Have you been gathering stories?

Have you been gathering stories?

Stories about the future of departments and programs. About what the university needs to do in order to strengthen its future. Stories about faculty and staff who feel like they’re being asked to hold their breath one more time. About students who feel like the educational ground is shifting beneath their feet. Stories about leadership and about the importance of liberal arts and our Lutheran-based mission and adaptability and…

Yeah, so have I. They’re heavy stories, aren’t they?

I write this in the last days of spring break, and I find myself praying over what it will be like when we come back together again. Hurt and uncertainty have the paradoxical potential to bring out the best and the worst in us.

I’m drawn to the story of Jesus meeting the devil in the wilderness (Luke 4:1-13). The devil tempts Jesus by bringing up who Jesus is, what he deserves, what he is called to do — then encouraging Jesus to do something wrong. “If you are the Son of God…” That’s an intense level of manipulation: using what Jesus knows is good and true about himself and God’s mission and twisting it for bad ends.

But Jesus knows himself deeply; he has a clarifying understanding of God’s mission. And so despite the seeds the devil is trying to plant — seeds of uncertainty and pride and misdirected self-protection — despite the manipulation of God’s plan and Jesus’s good intentions — despite all this, Jesus is able to discern the better way.

I’m not sure exactly what that looks like for each of us in this time, what it will look like to be true to ourselves, to live out the vocations to which God is calling each of us, to be faithful to the mission of this university. 

We will certainly need space to be honest about our fears, to lament. We will need to give and receive comfort by listening to one another. We will need to discern our roles in the coming changes: from creative thinking to prophetic speaking to offering hope in the midst of hard news. 

Like Jesus, the best we can do is be true to ourselves, compassionate in our community, and faithful to God.

Let us pray.

My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of  me. I cannot know for certain where it will end, nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. 

But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road, though I may know nothing about it. 

Therefore I will trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone. Amen. 

[Prayer by Thomas Merton]

– Pastor Kate

Rev. Katherine Museus and Rev. James A. Wetzstein serve as university pastors at the Chapel of the Resurrection at Valparaiso University and take turns writing weekly devotions.

March 20, 2024