Yesterday evening at St. Francis House, the community utilized the liturgy for "A Celebration for a Home" (more commonly called "a house blessing").
The timing seemed right. Earlier in the year, when SFH installed the chaplain and rededicated the chapel, the dust had only been cleaned from the building two days before. Our community had not yet begun to build a relationship with or within the space. Eight weeks later, that relationship - though still very much beginning - has more clearly begun. SFH has celebrated two months of Eucharists in these walls. We have opened these doors to strangers, shared cookies (freshly baked), teas, and friendship's laughter. We've watched and cheered the Badger football squad, and hosted an evening concert that overwhelmed us all with its blessings. We've shared countless impromptu moments in the cracks between our program days. Much life. Some tears. We have prayed for each other here. One student, on buying a new bicycle, brought it straight away to the House, midday, to show off his new steed. This remains a highlight of the year for me.
We have known the good space of studies shared in silence. We drop in on each other nowadays for brown bag lunches. We have donned our yarns and knitted together here and welcomed strangers like sisters and brothers, only kinder. We have met midweek in this space for conversation, Scripture study, and Compline. We have prayed with strangers on the chapel's front steps, and we've been blessed by strangers-made-friends who have walked through our open doors - God knows why - and found their place at the piano, and sung their hearts to God. We have wi-fi now. And all of this with two small tables and two handfuls of chairs that are still awaiting the arrival of reinforcements.
And besides all these things, this past weekend was Homecoming. Yes, the timing was right.
The liturgy was true and beautiful. Students, chaplain, and friends from Good Shepherd, Sun Prairie, processed room to room with the Christ candle and holy water - a modern-day pillar of cloud and fire for those still in search of the promise of God - saying prayers, recalling purposes, asking God's help. Sprinkling each room with water and the intention of our prayers.
As we prayed, we received the intention of the Christian tradition for those who would ask God's blessing on their homes. We heard again the story of the three travelers come to Abraham and Sarah. We remembered that the picture of the resulting meal in Abraham's story is called The Trinity, the reminder that the earliest Church understood hospitality not simply as moral duty but as the opportunity to meet and receive the presence of God. We took to heart John's reminder that we learn to walk in the truth through love freely shown to friends and strangers. We heard Jesus one more time remind us of the provision with which God sustains his children so that we may seek the Kingdom of God.
As we lifted, turned, and considered these themes of hospitality, vulnerability, self-offering, and friendship, we observed that these themes are not obviously connected to homes for all people. In the world of the gated community, the call to self-offering - in one's home, no less - is at noticeable odds with the culture. So blessing one's home has everything to do with choosing new life.
On this note, we recalled that the rite for the Celebration for a Home also provides prayers of cleansing to the place being blessed. A new beginning, where one is needed. We noted that this is not simply an add-on to the Christian's call to hospitality, but rather is the gift that makes hospitality possible. For the Church receives, in the mercy of Christ, forgiveness and redemption even for those parts of our pasts we would rather hide or erase; for those parts of ourselves that would tempt us toward closed postures of guardedness and self-doubt, disorienting us from the vulnerable self-offering of God. So the psalmist sings, "Purge me from my sin, and I shall be pure; wash me, and I shall be clean indeed" (Ps. 51:7, BCP).
It was a wonderful night. Full of all the things we pray we are becoming. Lord, may we continue then your pilgrim people, washed clean by the Lamb, and grow in Christ's generous love, without fear.