Dean of Chapel sits with N.T. Wright

The great nineteenth-century Romantic poet, Lord Byron, once wrote, “All who joy would win, must share it; happiness was born a twin.” Another way to express the same sentiment is to say that our joy is not complete until it is shared with others. What is the first thing lottery winners do (after running laps around the house breathlessly fist-pumping, I presume)? They call family and friends to share the unbelievably good news. Another example that is a little closer to home: What is one of the first things Johnson couples do after getting engaged? They post the engagement video on Facebook. Our desire for those little ‘thumbs-up’ on a life-altering status reveals a deep and good truth about humanity – somewhere knit into the fabric of our being we know life is best lived when it is shared. The moment good news comes to us, we instinctively want to tell someone. We must share it.

I have experienced the truth of Lord Byron’s sentiment repeatedly since moving to Scotland in September. My time studying at the University of St Andrews has provided some of the best and most profound moments of my life. Time and again, I have thought, “Wow, I wish there was a way to share this moment with everyone back home.” Whether it is seeing the pattern of the ripples created by the wind skimming the surface of the North Sea as I sit alone eating a quiet lunch on a stone pier jetting out into the water or walking into a cave used by monks over 1400 years ago to provide a place of safety and prayer for pilgrims on their way up the coast or sitting in a class room straining to keep my fingers on pace with the waves of new information and ideas washing over me, I have instinctively wanted to share the joy of this experience with my Johnson family back home.

This fall I spent most Thursday evenings sitting in a classroom listening to New Testament scholar and University of St Andrews professor, N.T. Wright, discuss the meaning of the cross. Each session was two hours. He would lecture for around 75 minutes; we would take a quick break and then return to discuss, question, and dig deeper into the subject at hand. Professor Wright led the discussion and told us that he coveted our feedback and critiques. As a born extrovert, he claims, the best way for him to know what he thinks is to first say it out loud. He referred to this as “continuing his theological education in public.” These evenings I will treasure for the rest of my life. Yet, the joy I felt as I walked home after each session was not complete.

Almost from the very beginning, I tried to figure out a way to share these experiences with my Johnson family. I knew this spring we would be studying together the story of Jesus’ life in chapel. Knowing that we would be discussing Christ’s crucifixion and death in the last chapel before Easter, I emailed Professor Wright to ask if he would be willing to discuss on video some of what he spoke about in the fall. I expected a “No” in response; he is extremely busy and receives similar requests often. So, I wasn’t surprised when his email back to me began by stating that he had made a New Years resolution to say “No” to all such requests. However, he then proceeded to explain that he would be willing to do the video because this topic is so fresh on his mind and dear to his heart.

As special as it was to sit in his office and discuss the cross with him one-on-one, easily the best part of the experience for me was the response of the students when the video played in chapel. Receiving emails and seeing Facebook statuses from students who were not only excited that N.T. Wright was in chapel, but who were truly challenged and edified by what he had to say stirred within me great joy, for that is exactly how I felt sitting in a classroom with him last fall. Knowing that students four thousand miles away were moved by this video in some small way helped make my whole experience here at St Andrews real in a way it had not yet been. Their joy made my joy complete because I was finally able to share it. 

Written by Bill Wolf. Bill serves as the Dean of Chapel at Johnson University Tennessee. 

Posted: 4/28/2015 1:47:06 PM


Opinions expressed are those of the contributors and do not necessarily represent those of Johnson University.