Come unity in Community.

by jacobjuncker

This message was offered at Lee Memorial United Methodist Church on Sunday, August 17, 2014.

Reading: Psalm 133

Let’s pray.

Gracious God, in the moments to come, give me the words to speak and they the ears to hear that together, we might be inspired to not only speak but to live your Word in the world starting today.  It’s in that most holy Word’s name—Jesus the Christ—we pray.  Amen.

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An unarmed African-American teen shot by a white police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, continued fighting in Gaza and Iraq, violence and hatred (around the world and in our own community) spurred on by ignorance and malice based upon race, economic position, gender, age, sexual orientation, and religion.  I look at the broken world around us and can’t help but read this morning’s Psalm with a bit of cynicism.

How very good and pleasant it is when kindred live together in unity.[1]

I imagine David, the supposed writer of the Psalms, sitting down and looking at the world around him.  It wasn’t all that much different 3000 years ago: war, discord, anger, hatred, violence, disagreement, disease, misunderstanding…  I can see David looking around and saying, “Geesh (a good Hebrew word?), how nice it would be if things were different. Oh…”

1-3 How wonderful, how beautiful,
when brothers and sisters get along!
It’s like costly anointing oil
flowing down head and beard,
Flowing down Aaron’s beard,
flowing down the collar of his priestly robes.
It’s like the dew on Mount Hermon
flowing down the slopes of Zion.
Yes, that’s where God commands the blessing,
ordains eternal life.[2]

The images in the Psalm are lush and lavish: expensive oil and cool dew falling in the hot and arid desert.

It’s here that the Psalmist reflects on the messy and miraculous work of unity.  In verse 2, the flowing of oil down the face, beard, and collar, “concentrates less on the sign of blessing than on its rich unpredictability, creating a scene that is joyfully abundant and decidedly messy.”[3]  In verse three we get the image of dew from Mount Hermon which is on the northern border of Israel and Lebanon falling on the mountains of Zion outside of Jerusalem half-a-nation away.  Unity is a messy and miraculous proposition.  “It is somehow comforting to find that the blessedness of unity is not presented in a ‘hearts and flowers’ haze of naiveté and perfection, but is seen for what it is: wonderful, messy, unpredictable, and rare.”[4]

Finding and living in unity is hard work (which is why, I think, the Psalmist doesn’t give us a twelve-step program for achieving it).  The Psalmist I think gets it right, though, unity begins with believing that it’s possible.  It’s achieved when we set it as a goal before us.  We achieve that which we believe possible.  The greatest obstacles in life are those things which we believe to be unattainable.  Unity is difficult and challenging to believe, but it is possible so long as we set it before us as the goal and vision to be lived into.

This is true in any relationship.  Partners in committed, loving relationships must learn to support one another in spite of the challenges and quirks of the others’ personality.  Parents must learn to support their children as they grow up and become independent and autonomous.  “Partners in virtually any endeavor must find common ground without squelching the individual talents and skills that each brings to the partnership.”[5]

The psalmist, in our reading for today, reminds us of the messy and miraculous work of bringing unity in the midst of discord and diversity.

How very good and pleasant it is when kindred [family, brothers and sisters, the children of God throughout the world] live together in unity![6]

We as Kingdom people—those who seek to be reconciled with and grow in the love of God and neighbor—must seek to model to a broken world that is becoming more and more polarized that unity is a goal, a vision worth living into no matter how messy or miraculous it might be to achieve.  Unity among God’s people isn’t an option, it’s a holy calling.

So let’s strive for the things that bring peace and the things that build each other up.[7]

…that unity might come in community.

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Over the next two weeks we are going to look at what it might look like to live in unity in this community.  We’re going to be looking at Paul’s call to unity in Romans chapter twelve and how he sees it being achieved.  Next week, we’re going to look explore what it means to find and respect our place in community.  And, in the last half of chapter 12, which we’ll look at in two weeks, we’ll look at the attitudes we need to have if we’re going to live in peace.  To be in community suggests that we have more than an hour per week relationship.  So, in order to help us get to know one another better, starting next week, there will be coffee and light refreshments in the entryway before worship (so come 15-30 minutes early and enjoy a cup of coffee and get caught up with each other.  During worship, we’ll undergo the messy and miraculous work of living in unity as a community.  Our order of worship will be intentionally altered that we might gather, hear the Word and then become the community God is calling us to be as we seek reconciliation with God and each other, pray for one another and the world in our need, and give of ourselves—our time, talent, and resources—that God’s work of reconciliation might continue through us.

These next few weeks we will begin the messy and miraculous work of finding unity in the midst of our diversity that we might receive a foretaste of the “life evermore” promised in the last words of today’s Psalm:

Look at how good and pleasing it is
when families [brothers and sisters, kindred, communities great and small] live together as one!

…it is there that the Lord has commanded the blessing:
everlasting life.[8]

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Let’s pray.

God, join us together once more that unity might come to this community.  Give us a common vision.  Help us find our place that we might find value in the work you set before us.  And, with you at the center of our lives, may we live in peace.  It’s in Christ’s name, the Prince of Peace, we pray.  Amen.

 

 

[1] Psalm 133:1, New Revised Standard Version.
[2] Psalm 133, The Message.
[3] “Pastoral Perspective on Psalm 133” by Michael D. Kirby, Preaching the Revised Common Lectionary: Feasting on the Word, Year B, Vol. 2 (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2008), 390.
[4] Ibid.
[5] Ibid.
[6] Psalm 133:1, New Revised Standard Version.
[7] Romans 14:9, Common English Bible.
[8] Psalm 133:1, 3d, Common English Bible.

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