Christ is in action – renovating!

by Gary Head

Nowadays, if you drive from University down Broadway, you’ll notice—along with the emptiness of the bars and loneliness of the streets brought on by the holidays and COVID-19—that our dear old campus center is in the process of being more or less torn apart.

Of course, we in our congregation are excited about this because we know what it means: it means that God has blessed our ministry and our church with the funds to make a much needed renovation of the campus center that has been the home to so much ministry, transformation, and Kingdom work over the last 64 years. It means that we’re on the road (at least we hope we are on the road) to a new era of our campus ministry, an era that will aim to be both faithful to the past and innovative for the future. It means, perhaps more than anything right now, that there is at least a little bit of something to look forward to in 2021: that there is a spark of hope for what God may still be doing despite the mess we’re tired of talking about and hearing about from every news outlet and street corner in our contagious creation.

While this is all true, I’ve recently taken to imagining how the campus center might feel if it were the sort of thing to feel anything at all. I imagine it’s hard to have the same sort of optimism we have when it feels its beams detached from their proper places, and it feels the lights not just shut off but ripped out. I wonder if it would understand what is going on as its innards are ripped up, as the walls have been brought down into heaps and carried out by strange workers, as it’s not heated any longer by the heater struggling to keep it warm, or by the fireplace, or, more to the point, by the students who have for some reason stopped praying and laughing and crying and eating inside of it.

I wonder if it feels lonely. I wonder if it wonders why this is all happening to it, why there must be so much destruction in it. I wonder if it wonders whether or not there is a plan to all this mess, or if the maker has simply abandoned it to the elements and the forces of destruction in our world. Probably it wonders if that maker is actually not a kind maker at all, but rather some malevolent force doing this on purpose, all according to its twisted plan. More likely, the building just wonders whether there is any force for good or evil at all except the forces of destruction and chaos.

Probably not, since, of course, it’s just a campus center. But I wonder about this. I wonder about it often.

I wonder about this when it feels like my own innards have been ripped out, and the walls of my life seem to come crashing down because the structural beams of certainty and predictability have been taken out of their proper places.

I feel this when well-meaning people speak into that chaos with platitudes that poorly conceal their judgement and their own fear of that chaos within themselves.

I feel this when I wonder if there is any plan, anyone in control of any aspect of life, or if we are all just winging it in a windstorm without any wings to speak of.

I wonder this. What’s beautiful about our campus center, though—whether it is wondering any of this or not—is that this destruction that it is experiencing is a precursor to its transformation. It doesn’t know it, but those strange workers carting off the remnants of its old life will also bring with them materials for a new life. The destruction of the old wall between the prayer room and the fellowship room will make new room for a larger, more expansive room, ready to receive new students, ready to make room for new beauty and new conversations about old topics, to make room for every restless heart to find home with Christ—home both inside this transformed building and inside those curiously wandering hearts.

What the campus center doesn’t know—what it can’t know, but can only grasp at with trust—is that de-creation is often the necessary prerequisite for new creation. That just as our old lives are drowned in baptism in order to make way for our resurrected life, so too our campus center is being deconstructed to make room for new life, new warmth, new ministry.

And this, I think, the campus center might receive as good news if it were to hear us at all.

“Those with ears—let them hear!”

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