Faith CoLab: Tapestry of Faith: Building Bridges: A World Religions Program for 8th-9th Grades

Activity 1: Story - The Life of Jesus of Nazareth

Activity time: 20 minutes

Materials for Activity

Preparation for Activity

  • Read the story "The Life of Jesus of Nazareth" until you are comfortable presenting it.
  • Test markers or pens on wristbands.

Description of Activity

Participants hear and discuss a story of Jesus of Nazareth.

Tell or read the story. Ask participants for their initial reactions. What did they think of the story? How familiar was it to them? Were there details they had not heard before?

Familiarize yourself with the following and share with participants in your own words:

Jesus of Nazareth is one of the most influential figures in history. While the doctrines of Christianity have developed greatly in complexity and specificity during two thousand years of existence in the Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, and eventually Protestant forms, its foundation is the teachings of Jesus.

Contemporary Christianity has moved far from Jesus' teachings as contained in the Gospels or Christian Scriptures ("New Testament"). Interpretations of what Jesus meant in his time, and what Jesus' words should mean for our time, vary greatly. Differing, and even opposite conclusions are drawn from the very same texts by different people. However, these differences-and conflicts-do not diminish the influence of these historic writings.

In traditional Christian doctrine, Jesus is represented as the Son of God (and therefore divine) and the savior of humankind (write "messiah" on newsprint) through his death and resurrection. Unitarians and other liberal Christians of the 19th century began to question the divinity of Jesus, and saw him as a man who was a great teacher who offered inspiring lessons for humankind about compassion, generosity, forgiveness, and love for one another. Today, UUs who identify as Christians focus on Jesus' teachings and seek to live more closely to the values he taught. Many UUs who do not identify as Christian also value the teachings of Jesus.

So what were some of Jesus' teachings? Ask for input and write on newsprint. At first mention of the word "Love," write it in large letters at the top. Contribute information participants do not offer.

  • Love God with all your heart and soul and strength (write "Love God")
  • Love your neighbor as yourself (if this is done fully, one fulfills all other commandments) (write "Love neighbor as self")
  • Refrain from judging people, just as you do not want them to judge you ("Judge not")
  • If you repent your sins and ask for forgiveness, God will forgive you ("Repent, be forgiven")
  • Be kind and forgiving with each other, as God through Jesus Christ forgave you ("Forgive others since you are forgiven")
  • God's love is infinite ("God = infinite love")
  • The opposite of love is not hate; the opposite of love is selfishness ("Opposite of love = selfishness")

Ask, "What impression does this give you of God? What is the God of Christian scripture like?" "How does this God differ from the God of the Hebrew Bible (the God that demanded sacrifices, destroyed the earth with a flood and turned people to pillars of salt)?"

Continue discussion with the following questions:

  • Was Jesus a troublemaker? Why did he defy authority?
  • Does the brutality of his death affect the way you think of his teachings? The Bible suggests that Jesus knew what would happen to him, and chose to go through with it. Why would he do that?
  • Are you familiar with the letters "WWJD?" It means "What Would Jesus Do?" and it is intended to remind someone, before they act or speak, to think about what Jesus would have done if he were in their place. What do you think of this reminder? If a person did it consistently, what would it achieve?

Distribute blank wristbands and fine point permanent markers or ballpoint pens. Invite youth to create bracelets of their own. Suggest they inscribe them with any symbol, image, or letters which remind them of their highest values, in the way that Christians wear the WWJD bracelet to remind them to treat others well. "WWJD" is an option!