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And I Shall Dwell
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House Dedications
By Kingsley O. Palmer
 
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me and I shall dwell in the House of the Lord forever. Psalms 23:6

Shortly after relocating back to the U.S. from Canada I was blessed to pastor a multinational church of some 25 ethnic groups. One day I was approached by one of the members requesting that I come and conduct a blessing at his new home.

In his culture a house blessing required more than just the minister stopping by giving some brief words of counsel, saying a prayer, and after wishing the family well and then leave. 

For him a house blessing required that both family and friends which included churched and unchurched guests be present followed by a huge celebration.

I asked the Lord to give me some creative direction on how to proceed. This was an opportunity not only to affirm the family in question but a chance to witness and show their guests what plans and blessings the Lord had in mind for every home represented in this world and the world to come.

The Holy Spirit impressed upon my mind two scenes. The first took me back to London England, where growing up as a child, I recall visiting a number of homes. Upon entering these homes I would see a little plaque mounted on a wall that read: “Christ is the Head of this House, the Unseen Guest at every meal. The Silent Listener to every conversation.”  

Every time I would read these words I seemed to sense their import and feel something of a peaceful presence.  After some time my mother, brought a plaque for our home and like the others she hung it in a strategic place for all to see.

As time went by, I began to realize that no matter what transpired in our much troubled home, these words served as reminder to me and perhaps others present that in this place, the presence of the Lord was still welcomed.

Back then I had no idea years later just how much of an impact that piece of framed memorabilia was going to have on my mind and ministry.

The second scene took me to two passages of scripture, Genesis chapters 12:8 and 18:19 which tell of the story of Gods call upon Abraham to leave his ancestral domicile and set up new a home in a far-away community he had heard of but had never been to.

The passages go on to describe that wherever Abraham and his family settled He did two things. 1. Set up their tents 2. Built an altar and offer sacrifices to the Lord. He wanted his neighbors to know that he, His God and his family had just moved into town.

It is little wonder that in spite of the mistakes he made en route to Canaan the Lord could say of Abraham “I know that he will command his children and his household after me and they shall keep the way of the Lord to do righteousness and justice; that the LORD may bring upon Abraham that which he has spoken of him”. Genesis 18:19

Why did Abraham set up his tents and established altars to the Lord wherever he went?  

Once Abraham accepted the call from God, uprooted everything he had and in faith left Haran to follow wherever the Lord was took him, he sensed his need to be fully dependent upon God.  As He moved from one place to another and settled there He would bless the Lord by setting up an altar in praise and worship to the one true God.

And so it is with us as we travel from place to another under God’s leading, we are to set up our homes like altars of blessing, pointing others to worship ‘The One’ true God.  

After that I began to frame a picture in my mind on how I should proceed to perform a house blessing on that home and every subsequent one after it.

As a pastor, I began to realize that among the many rites and services one is expected to perform, the blessing and establishment of a Christian home is an awesome, sacred and solemn responsibility. 

Laying the groundwork for a house blessing:  
(1). Counsel with the family beforehand on what you plan to do and how it was going to be done. (2). Find out what sort of visitors are going to attend whether they go to church or not. This helps you to know what kind of verbiage to use. (3). Prepare a custom printed program for them to follow and have as a keepsake. (4). Request a recent photo of the family. (5). Let them know you are going to purchase two scented-candles one white and the other red. (6). Then provide two additional candles one for each spouse to use as light bearers of the home and to the community. (7). Be prepared to get to the home early to meet and connect with the guests and make them feel comfortable.

Simple steps on how to perform a meaningful House Blessing

(8). Designate a point in time where you will ask both husband and the wife to either stand or sit in the center of the room.
As a means to get the dedication service started invite all present to be involved, write into the program the words to that famous poem “Bless This House O Lord I Pray” (See Sidebar) written by Englishwoman Helen Taylor and put to music by her friend May Brahe in 1927.

Invite everyone to read the poem in the form of a prayer request to the Lord, asking Him to bless this home and its family as well as their own.

(9) In your homily offer the family some counsel reminding them of why God had called them to that location and remind them that no matter how wonderful their home is at best it is a temporary earthly dwelling for God had prepared for them something infinitely better.

Concerning the use of the candles, share with all present:
(1).The red candle represents the blood of Christ as a symbol of His sacrifice and promised protection. (2).The white candle represents Christ’s sinless life and purity. (3).The flames from each candle symbolize the light and presence of the Holy Spirit. (4).The scent from each candle would symbolize the daily prayers offered up to God from the home as a sweet smelling savor.

End the service with a final charge and then invite the family to light the candles, after which you offer a special prayer for the family and the home making sure to include and mention all the other families present.

Now you may be wondering why I asked for photographs? After I gave the charge and offered the dedicatory prayer it was at this point we would come to the most touching and intimate part of the presentation. I believe everyone present, especially the family, really connected with this.

(10) As a final act present the family with a gift wrapped box. From it the family should pull out a large framed plaque which includes their photo, the house dedication date and their home address along with a Biblical exhortation. Most importantly included was the reference to Christ being the Head of that new House.

Just to see the looks on the faces of each family member as they show off their plaque, as they passed it around for their guests to see. The reaction pure and simply Priceless!

Almost immediately the family will tend to search for a prominent space in the home where the plague could attract the immediate attention of those who came by.

Months and even years later while seeing me out and about one or more of the guests who happened to attend one of the house blessings would see me and stop me.  Although I did not always remember their names or their faces they would express how much they appreciated what they saw at that home and would ask me to continue praying for them.

Over the years, I have been privileged to perform numerous house blessings in my district and other places. Every time I would visit these homes I would notice where the plaques that were placed in the home were.

These mementoes found in the home may serve as a reminder of who is supposed to be in charge. Yes, it is true you can pitch your tent and set up your altar anywhere you choose. However, neither has the power to keep the home or family together unless all are willing to accept the fact that “Unless the Lord builds ‘the house’ they labor in vain who build it. Unless the Lord guards the city the watchman stays awake in vain”. Psalms 127:1

Sadly until Christ is truly the head of everyone under that roof, He will never be allowed to enter the home much less be the head of that house.

Conversely when Jesus reigns in the heart of anyone, in any home, regardless of its location or what condition it is in, that home is a most blessed place indeed.

Yes, I have seen the happiness on the faces of families who received their  customized house blessing plaques to hang in their homes right here on earth, but when Christ returns soon, to give all those who have made him the Head of their house, the keys to eternal life and heavenly property what that will be like?

Try to imagine if you can, what inexplicable, ecstatic and unspeakable joy it will be to have eternal goodness and mercy following you all the days of your life so you can dwell in the House of the Lord forever. 

My prayer and desire is to make the Lord the Supreme ruler of my life, my house and everything else. I do hope that this is your prayer too.     
 
 
Kingsley O. Palmer serves as assistant to the president and director for African-American ministries, Arizona Conference Corporation of Seventh-day Adventists.
 
 
Sidebar
Bless this house, O Lord we pray,
Make it safe by night and day . . .

Bless these walls so firm and stout,
Keeping want and trouble out . . .

Bless the roof and chimneys tall,
Let thy peace lie overall . . .

Bless this door that it may prove,
Ever open,
To joy and love . . .

Bless these windows shining bright,
Letting in God's Heavenly light,
Bless the hearth, ablazing there,

With smoke ascending like a prayer!

Bless the people here within,
Keep them pure and free from sin . . .

Bless us all that we may be,
Fit O Lord to dwell with thee . . .

Bless us all that one day we may dwell,
O Lord! With Thee!

Words and Music by Helen Taylor
and May H. Morgan ( a.k.a. Brahe ), 1927