First: Luther, both first to be visited and most recent Alma. After getting over our shock and jealousy of seeing the new coffee shop, we could not get over the feeling that this place (actually the entire Twin Cities) felt like home. They say that you can't go back, and you really can't, but this is the closest we'll ever come. We only caught a few profs, but it was enough (one even said "ok, give me your elevator speech!" like she knew that we were seeing tons of people for a short time and saying the same thing, basically! Gotta love Mary Sue!) And the bookstore was like a mini-Christmas. We even sat in on a Pentateuch class that one of our friends was taking, and it was like the exact lecture I needed to hear, about the "J" source of all things. Sometimes I miss being a student (but not the homework!)
Being back in the Twin Cities was such a bizarre and somewhat heart-wrenching experience. You never really know how much a place feels like home until you leave it for a while... and then come back. But the very reason that we may want to go back is the very reason that we can't, at least not for a while. More about that later (it was sort of a theme of the trip). The overall feeling I got from being back in Minneapolis was... calm. People there aren't in as big of a rush there. Frankly, I was surprised at how much I missed it.
We stayed with some friends who had gotten back from the peace corps literally WEEKS after we moved to NJ, so it had been at least 3 years since we had seen them. We stayed at their house, helped them with a last harvest of their lovely garden and put it do bed. Did I mention it was freaking freezing in the Midwest? 80 to 49 as the high in the space of a day. Anyway, then we road down to Waverly IA for the wedding with them, the whole time talking nonstop about their years in Burkina Faso, our year in NJ, the weirdness of life and seminary, and why the church frustrates us sometimes.
Waverly.... had grown up. And there is no one left we know as a student on campus, so Beau and I only spend about half an hour wandering around campus (we did find Dr. Mrs. Black!!!). We realized that the specialness of Wartburg, like that of Luther Sem, is that of its people and relationships we build there. Really it is nothing more than some nice buildings - but the memories are the important thing.
The wedding was lovely and the reception fantastic as we literally danced the night away. Again, it was seeing the people we had not seen in 3-4 years that made all the difference.
We had breakfast one morning and later lunch with some past beloved Wartburg profs, which were right there with us as we shared with them the frustration and joys of ministry, but most especially we felt their support as we struggled with the location that God has placed us - that the East Coast is such a different animal than anything we've ever experienced. Even after a year, it's still hard some days. But as we attended St. Andrew's Episcopal Church in Waverly on Sunday morning and heard the sermon, you can't go right from wheat to bread. The kernel must be broken open, ground up a bit, stretched with discomfort, and more before it can truly become bread, bread that God can used to feed people.
It is because of this desire to go back to what feels safe and comfortable is the very reason we can't leave yet. And that is a very hard thing.
And there's even more from the weekend. (I never promised that this would be a short post). I was able to reconnect to a camp friend I hadn't seen in 4+ years, and we had one of those deep conversations about life and God and peace, justice, and urban ministry, dissatisfaction with the sometimes rigidity of established religion. I hadn't realized how age-lonely it can be in the church, but it is friends like these who give me hope for the future.
It has been a lot to process, and I'm still processing. But I will end with a benediction from that Sunday, St. Francis Sunday, which is attributed to him:
May God bless you with discomfort at easy answers, half truths, and superficial relationships, so that you may live deep within your heart.
May God bless you with anger at injustice, oppression, and exploitation of people, so that you may work for justice, freedom and peace.
May God bless you with tears to shed for those who suffer from pain, rejection, starvation, and war, so that you may reach out your hand to comfort them and to turn their pain in to joy.
And may God bless you with enough foolishness to believe that you can make a difference in this world, so that you can do what others claim cannot be done.