Read Psalm 133
In our Psalm reading today, David uses two images to share the blessing of unity. First, anointing oil poured on Aaron’s head running through his beard and over his robes as he his ordained as the high priest. Second, dew from Mount Hermon falling on Zion. Both of these images give insight into being united in spirit with God and with each other. The garments of a high priest were significant in their design and symbolic in meaning. In addition to the robes, bells, and collar, the priest wore a breastplate that was encrusted with special stones representing the twelve tribes of Israel. As the anointing oil encompasses these stones it represents the uniting of the twelve tribes of Israel.
David then brings us to the top of Mount Hermon in Northern Israel. At the top of this mountain we get a picture of sweet morning dew, little drops of moisture resting on green vegetation, and sitting within the clouds of the mountain air preparing to water the earth. He writes that “It [Unity] is like the dew from Hermon which falls on the mountains of Zion.” Zion or Jerusalem is located in the Southern Kingdom of Judah. When David pictures this dew falling from Mount Hermon to Jerusalem where the Temple is located, he is imagining the blessing of having the two kingdoms united. In this Psalm we see the joy that unity brings David as he reflects on its blessings of peace, vision, and solidarity. David shows us the glory of unity. The end result. But oftentimes we wonder how we get there.
In Acts 2 Luke shares with us the picture of a unified community and he gives us essential instructions on how to achieve this. In the passage about the early church, Luke gives the reader four key ingredients to the success of this first group of believers. “All believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, and to fellowship, and to sharing in meals (including the Lord’s Supper) and prayer.” Many churches feel like they are starting from scratch after the long period of Covid-19. Lost members, cancelled events, and isolation, leaves us feeling detached from one another
and detached from our church community. We are left wondering – What are we supposed to do now? Do we go back to what we’ve always done? It feels comfortable and familiar and generally okay. But in doing this we cast aside the opportunity for new vision, new ways to encourage one another and new ways to engage with one another.
Luke provides us with the heirloom recipe for community from the early church showing us the way that they built community and how we can restore and reimagine our own. Luke goes on to write, “All the believers met to gather in one place and shared everything they had. They sold their property and possession and shared the money with those in need. They worshipped together at the Temple each day, met in each other’s homes for the Lord’s Supper and shared meals with great joy and generosity all while praising God and enjoying the goodwill of all the people.” Using this recipe we are able to create community that serves one another in the church and those in the community at large.
The Great British Baking Show is a long time favorite of mine. A tent full of twelve bakers take one another head on through signature, technical, and showstopper baking challenges. As the bakers whisk, chop, pipe their way through the challenges we learn a lot about community. Each week of the baking competition is themed – bread, cake, biscuit, etc. The baker’s are tasked with creating three different bakes each one staying on theme. The signature dish is the first challenge – typically a recipe of their own. The technical challenge follows and then the showstopper.
In the technical baking challenge, the contestants are given a recipe with minimal instructions that will hopefully assist them in creating a particular dish. Each contestant strives to recreate as precisely as possible a signature dessert by famous food critics, Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood. As one might imagine many variations of this one particular dessert are brought to the table for the judges to analyze. In this picture the contestants have just attempted make a babka – a chocolate twisted loaf of bread. The varying heights and bakes of bread, the crossed arms, and worried looks says it all. The contestants almost have to stifle their own creativity to create this dish.
Sometimes the restoring phase of community building can feel like the dreaded technical bake. Even with Luke’s instruction to devote ourselves to teachings, fellowship, shared meals, and prayer we can feel overwhelmed and insecure about how we mix these ingredients together. Oftentimes during the technical challenge the contestants will peek over their shoulder at competitors and question themselves – Am I doing this right? Is that how it’s supposed to be done? Their bake is looking a lot better than mine. We may even have a tendency to do this same thing when restoring and reimagining our own church community. What is the church down the street doing? Should we be doing that? It seems to be working well for them. Are we doing something wrong? But most often the peek over your shoulder strategy is ineffective.
Just like the bakers in the tent our church has been blessed with our own talents, resources, and specialties. Adding these unique embellishments to the four key ingredients is what will really create a cohesive unified community in our midst.
The last baking challenge of any given competition week is the Show Stopper Challenge. During this challenge the bakers create within the theme of the week a miraculous work of culinary art. Naturally, they use the same ingredients they’ve been using all week – but this time they get to use their own talents, their own tastes, and sometimes they will even bring a particular ingredient from home, using their own resources. The results of the showstopper are amazing because they get to take all they’ve learned from the two previous bakes and work to their strengths to create something spectacular. We have been given this same opportunity. We’ve got the vision of unity from David and the four key ingredients from Luke, and now we can reimagine our community as we work to restore it.
Uniting under those four essentials of community requires commitment from each of us. We must be committed to Christ, individually and in what we do together. And we must be committed to one another. These commitments to a Christ centered community come at an expense. Community comes at the cost of convenience. Instead of relying on ourselves to take care of business, we must include one another in the process. It may come at the cost of speed. Instead of getting things done on our own time, we must consider the lives and availability of one another. It comes at the cost of self-preservation. Instead, compromise helps to unify communal vision. To enjoy the anointing oil of unity that David writes about we must take this challenge personally. Luke shows us the results of the unified community of believers in the early church in Acts 2:47, “and each day the Lord added to their fellowship those who were
being saved.” The Lord honors the early church community with growth!
A group of people committed to worshiping God, and caring for one another in their own unique way is rewarded with growth. These passages call us to invest in our church community and to invest in one another. How can we do that this week? What is one thing that you can do to cultivate unity in our church? Maybe you can take the step to lead or host a small group. Would you consider inviting someone you regularly visit with on Sundays to your weekly Bible study? Share a meal with someone this week. Or take it a different route, can you make a compromise on something this week? Set aside the instinct of self-preservation and rest in God’s provision. Invest in your spiritual life this week and invest in one another. Drive each other to reimagine community in the midst of our restoration. May God bless these efforts with added fellowship.