Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Levavi Oculos

I struggle to find my place these days, as a minister in a time where churches are dying and Christianity is following suit or either re-emerging, depending on which books you read.  It's hard to deny the reality of change as I survey the emptying pews and the difficulty of getting students to engage in religious programs (even if I substitute the word "spiritual" for "religious").  I speak with other ministers and we share ideas, but the tips and "tricks" we've used in the past don't seem to be relevant these days.  Perhaps they never really were.

But I'm starting to see that change as hopeful.  While there may be fewer gathering in the buildings, I see more and more people uniting in service, and gathering for conversations of faith.  Yes, it looks different as Christianity changes and pluralism grows, but I'm encouraged by the young people to whom I minister, in their honest search for answers that aren't limited by the old boundaries, in their desire to serve and connect with those who are different and yet whom they recognize as fellow neighbors.  Change brings new opportunities, a way of renewing what has become rote and meaningless in the routine of "this is always how we've done things."  It brings a challenge to reconsider our values and our calling, and seek out what new needs are not being met.

I have the privilege of serving as an interfaith chaplain for a small liberal arts school that was founded by a minister and yet has never had a religious affiliation.  But matters of the spirit have always had an important place at Hollins.  As the former chaplain, Jan Fuller, has written, "The chapel stands beside the library as a reminder of the spiritual nature of academic values, and to emphasize the connection of head and heart."  
The university motto, "Levavi Oculos", is Latin for "I lift my eyes" from Psalm 121:

Psalm 121
A Song of Ascents.
1 I lift up my eyes to the hills—
   from where will my help come?
2 My help comes from the Lord,
   who made heaven and earth. 

3 He will not let your foot be moved;
   he who keeps you will not slumber.
4 He who keeps Israel
   will neither slumber nor sleep. 

5 The Lord is your keeper;
   the Lord is your shade at your right hand.
6 The sun shall not strike you by day,
   nor the moon by night. 

7 The Lord will keep you from all evil;
   he will keep your life.
8 The Lord will keep
   your going out and your coming in
   from this time on and for evermore.

It is fitting, as we are nestled in a beautiful valley surrounded by mountains.  Every day, as I enter the chapel, I'm greeted by the motto and seal.  When I lift my eyes, I see the cross on the bell tower, a reminder of the sacrificial love that calls us to salvation.  I see the beauty of God's creation all around.  I see renewal and resurrection, and new hope of life that springs forth from what is dying.  

Lift up your eyes...what do you see?

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