Trai
l by John Timpson, who used to be one of the presenters on Radio Four’s Today programme, in the days when they used to be firm, but polite. The book tells the story of Charles who’s a journalist working for a local newspaper in Norfolk in the 1950s. He can’t afford a car so buys a bike at auction and is tricked into bidding a lot more for it than the bike’s worth. This bike originally belonged to the local butcher and on it, as was the custom in those days, it had the words Geoff Perkins: Purveyor of Good Meats
After the auction, Charles goes to collect his bike and finds someone has altered the signage. It now reads Charles Benson: Purveyor of Good News
. Of course journalists tend to deal more in bad news – and actually (if we’re honest) we tend to enjoy hearing bad news more than anything else. Somehow we get a vicarious thrill out of hearing bad stuff about other people. And it’s the reason people slow down to look at car crashes on the motorways.
It’s not insignificant then that the Christian faith I believe in specifically calls on us to be purveyors of good news. The good news offered by the arrival two thousand years ago of a man who offered us a new way of living, a second chance, an opportunity to have a broken relationship with God put right, once and for all.
On Sunday we remembered Palm Sunday, the moment when it seemed the entire population of Jerusalem cheered Jesus into their city as he rode in on a donkey. They called him blessed because of the good news he was bringing, because of the joy and light and hope he had spread wherever he had been within their land.
In one of his first recorded sermons early on in Luke he quotes from the prophet Isaiah: ‘The Spirit of the Lord is on me because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor.‘
That’s the poor in spirit, the poor in hope, the poor in poverty, the poor in despair. And Christians are asked to carry on that work he has asked us to do.
We are purveyors of good news. We deal in good news. We offer good news to a world that’s broken and messed up and tired and hurt and worn out. We have good news to purvey. And the sermon that Jesus gives is a reminder that Christians follow the original Purveyor of Good News.
Good news. You don’t keep it to yourself do you? Some very dear friends of mine have recently received an incredible gift – a daughter, a precious new life. And – understandably – they want to tell everyone about her. Every picture posted of this tiny baby is a reminder to all of us who are privileged to be friends with them about their good news which we are all delighted to share in.
Every so often people join in campaigns on social media to flood it with positive messages and images instead of the – sometimes – miserable and depressing news it appears to carry most of the time. There’s nothing wrong with being unhappy and wanting to share that with those we love most as we find ourselves in the trenches once too often, but it’s also good to share happiness around too.
For Lent this year I took a decision not to give anything up and instead every day have found something to post on Facebook and Twitter with the theme Brighten Your Day. I have to be honest – there are days when I’ve really struggled with that. It’s hard to count your blessings on the days when it doesn’t feel like you have any left to count.
But actively looking for good news and fun images and videos to share with my friends has been a very fulfilling project. I hope I can continue it after Lent has finished. Looking for the bright side helps to lift your spirits and also reflects on those around you.
Don’t get me wrong. I believe it is right to grieve with those who grieve, that it’s wrong to be bright and breezy in the face of someone’s clear and genuine misery caused by the difficult circumstances they are in. But as someone who is slowly coming out of her own abyss, looking for things to brighten my day has helped a great deal. Who can fail to be cheered by a church that looks like a chicken? Or a sunrise across the Wylye Valley in Wiltshire? Or bright red tulips in a back garden?
Good news. It needs to be shared because there’s enough to be getting on with in the Department of Life’s Dark Moments. Laughter and joy are medicinal and life affirming.
And life and love and happiness are well worth fighting for… No, wait a minute. That’s the theme tune from the old BBC tv programme ‘The Flashing Blade”. Now THERE’S an idea for my next #BrightenYourDay.