Welcoming Home to God
by Jesse David Hill (March / April 2001 • Volume 17 • Number 2)
Claiming one's identity as a child of Christ and listening to God's voice are the foci of Ohio State's Lutheran campus ministry
With a student population of 48,000, a faculty of more than 5,000, and a support staff numbering 10,000, it is easy to become lost in the business of academic life at The Ohio State University.
When you walk into our student lounge, your eyes are drawn to a large painting of Rembrandt's The Return of the Prodigal. Often students, seeing the painting for the first time, ask "What is the painting all about? Who are the characters represented and why?"
"That sounds a lot like me," some respond after hearing about the painting. "Can I come home to God too?"
Here in this classic painting, you will begin to perceive the mission of Lutheran campus ministry at The Ohio State University.
In this special time of life for students, there is more than an academic education occurring. It is a crucial time for spiritual formation. Students often begin to ask the questions:
"What is missing in my life?"
"What else is there? I'm working hard, studying hard, but there seems to be something more than this."
The "more" is the need for a closer relationship to God. It is my privilege to walk with these men and women during this time of discovery. They are discovering that life at school can be much more than getting credentialed in a field of work. It is also about claiming their identity as children of God.
In this claiming is a commitment to live in a close relationship to Christ, that is, having Christ become the focus of our life.
Campus ministry supports this journey of faith through a Word and sacrament ministry here at University Lutheran Chapel. Bible study, teaching of prayer, and retreat opportunities are also available. Spiritual direction is also an important component in nurturing one's spiritual life. Discernment retreats are offered to those about to graduate or facing other major decisions and events in their lives.
Our challenge on campus, as it is in our society, is to help people understand that their worth is not based on what one does or possesses (through academic degrees), but who we are as children of God. This understanding only comes through placing our total trust in God through whom we can truly live.
We who minister to students are in a position similar to Eli, who helped Samuel listen for the voice of God. We too help students embrace the reality that God calls them by name and that, through a relationship with God, they are precious.
Lutheran Campus Ministry is a ministry which welcomes all home to God. It is an opportunity to know one another not only by name, but by our dreams, fears, and hopes, as well as an opportunity to hear the good news that God loves us and desires to be with us even in the midst of test tubes, papers, and academic schedules.
In this special time of their lives, God is asking students not only to prepare themselves for work but also to grow in their love and trust in their relationship with God.
Jesse David Hill serves as an ELCA campus minister at the The Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio. He has also worked for 23 years in parish ministry and is trained as a spiritual director.