This week we look at chapter 15 in Eugene Peterson’s A Long Obedience in the Same Direction: Discipleship in an Instant Society, which deals with Psalm 133 on the theme of Community.
“We can no more be a Christian and have nothing to do with the church than we can be a person and not be in a family.” (p. 175) “Community is essential. Scripture,” Peterson reminds us, “knows nothing of the solitary Christian.” (p. 176) The issue is not whether we will be a part of a community of faith, but “How am I going to live in this community of faith?” (p. 176) Of course, community is messy and frustrating as well as joyful and uplifting because people are that way. But a community of faith can love and shape a person in Christ where a “private” experience of faith cannot.
“Two ways to avoid community.” (p. 178) (1st) When we are focused on our own needs and wants, we tend to look at others “not as an ally but as a competitor.” (p. 179) Being a community of faith means loving one another according to the example of Christ, which runs counter to Peterson’s helpful observation that “it is far easier to deal with people as problems to be solved than to have anything to do with them in community.” (p. 179) (2nd) “Another common way to avoid community is to turn the church into an institution. In this way, people are treated not on the basis of personal relationships but in terms of impersonal functions.” (p. 179-180)
“Each other’s Priest.” (p. 180) Two images from the Psalm help us with insights into community life. (1st) “The first image describes community as ‘costly anointing oil.'” (p. 180) Oil “is a sign of God’s presence” and marks one “as a priest. ” (p. 181) So, the membership is a community in which all are gifted with the presence of God in order to serve as priests to one another. (2nd) The community is like fresh morning dew, communicating “fresh and expectant newness.” (p. 183) The healthy, alive community of faith carries a sense of expection, excitement, and wonder at what God will do in and through each member’s life.
Psalm 133 says that “the rousing good fellowship is in heaven.” (p. 183) While we sometimes picture heaven as boringly pious, Psalm 133 lifts up heaven as the place where good times with friends and family, times filled with laughter and joy, truly are.