Dear People of Bethlehem,
Blessed Thanksgiving to you all. I recently offered a house blessing for a new member of the congregation. They have moved to our area and have now settled into that thing that is “home”. Home is both a place of belonging and a place of discovery. As we stood at the door to their home, we shared this poem by John O’Donahue from his book, To Bless the Space Between Us.
“May the door of this home be wide enough to receive all who hunger for love, all who are lonely for friendship.
May it welcome all who have cares to unburden, thanks to express, hopes to nurture.
May the door of this house be narrow enough to shut out pettiness and pride, envy and enmity.
May its threshold be no stumbling block to young or strained feet.
May it be too high to admit complacency, selfishness and harshness.
May this home be, for all who enter, the doorway to richness and a more meaningful life.”
I am so struck by the requirements that this door be narrow enough to shut out enmity, as well as too high for selfishness. May this home be no stumbling block, but a place that unburdens the cares of the world, and nurtures hope for all who enter. As we gather in the homes of family and friends in the coming month, I see those doors, lit with warm light and I consider the home and welcome of the church. We are not strictly a home, we are more broadly, a community rooted in God and grounded in love. Our community is defined by the widest door of welcome, the lowest tolerance for harm, the deepest place for hope. We are community, for all who need the comfort that only God’s grace can provide. We are a place of healing for the harms of the world, that only Jesus can heal. We are a place of hope, that only the Spirit can fire among us. Fundamentally, this work is not ours to accomplish, it is God’s work — in our midst. This home is not ours, it is God’s. We are but the ones with the privilege to open the door. We are but the ones who bear witness to God’s work among us.
That day, as we finished the house blessing, we shared a second poem by John O’Donahue, from the same book. I find that as I read it, if I replace the word “home” with the word “community” it is a faithful expression of the purpose and vision of God’s beloved church.
“May this house shelter your life. When you come in home here, may all the weight of the world fall from your shoulders.
May your heart be tranquil here, blessed by peace the world cannot give.
May this home be a lucky place, where the graces your life desires, always find the pathway to your door.
May nothing destructive ever cross your threshold.
May this be a safe place, full of understanding and acceptance, where you can be as you are, without the need of any mask of pretense or image.
May this home be a place of discovery, where the possibilities that sleep in the clay of your soul can emerge, to deepen and refine your vision for all that is yet to come to birth. Amen”
Dear child of God, may this community that is Bethlehem, be a place of discovery, where the possibilities that sleep in the clay of your soul can emerge, to deepen and refine our vision for all that is yet to be — for God is among us.
Blessed Thanksgiving to you all,