The Challenge of Building Community

Lesson 25 –

Psalm 133:1-3 NRSV

1 How very good and pleasant it is
when kindred live together in unity!
2 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.
3 It is like the dew of Hermon,
which falls on the mountains of Zion.
For there the Lord ordained his blessing,
life forevermore.

Background
This is the entire Psalm! Just three short verses! Psalm 133 is nestled between one psalm about the promises of God (Psalm 132) and an invitation to praise the Lord at all times (Psalm 134). For context, Mount Hermon often gets heavy rainfall and even snow. This snow melts into dew and flows into the valley, providing a source for the Jordan River. The water nourishes the usually dry land. The water cycle is not as obvious; it takes more than direct rain to hydrate the land and its people. Nourishment comes from unexpected, distant places. And it takes a while for the water to transition from snow to liquid! In your own devotional period this week, think about the unexpected help and support you have. What kind of help do you get that might be easy to overlook?

Today’s lesson will focus on the challenge of building community.

Read the scripture out loud together. What’s happening during this passage?
This is a short passage with so much happening inside of it. The writer affirms the beauty and “pleasant-ness” of kindred living together in unity. It is like “precious oil on the head” that overflows to the beard and over the collar of Aaron. It is also like the dew that falls on the mountain. The Lord ordains life.

What do these verses have to do with each other?
A good friendship is unexpected. It flows. It goes through stages. It nourishes. It overwhelms, in a good way! Living together in unity is an abundant experience. It is like precious oil running down the head to the beard to the collar. It waters us in dry places. Likewise, kinship should be an unexpected and nourishing experience. Kinship should be good and pleasant.

What does God desire from us?
The key word here is “kindred.” Every family has challenges. And sometimes you don’t always like the people you are connected to. Sometimes your siblings get the favorite chair in the car on the family road trip, and sometimes your cousins eat your favorite popsicle flavor when they come to visit. These are minor challenges that are part of what it means to live among other humans. These challenges shouldn’t make you feel diminished or hated. They help you learn how to deal with other humans.

But there are some challenges that are unacceptable. Abuse, mistreatment, manipulation, violence and so many other dynamics are not God’s desire for us. The psalmist writes that it is good and pleasant when kindred live together in “unity.” There is no pressure, in this text at least, to put up with kindred who have no interest in living in unity. What makes us kindred isn’t blood; it’s our commitment to living together in unity.

What questions do you still have of this scripture? How will you commit to journeying with this text this week?

CONNECTION TO TODAY’S WORLD

Under pressure from many critics to address the racial climate of injustice in this nation, President Joe Biden signed a law which made Juneteenth a federal holiday. Juneteenth has its roots in Galveston, Texas, where descendants of enslaved Africans celebrate and commemorate Black people. It is a celebration that rejoices in the ending of (one form of) slavery in this nation. It is the first national holiday created since Martin Luther King Day in 1983.

However, critics are skeptical of the day being a federal holiday. In their own words, how might this day go the way of MLK Day, a day that is used to promote sales and watered-down social justice events? Is the symbolism enough, given the continued and targeted mistreatment of Black people? How will companies with diverse employees celebrate this day? Will this become another opportunity for non-Black people to rest while Black service workers don’t have the time off? Are there other more meaningful ways to repair generations of harm done towards Black people in this nation? What would have happened if Election Day was made a federal holiday, instead? How do we respond to racist observations of the day that call for “fried chicken dinners and red drink” in the office?

Juneteenth is not a new celebration. It has been observed primarily by Black Texans for years. This might be one example of “dwelling together in unity” not necessarily meaning everyone does the same thing. Everything ain’t for everybody, and that’s okay.

Where do you stand on this? How will you celebrate the spirit of Juneteenth?

Journal: What unexpected friendships have you encountered over your life?

Closing: Listen to “As,” sung by Stevie Wonder

As around the sun the earth knows she’s revolving
And the rosebuds know to bloom in early May
Just as hate knows love’s the cure
You can rest your mind assure
That I’ll be loving you always

As now can’t reveal the mystery of tomorrow
But in passing will grow older every day
Just as all is born is new
Do know what I say is true
That I’ll be loving you always

Until the rainbow burns the stars out in the sky (Always)
Until the ocean covers every mountain high (Always)
Until the dolphin flies and parrots live at sea (Always)
Until we dream of life and life becomes a dream

Prayer:
Dear God,
You are the God of flow. Oil, water, love, spirit, generosity, care. You make things thick and abundant. You desire that we live into the flow of our lives.
We sometimes come up against trouble. We rub up against conflict and confusion. There are so many choices we have, but we know that your desire for us is that we live into the fullest, freest versions of ourselves.
Teach us to seek the peace that passes all understanding. Show us how to dwell in unity together, even if that means we need to take some space.
In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.

WORKS CITED
https://www.workingpreacher.org/commentaries/revised-common-lectionary/second-sunday-of-easter-2/commentary-on-psalm-133-5
https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2021/6/17/biden-signs-bill-making-juneteenth-a-us-holiday

 

You might also enjoy