When I was serving as the Director of Youth Ministries at Central Lutheran Church in Elk River, MN, we developed some core values – we called them “non-negotiables.” We agreed that we would focus on Jesus, the most fascinating person in the universe. A couple concurrent values: (1) every kid has the right to know the most fascinating person in the universe and (2) it’s a sin to bore a kid with the most fascinating person in the universe.
Recently I was checking in on my pastor friend, Matt Woodley. He is the Cathedral Vicar of the Church of the Resurrection in Wheaton, IL. Like most churches, their website is designed with typical drop-down header menus, like “About Us,” “Connect,” “Next Steps,” “Sermons,” “Give,” etc. The Church of the Ressurection’s website has a curious menu option – Jesus. After clicking on “Jesus” and reading the content, written by Matt Woodley, I immediately wanted to share it in a blog post. So here it is – enjoy!
The British mystery writer and playwright Dorothy Sayers noted there’s one thing we cannot say about Jesus Christ—that he was a bore. “On the contrary,” Sayers once wrote, the people who opposed Jesus, “thought him too dynamic to be safe.”
When I first started reading the historical accounts of Jesus, I was captivated by Jesus’ life and teaching. After spending most of his life as a refugee and then a blue-collar craftsman, he started announcing a dynamic new message. The Kingdom of God is here, he said, so turn your whole life around to get ready for it. He claimed his message was the best good news the world has ever seen.
He made outlandish (unless they were true) claims about himself—like “I am the way, the truth, and the life” or “I have authority on earth to forgive sins.” He railed against the religious leaders of his day, calling them hypocrites and “white-washed tombs.”
And yet he often displayed remarkable tenderness to normal or even “bad” people—like the owners of a small family fishing business, low-level government officials mired in corruption, a terrorized woman caught in the act of adultery, or a father and mother grieving the death of their twelve-year-old daughter. Through these simple, tender encounters, Jesus offered a new vision for dignifying and redeeming a broken but yearning humanity.
Jesus is utterly un-boring, fresh, and fascinating.
Yes, Jesus is utterly un-boring, fresh, and fascinating. The award-winning essayist John Jeremiah Sullivan once joked about the “Jesus phase” that he and many of his friends passed through in high school. But after snubbing the faith of his childhood, Sullivan said he often has doubts about his doubts. He admits that he still can’t get over the Jesus of his “Jesus phase.” “My problem isn’t… that I feel a sucker for having bought it all,” Sullivan laments. “It’s that I [still] love Jesus Christ.” Jesus Christ—his life and teaching and also his death and resurrection—are at the center of everything we believe and do at the Church of the Resurrection. To us he’s not only a fascinating historical figure; he’s also the world’s deepest hope and only savior. (Matt Woodley, Cathedral Vicar, Church of the Resurrection)
Addendum, February 11, 2023. William Willimon (retired Duke Divinity School and Methodist Bishop): “Why Jesus? Because he’s the most fascinating person in the world.” *
* Willimon, W. H. (2010). Why Jesus? Abingdon Press, ix (intro)