Ordinary Time – Proper 16 – Living Together in Unity

Psalm 133
133:1 How very good and pleasant it is when kindred live together in unity!
133:2 It is like the precious oil on the head, running down upon the beard, on the beard of Aaron, running down over the collar of his robes.
133:3 It is like the dew of Hermon, which falls on the mountains of Zion. For there the LORD ordained his blessing, life forevermore.

As someone who has worked inside and outside the Church at various points in my life, I reasonate with the Psalm for Ordinary Time – Proper 16.  Whether I enjoyed working with a congregation or on some information technology project, the most important factor is whether people know how to get along. Indeed, if I were to give an address to highschool students, I would give them three pieces of advice. First, get along with other people. Second, be reliable. Third, make the lives of people you work with more enjoyable.

I could would rather clean stalls in a cattle feed lot with enjoyable people than be doing wonderful work with a miserable legion of grumpy grumps.  I don’t know anyone who has reached 50 years who would not say Amen to this little observation about life.

It is basic psychology, I guess, that we’d prefer to be with people whom we find agreeable, however life is never so simple.  The suffering that families can inflict on each other can be deep and scaring. The suffering that Church families inflict on each other is often baffling. Sometimes just getting along can be a real struggle given all our differences, and of course the lingering effects of Sin in our lives.

Yet, there have been times when I look back and see times when the Kingdom of God breaks through our human fraility and for a moment I understand what the Psalmist is getting at. As a Methodist, the Church pot luck is an unofficial sacrament. I sometimes say this to be glib, but this time I really mean it.  I have experienced sacramental movements when seeing my brothers and sisters in faith, I recognize a deep kindred spirit at work admid us. It is the Holy Spirit of course or the presence of Jesus Christ, or the care of our Heavenly father; or all three.  I imagine the life of the Trinity is best described as pleasant and very good. A deep abiding presence of knowing and being known.

The oil is a symbol of abundant generousity which escapes North American culture, yet back to pot luck imagery. I recall serving one Church with many Taiwanese kindred and seeing the table filled with so many goodies that none of us could possible eat all the food. As an aside, the Tawainese will certainly be cooking at the heavenly banquet!  It was a glimpse at the abundance of generous sharing that comes when the Kingdom of God comes near.

The dew is of course the water than brings forth life to the earth. I wonder why the Psalmist did not use rain imagry since it would be more abundant, however perhaps it is to remind us that even amid the desert of life’s experiences, when we are alone, or poor, or lacking in some way, that the good and pleasant power of God at work in right Christian community is enough. I recall one co-worker who had no savings, who’s husband had chosen adultery over his marriage, and who had a child to support.  She was in another Church, but I asked, “Do you have Church friends who can help?”  She smiled and said, “Yes, I do.”  She had nothing from a material perspective but those friends will keep her nourished through this desert period of life.

I’ve not served many congregations, and currently am not serving any right now. Being away from ministry has a blessing in that I can reflect on what was really important. Seeking doctrinal truth is an essential task of the Church. Serving the needs of the community is also essential. Making sure the bills are paid, the plumbing works, and the fire chief won’t shut you down are really important. Yet, without foster pleasant and very good kindred relationship within our communities, something is deeply wrong.  Paul’s clanging cymbal comes to mind.

It is certainly pleasant and very good when I’ve enountered Christians, though imperfect, through the power of God considered their Church friends to be true kindred. Not just the people they know or their clic, but were a community where they truly were trying to know one another and love one another. Communities where the steadfast and generous love of God was embraced and being poured out upon the new, the struggling, and even the outcast. It is when we encounter that kind of kindrid spirit, that we glimpse what God has in store for us in the everlasting life of the resurrection.

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