May 11, 2004
I just finished teaching a community college course on “The Life and Teachings of Jesus.” I was impressed to see that people actually changed during the
semester. We just discussed what we read in the Gospels, and a couple of books by
authors who take the Gospels seriously.* We had none of the expected attributes of “Christian
ministry”; — music, praying, offering, youth parties, missions emphasis,
drama, eucharist or communion, baptism, or clergy – but we still saw people
changing. Some of us changed our theories of Jesus or of the Bible, general attitudes about life changed, behavior patterns changed – and all in the directions of truthfulness and courtesy.
I’m sure the changes were not a product of my awesome classroom presence (I
haven’t had quite as much impact in the past) but came instead from our serious
and sustained attention to the person of Jesus himself as expressed in the
actions and teachings of his life.
Is there a way to get more of THAT in church life in this country?
*Thomas Cahill, Desire of the Everlasting Hills, and Luke Timothy Johnson, Living Jesus: Learning the Heart of the Gospel.