This morning I pulled into the lot behind a mini-van with an out of state license, the rear view entirely obscured by a quilt of dorm essentials pressed into the back window. I had the privilege of praying with and for the families and new students who joined us today for Seaver New Student Orientation. Today we spoke prayers in the same room that we’ve been praying for decades apart, without knowing one another; as God made us ready for the greeting this morning that sets in motion the next few years of life together, of sharing prayers and presence. I love that moment.
This morning I took a look at one of our Stauffer Chapel prayer journals, from a past January orientation time, and found this wonderful, heartfelt call to God:
Our chapel is a beautiful space, a consecrated space, a beautiful place that was designed to call us to prayer through wordless shape and color. Is God there?
In Mark 9, God, as we often say, showed up. Jesus takes a few disciples with eyes to see to the top of a mountain, where his brightness is revealed, where his place in God’s saving work through history is displayed. And Peter responds as many of us might: “it is good for us to be here!” Let’s build something.
We want to mark the spaces where God is, to make a place we can come back to when we’re not sure he’s with us. It would have been nice to have Stauffer Chapel to come to on Good Friday, when it didn’t look like God was with those witnesses of glory. But rather than a heavenly blueprint, Peter gets a blinding cloud, and a clear voice: “This is my son, whom I love. Listen to him!”
Just to be clear, the writer continues: “Suddenly, when they looked around, they no longer saw anyone with them except Jesus.”
As we welcome new faces, that barely hide the everyday glory God’s placed in them, may we respond with wisdom that comes from transfiguration hill. There is nothing we can build for them here that witnesses to the presence of God in every present moment to come. We are not here simply to create nostalgia, or even to mark sacred moments with noble achievements. We come together, the current occupants and the new arrivals, to take note of God among us, who is also behind us, and goes before us.
May they leave with no doubt God is with us. Us, too. May nothing be more certain or beautiful to us than that. May our early semester enthusiasm fuel open hearts before it is burned up by busy hands.
We pray you bless our guest of January, 2010 with this gift. Thank you for my family, to be here. Thank you for bringing us here with you.