Psalm 133

Readings for this week July 13 – 17
Click here for a pdf of this week’s readings

Day 1 – No Other Unity

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Psalm 133:1

“There is probably no Christian to whom God has not given the uplifting experience of genuine Christian community at least once in his life. But in this world such experiences can be no more than a gracious extra beyond the daily bread of Christian community life. We have no claim upon such experiences and we do not live with other Christians for the sake of acquiring them. It is not the experience of Christian brotherhood, but solid and certain faith in brotherhood that holds us together. That God has acted and wants to act upon us all, this we see in faith as God’s greatest gift, this makes us glad and happy, but it also makes us ready to forego all such experiences when God at times does not grant them. We are bound together by faith, not the experience.

‘Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity’ – this is the Scripture’s praise of life together under the Word. But now we can rightly interpret the words ‘in unity’ and say, ‘for brethren to dwell together through Christ.’ For Jesus Christ alone is our unity. ‘He is our peace.’ Through him alone do we have access to one another, joy in one another, and fellowship with one another.”

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together, pp.25-26.

Questions to Consider
‘For Jesus Christ alone is our unity.’ What is the importance of this? What other things do we often try and develop unity around? Why might other ‘unities’ get in the way of true unity?

Prayer
Loving Father, no one but Jesus at the centre. No one but Jesus as our focus. No one but Jesus on our lips. No one but Jesus as our reason. In his precious name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 2 – We Are Family

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Psalm 133:2

Faith is communal. Christians are always members of a community. We are not called to go it alone, however much we often find ourselves wishing we could just go off by ourselves – or at least away from these people, or that person, or that place, or this community. The moment someone believes in Christ is not the moment they suddenly become a shiny, lovely, exciting person who is always polite and lovely and easy to get along with. But the moment they believe in Christ is the moment they become part of his body, part of the community of his followers, and our brother or sister in the family of God – whether we like them (or they us) or not. To accept God as Father is to accept these people as family. The two go together.

That’s easier said than done. And because it’s easier said than done, many people prefer to shy away from it and not take part in the wild, unpredictable journey that is the life of God’s people. A solitary Christian is a paradox, but many people try to prove that it works as a definition anyway. But most people choose to join in, in some form or other; choose to try and figure out just what God was thinking when he called them to join with this group of people, as challenging as that can sometimes be; and strive to live together as harmoniously as they can, as graciously and gracefully as possible in the power of God, with people who might sometimes be just as annoying and imperfect as they are.

Questions to Consider
What reasons have you heard people give for not wanting to be part of a community? What’s wrong with going it alone?

Prayer
Heavenly Father, we need your grace. We can only become your people if we have grace, forgiveness and understanding for each other. Give us these things and make us your people. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 3 – The Speck and the Log

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Psalm 133:3

One of the ongoing expectations we need to have as members of God’s community is the expectation that God is doing things in the lives of our brothers and sisters in Christ. Now, it can be very easy for us to be hopefully expectant that God is working to make our fellow community members easier to get along with – this person nicer, that person less annoying, everyone better accommodated to my needs, and so forth. And sure, God does want us to get along and the gift of his Holy Spirit is one of the key avenues by which he does do this. But we cannot presume to know or predict how God is going to transform the lives of people in the community.

When we can view our fellow Christians in community as unique, special, beloved children of God led by the Spirit, and see them with open-minded and open-hearted expectancy that God will move in their lives and continue his transforming work in them – the same way we look forward to him doing so in us – then our community of faith can grow and blossom and flourish. People being transformed by God are not – cannot be – static. We will find out new things about them as they grow, just as they will about us. God’s community changes and grows as its people are changed and grow by God’s Spirit. We don’t stay still, and we should not lock others into a fixed, unalterable form shaped more by our prejudices than the reality of God’s transforming work in them.

Questions to Consider
Howe easy do you find it to see God’s transforming work in other people? How easy do you think people see the same in you?

Prayer
Heavenly Father, bind us together, break down the barriers between us, and keep us watchful for all that would seek to keep us apart and disunited. We pledge ourselves to you again. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 4 – Hints of the Kingdom

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Psalm 133:1-3

As unbelievable as it may (and often does) seem, the life of the community of God’s people is meant to be a taster of the life everlasting that awaits us in the fullness of the coming kingdom. Those moments when our relationships are warm and loving, when graciousness abounds, when we see and accept each other as God’s children, and when we find ourselves living unfettered and united in the glow of his Spirit – that is a picture of the life to come. This can be a very difficult thing for people to see or believe sometimes. The fragmented, broken, bickering nature of the body of Christ on earth is not an enticing vision for those looking for evidence of God’s goodness and redemptive action.

We’re always trying to catch a glimpse of the eternal rule of God’s kingdom, and of the nature of everlasting life within it; often we try and create such a reality ourselves, only to end up creating a deformed, pale imitation. Trying to bring heaven down to earth just ends up raising hell. By God’s grace we have a part to play in the coming of the kingdom but we cannot make it happen or manufacture it ourselves. At best, we only ever get a hint of it, much like the hint given here at the end of the psalm, or the hints Jesus gave in so many of his parables, parables about great feasts and banquets and parties with friends. For at its simplest, that is what eternity is like: a party, with everyone invited, no one missing out, joy abounding, all made well.

Question to Consider
What hints and experiences of God’s coming eternal kingdom have you seen?

Prayer
Gracious God, your kingdom comes in community. Not only do we work with you, we work – and weep and play and celebrate – with others too. May we celebrate the glimpses we see of your kingdom. Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 5 – The Dream of Community

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Galatians 6:1-10

Everyone has their own idea of what a community – a good, thriving community – should look like. Everyone has certain things they think need to be present in a community; certain ways they believe a community should function; certain aims they think a community should be trying to achieve. Everyone has their own dream of an ideal community, and it is often those very dreams that get in the way of true community growing and prospering. Ideas and dreams clash, different aspects are emphasised, and when disparities are discovered people want to cling to their idea of community rather than anyone else’s. In a paraphrase of Helmuth von Moltke’s “No battle plan survives contact with the enemy”, we could say, “No dream of community survives contact with real people.”

We need to let go of our preconceived ideas of what we think community should be like. Anyone who loves his or her dream of community more than the community itself will end up destroying that very community. If we base our community on any of these dreams it will thrive for a while but then fall away and fade as (human) reality sets in. But if we base our community solely on Jesus, the one who called us to follow him and enter into community with him, and lay our dreams at his feet, and allow his Spirit to bind us together to create community – such a Spirit-driven community will thrive and grow.

Questions to Consider
Why do communities fail? What great utopian dreams has humanity strived for in the past? What went wrong? Why?

Prayer
Lord God, I offer you my dreams and ideas of community, my hopes and my fears, and I offer myself to you and to the community of your people, to mould me and shape me as you will, and to mould and shape your people. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)