2018 OCT 7 “Good and Pleasant”

Psalm 133   How very good and pleasant it is when kindred live together in unity!  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.  It is like the dew of Hermon, which falls on the mountains of Zion.  For there the Lord ordained his blessing, life forevermore.  Amen!

 II Corinthians 5:17-21  So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us. So we are ambassadors for Christ, since God is making his appeal through us; we entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.

 WORLD COMMUNION MESSAGE  “Good and Pleasant”  Rev. Renfrew

My mother–in-law lives in a large retirement community just outside of Washington DC.  Large isn’t the best word – it’s huge.  At least a dozen six story buildings that house about 3000 people overall.  It is the most diverse population of seniors that I have ever seen.  Black, white, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and every kind of religion, Protestant, Catholic, Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Quaker, Buddhist.  You can tell because the message board in the main lobby of her building posts invitations from every religious community you can think of, come join us for our service, all are always welcome.

The reason I mention this is because on a brick pillar next to the main entrance of the building there is a big brass plaque for all to see as they enter:  “How very good and pleasant it is when kindred live together in unity!” I’ve heard the phrase before, of course, because it’s easily found in Psalm 133, but it is very striking to read it as I enter the door into a retirement community that is the most diverse that I have ever seen.  It describes exactly what I will find when I go in and begin to meet people.

I love good and pleasant as an aspiration, a hope, or a dream, but it’s even better when I can actually see it happening around me.

“Good and pleasant”, just roll that phrase around in your mind for a moment.  Draw mental picture of “good and pleasant” and you in the center of it.  Aaaah! That senior community is as diverse as they come, but instead of the stress and strain, segregation and boundaries that we might typically find when diverse people try to live together, it’s all good and pleasant.  I hope you can imagine “good and pleasant” as a phrase that describes where you live!

Now the Psalmist uses some imagery to illustrate this good and pleasant condition: rich, fragrant, precious oil running down the beard of Aaron.  Very few of us pour oil over anyone’s head, but we can relate to it as an illustration of abundant good will and good feelings spilling into our lives.

Now the Psalmist had a purpose in writing these words:  to inspire kindred to live in unity.  But what exactly are kindred?  I had to look it up.  Kindred are your family and close relations, maybe extended to your tribe or village.  So the Psalmist was writing about extended families finding a way to live together peacefully.  Now you could normally expect that families would always experience that good and pleasant unity, but we’ve been around long enough to notice that some families don’t do so well with “good and pleasant” because unity is hard to find.  Family feuds, messy divorces, people refusing to speak to one another, families fighting over property, assets and inheritance.  I’m sure you’ve seen it.  So the Psalmist’s words , at the very least, are a good challenge for us to keep seeking for common ground with our family and relatives, kindred who might be separated from us.

What I really love about Scripture, and why I keep turning to it for guidance and inspiration, is that keeps broadening my view of things.  I think I’ve got it all figured out, but then – BAM – I find in familiar words something I hadn’t seen before, and not just a small detail, but the whole thing takes a new shape and form, and I realize that to incorporate this familiar reading into my life in a new way something is going to have to change, not just in others, but in me!

So my first reading of the text reminds me of how important it is to seek unity within my family, with my wife, my son, my grandchildren, my mom, my sisters, and my nephews.  In fact, my family is a bit stressed right now due to my mom’s frail health, but it is good and pleasant that my sisters and I are working together to get the care my mom needs.

This text from Psalm 133 could be used in very narrow, exclusive ways, somehow leading me to think that the only unity that is necessary is within my family and that no one else really matters.   So a second reading is badly needed.  The message of good and pleasant could be taken in a very narrow sense, so I need to read it again to broaden the meaning.  I might live in a small family or a large family, but the meaning of the Psalm is to always be looking for ways to expand the circle of our kindred, to widen the relationships we have, to broaden the people invited in to sit at our table.

On World Communion Sunday we need to read Psalm 133 a second time to find that deeper meaning.  We can still roll that mental image of “good and pleasant” around in our minds, giving thanks for our families and close relatives, but we also need to be rolling around a wider image of what it might be like to have more kindred.

A good place to roll “good and pleasant” around in our minds, looking for new mental images of a larger circle is right around this communion table.  It’s our own table, but it’s also a world table.  We only see a piece of it here as we gather around it, but there are so many more pulling up chairs to share the bread and cup, people we may never know, yet part of our kindred now.

As you taste the bread and the cup know that you are a new creation, transformed into someone with a much bigger family that all meet at this table.  I love being in this circle of kindred at the World Table.  We are the world.

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