It’s time (as some old friends would say) to get things started…It’s time…To cram a car, maybe rent a trailer or hit on a friend with a pickup and come back to campus… To see if we can negotiate eight flights of stairs clogged with three couches without dropping any of the stuff we carry but can’t see over…To buy stock in the Maruchan Corporation. They make Ramen Noodles and they’re stock is about to go on steroids; buy now and sell off next March before everyone goes home…To find out if the Christians we’re excited about rooming with this year are better than the fang faces the computers threw us in with last year. To take all the deep breaths we can. When the first professor in the first class utters their first syllable, our heads will drop and the note taking will start. Many won’t come up for air until after midterms…To anticipate what things Jesus Christ might be ready to write on the blank slate of the next eight months.
I confess my prejudices. I owe everything I am to my roots in Jesus Christ planted in four years on campus at Clarion University of PA. I met Jesus Christ in a life changing way there during something called the Jesus Movement of the ’60’s. I seriously doubt I would be in the faith today if all I could see of Christianity was the shallow, sometimes bizarre, expression of it spread across the cultural landscape today.
Many well-intentioned voices sell half-truths to college students today. These voices describe the perils of the contemporary campus. The Christian faith ridiculed and challenged in classrooms and on campus. Lifestyles that threaten to seduce Christians away from their walk with Christ. Feeling like an oppressed minority. All this is true – but it’s not all the truth. They even write books detailing the evils and perils of the secular campus. One I particularly dislike displays its title in a dripping blood “Rocky Horror Picture Show” font. It’s designed to pit “us” against “them” and urge hand wringing parents to push their children toward Christian schools where they can be protected. I’m not sure that protection heads the list of God’s agenda. He certainly didn’t protect Jesus very well. Paul was beaten more times than he could remember. They crucified Peter upside down but only after making him watch his wife go first.
Especially for freshmen, God has given you this time in one of the most magnificent, powerful workshops of the soul ever seen in the Kingdom of God. Today’s university. Faith in all its dimensions grows like a muscle; it grows and deepens by working against resistance. The mind will be challenged and stretched. Vision of God’s Kingdom, His mission, will help us scale the mile high walls of our own navel. I remember visiting with one guy after a talk on campus who said he wanted to be a doctor, a family practice guy in a nice community. I suggested he pray about becoming a doctor somewhere doctors are really needed. He’s gone interesting places with more to come. We will learn to love the unlovely. As so many students leave home and family, some of their guts will come spilling out. Maybe some of ours too. The rough places of soul that gall others and ourselves He will begin to sand smooth. The things choking us Christ will pull up, even their long black roots, leaving something soft and rich awaiting the seeds of something only God can imagine. A fire strange to us will begin to burn in our belly. As we learn to tend the fires that God lights on the altars of our heart, we will feed something that will burn long, bright and hot into the years beyond campus. Being sixty-one, I know.
One night, after speaking to students, I had to wait to get my car out of the parking deck. A concert just let out and cars jammed every street. I walked over to a bench, sat there in the dark and drank in the cool night air of autumn. I was full of gratitude for the chance to speak to the students I just left. I sat there long after the cars were gone; I made myself leave. The Lord allowed me to see a small chunk of how much he loved this place and others like it. We just sat there and chewed on it together. We could almost see the Holy Spirit ripple across the grass. This might have been your campus; I do get around. A place of spiritual destruction? If so, that says more about us than the campus.
I can’t resist a little advice from an older dog than me. Let me introduce Henry Venn, a pastor in England who, in 1777, sent his son, John, off as a new student at Cambridge University. His advice? “Rise early. Shun idleness. Read the Bible with prayer. Take care that your bed be thoroughly dry and lay for the first night in your waistcoat, breeches and stockings. Don’t let spiritual immaturity make you arrogant or excessive. Be chaste, sober and humble. Keep a diary. Study standing up. And every other morning attend your mouth and clean it well with snuff, which I find of great service to my teeth.” Doesn’t that just say it all? Could I possibly add anything to that? But here are a couple of guys who can. First, A.E. Housman…
“If you knew that there was One greater than yourself, Who knows you better than you can know yourself, and loves you better than you can love yourself, Who can make you all you ought to be, steadier than your squalid nature, able to save you from squandering your glorious life, Who searches you beyond the standards of earth…One Who gathered into Himself all great and good things and causes, blending into His beauty all the enduring color of life, Who could turn your dreams into visions, and make real the things you hoped were true, and if that One had ever done one unmistakable thing to prove, even at the price of blood – His own blood – that you could come to Him, and having failed, come again. Would you not fall at His feet with the treasure of your years, your powers, service and love? And is there not one such (Jesus), and does He not call you?
And Philips Brooks (my caps and note)…
“The great hunger everywhere is for life. All things are reaching up towards it. All living things are craving an increase of it. Into this world comes Christ and announces Himself as that world’s Savior and satisfier, in virtue first of his bestowal of vitality…’I come to you here that you may live, that you may have life, and that you may have it more abundantly.’ So speaks Christ to the student. And with great trust and great hope and happy soberness (read intensity)…believing truth, rejoicing in duty, the student goes forward into ever-deepening life. Of such life, and of brave, earnest students entering into its fullness, may this new year…be full.”
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Please return your seats to the upright position and give your infrared night vision goggles to the attendant at the rear as you leave. See you next post at geezeronthequad.com.