By Anna Helzer
(This is the second part in a two-part series)
Last spring, in preparation for relocating much of the community’s daily life and worship over here to St. Mark’s on the Campus, the Lutheran Center students and staff did a “test run” of spending a week in the lounge at St. Mark’s instead of the Lutheran Center building. Having literally lived in the Lutheran Center for a year, and spent most of my days and evenings there for the two years before that, I spent the week (and the summer) feeling displaced and uncomfortable. I was so familiar with every part of the Lutheran Center building – even and especially the parts that were literally falling apart – that the unfamiliarity of being in a different building was deeply unsettling for me, even as we were experiencing such welcome and hospitality from the people of St. Mark’s.
I hated not knowing where things were kept, not knowing the people who spent time there and took care of the building, and I was homesick and heartsick. So many of my encounters with God in the last few years have been in the Lutheran Center building, and so much of my spiritual and mental and emotional growth has happened there. And it was hard that my job was so tied to the building: I felt like I had lost my way of loving my neighbors and fellow LC people when I lost the building.
But then this academic year actually started. We had the Welcome Back Barbecue and I got to see old and new friends laughing and talking and eating – three of the LC’s favorite pastimes! I got to know some of the people of St. Mark’s and started feeling more comfortable in the building and this new community. I started coming to 9 a.m. morning prayer every day I was available, so I started the day in prayer and worship with the LC community. I saw Bible studies and sermon writing and lounge lunches and music and worship and board games … and I realized finally that God didn’t stay behind in the Lutheran Center. God is not limited to the Mountain of God. God shows up where God’s people are, whether we’re at the Mountain or deep in the wilderness.
God is here. God is here in the laughter and trust in lounge conversations, in the sunrises over the steeple of St. Mark’s on the way to our morning staff meetings, in the meals we share together on weekdays between classes, in the generosity of the people of St. Mark’s, in the voices of old and new friends raised in song and worship. God goes with us and before us through the unfamiliarity of our lives and shows up in the fire, in the silence, in earthquakes, in the confusion of choosing majors and classes and futures, in the pain of missing our homes and familiar places. God is with us and will not leave us in the wilderness; thanks be to God.
“God surprises us by showing up in ordinary things: in bread, in wine, in water, in words, in sickness, in healing, in death, in a manger of hay, in a mother’s womb, in an empty tomb. Church isn’t some community you join or some place you arrive. Church is what happens when someone taps you on the shoulder and whispers in your ear, Pay attention, this is holy ground; God is here.” – Rachel Held Evans, Searching for Sunday