I only spent one year away from home living at school. As a freshman living in the dorms at Concordia Wisconsin, being thrown into the freedom and responsibility of college was tough. Add to that being turned down by the girl I asked out, severely struggling with my Greek course, and many days sitting alone at dinner and you end up with a pretty depressing year.
Through that depressing year, daily chapel services and the three nights a week of evening prayer offices were a great blessing to me. When nothing seemed to be going my way, I could still take refuge in the Word of God and the hymns and prayers of the church. The chapels on campus very literally became my sanctuaries from the troubles of life. Most nights when I couldn’t sleep, I walked up to the Prayer and Meditation Chapel and would pray Compline. Sure, I could have prayed in my dorm room, but there is an added element of peace praying before the altar and crucifix. The church nave itself confesses Christ. It is extremely difficult to walk into a church and not be immediately reminded of your baptism and Christ’s death and resurrection for you even when nothing in life is going the way you want it to.
I walked passed the chapels multiple times a day, since I had to walk through chapel hallway to get to anything from my dorm room. At all hours, you could hear students practicing on the organs. It was a constant reminder that not only was the chapel our home away from our home congregations but that it is our home away from our heavenly home. The physical place where heaven comes down to meet earth. The place where Christ physically places His body and blood into our mouths.
I have now been living at home for the past several years as I finish up my schooling. Still, my church, Mount Zion Lutheran, remains a great blessing to me. Each Sunday morning I am able to go to my home away from my heavenly home. I walk in and hear the pre-service music being played by the organist. The icons depicting major points in the life of Christ are displayed on the wall. A crucifix hangs above the altar as an instant reminder of my baptism into Christ’s death. In this home away from home, I hear the words of Christ, words of Holy Absolution and the proclamation of Law and Gospel. I see the altar, the baptismal font, the crucifix, the art, and the architecture itself which constantly point to Jesus for me. I see the bread and wine as Pastor lifts it before me and says, “The peace of the Lord be with you always.” I taste the bread and wine the body and blood of Christ given for me as it is placed into my mouth. I go home my true home in the presence of Christ. I feast with my ancestors, my brothers and sisters – the whole church. I rejoice with the whole company of heaven. All in this place. This physical building set aside for one purpose. The place where Christ’s Word is preached and His gifts are given to His people.
Can the Word be preached and gifts be given in an auditorium, concert hall, houses or classrooms? Absolutely. But why settle for that when you can have a place set aside for just that purpose. A physical sanctuary from all the troubles of this life. A place that no matter what is happening outside its walls, confesses Christ for you.
Here stands the font before our eyes,
Telling how God has received us.
The altar recalls Christ’s sacrifice
And what His Supper here gives us.
Here sound the Scriptures that proclame
Christ yesterday, today, the same,
And evermore, our Redeemer.
Grant, then, O God, Your will be done,
That, when the church bells are ringing,
Many in saving faith may come
Where Christ His message is bringing;
"I know My own; My own know Me.
You , not the world, My face shall see.
My peace I leave with you. Amen."