Eugene Peterson’s book Eat this Book teaches us to chew on a passage of scripture, digest it, and then put it to use in practical ways. Our early Christian fathers and mothers called this process Lectio Divina. This passage, Psalm 133, gives us a vision of a life of unity and harmonious relationships.
The Power of Unity
How good and pleasant it is
when God’s people live together in unity!
It is like precious oil poured on the head,
running down on the beard,
running down on Aaron’s beard,
down on the collar of his robe.
It is as if the dew of Hermon
were falling on Mount Zion.
For there the Lord bestows his blessing,
even life forevermore. (NIV)
The Jewish people sang Psalm 133 to express their joy in coming together for worship at the Temple, where God promised to meet them. The Psalm imparts blessing and life to God’s people. And it proclaims oneness in faith. These themes–abundance and unity–flow from Psalm 133. Verse 1 is variously translated praising unity between “brothers,” “brothers and sisters,” and “kindred” (meaning people who could trace their ancestry to the patriarchs). In our times, we think of this expression as meaning our “kindred” in Christ, and “people of God”
However, Howard Macy, essayist for the Spiritual Formation Bible, reminds us that the people of God have also sung Psalm 133 in synagogues, in the houses and catacombs of early Christianity, in cathedrals and monasteries, in prisons and jungles, on street corners and in shops and warehouses. Use your imagination to picture people in each of the places mentioned. They are of all ages, backgrounds, and ethnicities, and they are gathered together giving thanks and praise through the ages for the world-wide family of God. How different this picture is from current pictures of murders in churches, burning churches, and angry faces and voices protesting anything that doesn’t fit their view of the world.
The Psalmist paints two pictures to illustrate to value of the unity of God’s people. First he describes the traditional anointing of a guest’s head as a sign of hospitality and the use of precious oil to consecrate a priest – two of the highest values in Hebrew tradition. Then he looks to Mount Hermon the tallest mountain in the region, far to the north of Jerusalem and rising above the upper Jordan Valley. Mt. Hermon had its share of heavy rainfall and snow. The melting snow, or dew, flowed down into the valley, feeding the Jordan River and reaching as far as the oasis of Jericho. In arid country, where the rain is scarce and the rivers dry up, the land and the people depend on water that comes from a distant source. It is the scarcity of water in the dry lands, which makes Mount Hermon’s dews so precious that they can be compared to the fellowship of God’s people.
♥ Unity is crucial in families, among friends, in church circles, and in Christianity as a whole. Are you burdened by an unresolved disagreement? How can that difference be resolved? Can you be the soothing oil or life-giving dew in your relationships?
♥ Another powerful passage on unity is found in Jesus’ prayer for his disciples in John 17. Read the full prayer, paying special attention to verses 20-23. Jesus prays that the disciples will live in unity so that others will believe in Jesus because of them and their message. People around us watch to see if our lives match our words. Pay attention this week to evidence that Christians and the Christian Church are NOT one heart and mind. Pray, as Jesus did, for unity among the Body.
♥Reconciliation leads to unity; reconciliation requires forgives. Reflect on this passage from Surprised by Hope by N.T. Wright: “Not to forgive is to shut down a faculty [capacity] in the innermost person, which happens to be the same faculty that can receive God’s forgiveness.” In other words, Wright says, if you don’t forgive others you decrease your capacity to feel God’s forgiveness. Are you burdened by guilt? Try forgiving others!
MORE FOOD FOR THOUGHT
“God has given us all a message of reconciliation – that God, in Christ, has reconciled the world to himself (2 Cor. 18-19). The first place we are invited to practice this reconciliation is with one another. Forgiveness is a gift we receive and a gift we give. When we do, our communities become like our God – good and beautiful.” James Bryan Smith in The Good and Beautiful God.)