Years ago, as a bright shiny new Christian, I recall proclaiming “Jesus is the answer!” to an Anglican priest friend, who replied sardonically, “Ah, but what’s the question?”
For some, that simple saying—It’s all about Jesus—seems just that; way too simple. My friend obviously placed himself in that category.
Near the other end of the spectrum are those who find the idea far too difficult to honestly live out. It does seem the more you study—whether theology, biology, astrophysics, theatre, whatever—the more ridiculous the statement seems. But as Christians, we know somewhere deep in our knowers it is capital-T True. That truth lies in the unseen realm, the spirit, the heart—whatever you want to call it—beyond our brain cells.
Anne’s recent Sunday sermon reminded us of the centrality of Jesus, and the accompanying reading from Philippians (Phil. 3:1-11) underscored and shouted it out. There we hear Paul considering everything else in life worthless garbage compared to knowing Christ Jesus as his Lord.
As Anne pointed out, in a small community such as ours, family seems to reign supreme. While family, hard work and faithful service contribute to individual and societal health, all need to be an outworking of the supremacy of Christ. Paul really did give up everything for Jesus, and if we’re to live in the fullness of what God intends, we are to do the same, at least ‘in our hearts’.
The whole Bible, from Genesis to Revelation, tells his story. The resurrected Christ's conversation with a couple of distressed, doubting disciples on their seven-mile dusty hike from Jerusalem to Emmaus details how even what we now call the Old Testament told time and again of his own birth, death and resurrection.
As they trudge along, Jesus goes step-by-step through the prophecies, yet they still don't get it. Not till they're about to share a meal with him later do their eyes see what their hearts had already perceived:
"When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight. They asked each other, 'Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?' " (Luke 24:30-32)
Eugene Peterson in The Message wonderfully interprets Paul’s words on the absolute centrality and supremacy of Jesus:
"God raised him from death and set him on a throne in deep heaven, in charge of running the universe, everything from galaxies to governments, no name and no power exempt from his rule. And not just for the time being, but forever. He is in charge of it all, has the final word on everything. At the center of all this, Christ rules the church. The church, you see, is not peripheral to the world; the world is peripheral to the church. The church is Christ’s body, in which he speaks and acts, by which he fills everything with his presence.” (Eph. 1:20-23)
As if re-focusing on the Truth weren’t enough reason to return to the all-in-all-ness of Jesus, a recent article in the The Washington Post presented the following as the most-cited reason 20- and 30-somethings decide church isn’t for them: "We’re not leaving the church because we don’t find the cool factor there; we’re leaving the church because we don’t find Jesus there” (How to keep Millennials in the church? Let’s keep church un-cool).
Whether these younger people have grown up churched or unchurched, they’ve been advertised to their whole lives. With “highly sensitive BS meters … we’re not easily impressed with consumerism or performances,” one CNN Belief Blog contributor explains.
She goes on to argue that “church-as-performance is just one more thing driving us away from the church, and evangelicalism in particular.” She and many of her generation find themselves increasingly drawn to high church traditions “precisely because the ancient forms of liturgy seem so unpretentious, so unconcerned with being ‘cool,’ and we find that refreshingly authentic.”
In other words, they want something the world can never give them: a saviour from shallow meaninglessness to connect them with the deep, intellectually robust spirituality of a Holy Father and Spirit.