Unity in community


Reflecting on Psalm 133 this week and my NT passage for the day was Eph 4–both carrying themes of unity.  Four comments about unity and fellow pilgrims in Psalm 133

  • Unity is to be enjoyed–it is pleasant and wonderful.  The “sensory properties of oil” (as a fragrance) “convey a sense of richness.” (Dictionary of Imagery) Images that come to mind–a team working together, a symphony playing, a finely tuned engine, a fine work of art.
  • Unity is valuable–precious like anointing oil on Aaron’s beard.  It is inconceivable that Aaron would be anointed priest without oil just as it is inconceivable that fellow pilgrims on the way would not be moving towards the same goal.   Can we say that unity is an essential extravagance?  Is it to be obtained at all costs?  Well, as much as it is possible (cf Hebrews and peace)
  • Unity is refreshing–dew on Mt Hermon affecting the mountains in Zion.  Like a drink of cold water given to our brothers ala Mtt 25.
  • Unity is a sign of the blessing of God.  By this will all men know that you are my disciples.   John 13, 17  This suggests that “brotherly unity is an epiphanic experience, combining calling, holiness, life and power.”  Imagery 126

Of course this fits well in Eph 4:1-16.  What struck me there is the essential core of unity.  Not that we are all the same since there are diversities of gifts given.  Yet, these gifts were given one to another so that “As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love.”  Eph 4:16 New Living

And then, reading in A Guide to Prayer, an oft-mentioned quote from Bonhoeffer,

Let him who cannot be alone beware of community.  He will only do harm to himself and to the community. . . If you refuse to be alone you are rejecting Christ’s call to you, and you can have no part in the community of those who are called. . . But the reverse is also true: Let him who is not in community beware of being alone.  Into the community you were called, the call was not meant for you alone; in the community of the called you bear your cross, you struggle, you pray. . . If you scorn the fellowship of the brethren, you reject the call of Jesus Christ, and thus your solitude can only be hurtful to you.”

I don’t know about you but I find these words challenging.  For one, I see too much disunity and how painful it is to see fellow pilgrims on the way wounding one another.  Second, I recognize my tendency to withdraw and yet, I know I cannot, I must not if I want to be whole.  Somehow, mysteriously, our well-being is connected one to another.  Maybe this is connected with Hebrews 11:40–never did quite understand that last part of the verse??

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  1. JC
    May 21, 2009 at 2:06 am

    Dave,

    I have been meditating on the same passage and really enjoyed your thoughts. What struck me was that what is good and pleasant is when kindred live together in “unity.” I was expecting the word “love” or “peace” or even “faithfulness.” Unity (oneness?)seems to be a form of intimacy that transcends the feeble concepts of love, peace, and faithfulness. I thought then about creation, the union of God with Adam and Eve which was lost, the union of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. How wonderful if we could live our lives in union with one another and with God.

    Just musing.

    JC

    • May 23, 2009 at 9:40 am

      Thanks, this has been a real challenge for me here since from my perspective I see too much and our lack of unity bothers us. Of course, it begins with me and an awareness that the grace of God is needed as we make peace with all men as much as it is possible. But, of course, unity is far more than having peace with all. Have made progress on my proposal–care to look at it and give me comments?

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