This weekend was it: after working on repairing and updating our 1940s Gingerbread House for a year, we threw a party.
Zach and I have been thinking about having a house blessing since last October, when it became apparent to us that we were not moving into a neutral neighborhood. The Halloween decor in our neighborhood was particularly dark. We live under the shadow of a historic mental institution just up the hill, and about half the people we know here have jobs working with people who have mental or psychiatric disorders. And historically, the area of Upstate New York where we live is know as “the burned over district,” a name given by an evangelist in the revival days, because the people here were so steeped in pagan spiritualism that they were not receptive to the gospel. Mormonism also has its roots here.
Moving here I have learned that the land carries a legacy. This isn’t about superstition or banishing out “negative energies” or living in fear of what haunts, and I absolutely do not believe that any space is bound to its legacy in an unchangeable way. It’s about consecrating our living space to God to allow Him to use it for His purposes.
So with friends and family in attendance, over a harvest meal with flavors of pumpkin and brown butter sage, with the fire blazing in the fireplace, we had our blessing. Here are a few of the thoughts Zach wrote out to explain our occasion. Zach’s dad, a pastor who also married us, led us in the call and response, which is adapted from the Book of Common Prayer:
The reason Steph and I are hosting this event is because we believe that space is sacred. We believe that the idea of sacred space is one of the most important themes of the biblical narrative, from Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, to the Israelite possession of the Promised Land, to the future of a cosmos that is reconciled with its Creator……At the very beginning, when the cosmos came into existence the Hebrew would have understood land symbolized the dramatic transition from disordered chaos to an ordered structure. The Hebrew understanding would also have contradicted the typical Ancient Near Eastern creation myths in that it viewed all of creation as a sacred act. Ancient Near Eastern people believed that certain places were sanctified because of the primeval power that filled them during the ‘primordial event’ of creation. However the biblical narrative is quite clear that all things were created by God and that God chooses the places where he dwells with his people to His own good pleasure.
In the O.T. God demanded that space was purified, consecrated, and dedicated to Him. Adam and Eve were cast from the garden when they fell. The Israelites purged the promised land of idolatrous heathens. The tabernacle was only open to the priestly line. In all of this there was a liturgy and a ritual to dedicating space to God. The liturgy was a vitally important part of communal life as it extrinsically actualized the Israelites inward attitudes of commitment to The I AM.
Following this to the N.T., the monumental sacrifice of Christ drastically changes a person’s social economy with God. No longer must we go to the Temple to worship, for Christ has become our sacrifice. In this new economy, God dwells with us and within us. As such, our bodies become temples, sacred because of God’s presence with us. Further, Steph and I believe that the physical places we inhabit are extension of this. Our homes and our land is more than a territorial space that we legally possess, it is a place of memory and meaningful existence. This means, that when we move into this new house we need to dedicate those old memories to God and ask for his blessing on our inhabitation of this new place.
Please follow in asking God’s blessing on us and our house.
Celebrant: Peace be to this house, and to all who dwell in it. The Lord be with you.
People: And also with you.
Celebrant: Let us pray.
Almighty and everlasting God, Creator of the cosmos, Maker of the mountains, Painter of the heavens, and Planter of Gardens;
Grant to this home the grace of your presence, that you may be known to be the inhabitant of this dwelling and the defender of this household; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
People: Let the mighty power of the Holy God be present in this place to banish from it every unclean spirit, to cleanse it from every residue of evil, and to make it a secure habitation for those who dwell in it; in the Name of Jesus Christ or Lord. Amen.
Celebrant: Stir up the gift of hospitality, Lord, in all who gather in this room. May your Name be invoked in all activities here to the building up of your domestic church; and in all watching, listening, reading and conversing may Your Name be glorified; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
People: Visit, O blessed Lord, this home with the gladness of your presence. Bless all who live here with the gift of your love; and grant that they may manifest your love to each other and to all whose lives they touch. May they grow in grace and in the knowledge and love of you; guide, comfort, and strengthen them; and preserve them in peace, O Jesus Christ, now and forever. Amen.
Celebrant: May all who go forth from this home go in peace, rejoicing in the power of the Spirit. Amen.