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Letting the Light In

Published on 15th December 2018

In my bedroom I have windows facing north, south, and east. Outside, children’s gleeful voices pull and tug against their parent’s guidance, teachers sing as they lead children in tailored lines to the playground, conversations ensue between strangers, neighbors, and friends. The ecosystem of our parking lot includes a 7-11, a gas station, a children’s playground, teen moms coming for support at Alley’s House, medical staff arriving for work or clients arriving for help at Agape Clinic across the street, homeless folks having a rest in the vicinity or on our front porch, random passersby of all walks of life cutting through on their way to somewhere, foreign languages arrive for the aid of the legal clinic, Grace United Methodist Church visitors and staff arriving for the day, and us, the residents of Bonhoeffer House, coming and going from our home. Amidst all this activity, we dwell daily in the midst of diversity, abundance, and a wide array of humanity.

One morning outside the north window, a child collapsed into angry sobs while his mother tried to coax him to the car; simultaneously outside the south window, an angry adult male screamed profanities and yelled obscenities (apparently in the direction of no one in particular). Both were clearly upset, both males were expressing their anger and pain. How bizarre to hear two similar and also strikingly different emotional expressions in such close proximity but such distinctly different contexts; the ecosystem in which the Bonhoeffer House community sits is as diverse as it is abundant.

To greet and embrace the day, my rising practice involves pulling up and tightening my bed sheets, smoothing out my snuggly comforter, and reassembling the decorative pillows upon the soft surface. After making the bed, I retrieve recycled lanyards from a small desk drawer with which to tie back each curtain at the north, south, and east windows; each morning through these windows I receive the luminescence that comes pouring in with chaotic and radiant abundance. Each morning, by ritual and rhythm, I let the light in.

It was only six months ago we were handed the keys, but the Spirit has (and always had) the reins. The Bonhoeffer House has been welcoming guests for nearly a decade, in relationship with nearby church and neighbors, in community with homelessness, homesickness, and humanity. Each Wednesday for community meal, we prepare food, set the table, establish the living room for prayer, and open the doors to our guests. Every time someone knocks at my door, leaves food on my porch, arrives for a meal -- I realize again and again we are not owners of the ethos, identity, and happenings here at the Bonhoeffer House. Neither the table we prepare nor the couches upon which we sit belong to us;  we are merely conduits to the current, stewarding the sacred, both hosts and hosted by the work and presence of the Spirit. Through doors, tables, posture, and presence, we let the light (of one another) in.

The Bonhoeffer House is not just the residents who live here; the community of Bonhoeffer is witnessed in all those whose stories and faces have crafted and shaped what this place and space has become. The Bonhoeffer House is identified and known in the generosity of Shannon, the hospitality of Glenna, the evangelism and invitation of Michael, the servant leadership of Mike, the prayerfulness of Kevin, the support of Rhonda, the bravery and vulnerability of Pam, the gentleness of Alice and Chris, and so many others. Each week through our doors enters a beautifully created spectrum of radiant and glorious light.

In the sacrament of community, in this swirling chaos and sacred space, we encounter the Spirit of God hovering in, above, through, among each other, sometimes without even knowing how the Spirit is resonating and reverberating through our bones. We arrive by walking, we stumble in, we come in cars or on buses or on foot. We hear each other’s stories, learn from each other; we try to listen across the layers and cacophony of voices for the human story on the other side. We come bearing gifts of food and drink and voice and verse, and we strive to be present as each person offers their tale or unique perspective. Opening blinds and dropping blinders, unlocking doors and unblocking hearts, at the Bonhoeffer House we are learning to arrive to one another as we are hosted by the Imago Dei, with the hope that we are each finding ways to let the light in (of God, ourselves, and each other).

Our table is not one of ministry but mutuality: we may not be able to help but we do know how to be human among each other. The sacrament of community and the work of God shows up within us but also just outside of us - none of us represents the presence of God on our own. When brought together, the imago Dei is witnessed in the collection of individuals. The light here in this holy gathering seems lighter and brighter in the sacrament of community, for in comes the diversity and beauty of the ecosystem around us, a holy din and sacred cacophony. I am not always attuned enough to decipher the messages of God in this space, but the abundance of the Spirit continues to speak, pour light in through my windows, and open up space in my soul for surprise, wonder, interruption, sitting with heartbreak, and bearing witness to the beautiful humanity that graces our gathering each week.

As the community of Bonhoeffer House enters a new season, may we continue to rise to greet the presence of God among us, letting the light in with every morning, meal, handshake, and human we encounter.