There is a story told by Pastor E.V. Hill that some eggs were hatching and one little chick stuck its head out, looked around and said “Nope, I am not coming out.” As other eggs cracked and the other little chicks stuck their heads out, they pecked until the eggs shell was completely broken and they came out. As he watched the other little chicks from the crack in his egg, he thought he would come out but as soon as his head was out, he tucked it back in and repeated his mantra – “I am not coming out”. If I were a little chick born into this world today, I think I am likely to just tuck my head back in and say “Nope, I am not coming out.”
I look around and folks seem to be getting along but I sense something in the air that makes me uncomfortable. The last few homes we have lived in have had eight-foot fences and we couldn’t see our neighbors. Sometimes we would all be outside at the same time and we would speak over the fence. Once the door was closed that was it. The locks were put in place until the next morning. During the summer, the smell of charcoal would draw us out and we might say something then in casual conversation.
In one neighborhood, the people in the cul-de-sac sat up their huge smoker and invited all the neighbors to a cookout. Bring your own meat and cooler and meet your neighbor. That was lots of fun and we did meet our neighbors but a few weeks later, we couldn’t remember their names. All of us did try to get to know at least one couple and we started waving to each other as we came and went down the alleys that ran behind our houses with their eight foot fences.
James was the president of our HOA last year and we invited the neighbors down to the cul-de-sac for a fish fry. The turnout was pitiful but we did meet some of the people. The people who lived in the cul-de-sac did like the little chick; they stuck their heads out and went back in. One woman got in her car and drove away.
What went on before 8-foot fences, garages in the back and security systems? What went on before everyone had a car, drove miles to church and you couldn’t smell dinner cooking as you walked by the houses with the open doors? I, for one, miss those days when I knew my neighbor, went to school and church with the kids next door, and sit in the back yard that at the most had chain linked fences.
David writes: “How good and pleasant when brothers live together in unity!” Is this passé? Is this idea so far out in the wind that this joy that is spoken of will never touch our lives? I dare say, “no”. When I am in Sherman on the north side where my mom lives, we do not sit in the back; we sit on the front porch. I know most of the people who live on the street. I went to school with some and some of them watched me grow up. When I am home, I visit, I wave as people pass by. They don’t have to know me but they know my mother’s house and if I am on the porch, they speak. Small town living does have its advantages.
David writes that it is GOOD and PLEASANT when people LIVE TOGETHER in UNITY. That is the change agent in this passage. Another way of saying this is when people dwell together in unity being on one accord, it is good and pleasant. There is peace and the blessings of God abound.
We need to know this for ourselves. I have had only one roommate in my life and it was in college. We were cordial enough, but we never formed any kind of bond. As I studied Charles Spurgeon, my theologian of choice, he notes that unity is communion. If we start there, it brings to mind last first Sunday when we had communion and celebrated the Eucharist. We were reminded that because there is one loaf and we all partook of that same loaf; we are both one with Christ and each other.
The psalmist starts his song with the word “BEHOLD”. Stop, take a look, and turn your attention to this saying. “It is GOOD and PLEASANT when brethren DWELL together in UNITY. I believe we really want to be in that camp, but we say things that imply the church belongs to us. That even goes beyond the local church; it overflows into our claim on our denomination. I haven’t found any place in Scripture where possession of the church building or belonging to a certain denomination belongs to one group of people who are part of the body of Christ. As a matter of fact, that goes against the word where we are told to bring others into the body for the sake of teaching them about Jesus and sending them out to bring more people in (Ephesians 4:11-13 – pages 1820-21 in your pew bibles).
If it will give you any comfort, this is not new. In John 21:15-23 (page 1688-89 in your pew bibles), Peter after being accepted back among the fold, questioned Jesus about John following after them and he is sweetly reminded that only Jesus can make that call, not him.
Spurgeon separates brethren in the flesh from brethren in the spirit. In deed we can live together in church fellowship because we are all members of one body. However, it has been proven over and over again that we have a little problem trying to live together in the flesh.
In the church we tend to introduce programs and other rules and regulations to promote some sense of uniformity. We build our buildings certain ways that make them look like what our idea of a church ought to look like. This can give us a false sense of unity. Look at the schools where the children have to dress in the same uniform; the military; corporate America, even the church. If we promote uniformity, we hide the fact that we may not unified at all; we just look like we are.
David uses two examples to describe unity. The joy of reading the Bible is that the writers did not pen these words with the 21st century Christian in mind. So let’s look at this first example of unity being like the precious holy scented oil that ran down from Aaron’s head, down his beard and onto his robes. It is good to know that Aaron is not just any priest, he is the high priest. The oil is not sprinkled, but poured on his head. This method of anointing is reserved for the High Priest alone as he is consecrated for service. The oil is free to run down. Its fragrance and its essence saturate Aaron and his garments as it moves from the top of his head down. Once the oil starts to flow, it doesn’t matter what challenges its path. It will move down to the lowest part of Aaron’s being. Christ’s love is available to those who come to him.
The second example is the dew of Hermon. It is written that the dew descended upon the mountains of Zion. Hermon is covered with dense forests and swamp land. A heavy mist rises from these swamps and ascends upward toward the top of the mountain during the day. When the vapor comes in contact with the snow from the sides of the mountain, it is quickly congealed and changed to thick dew. It is so thick that it saturates everything.
What is the common ground between the two examples? It is their order and their ability to saturate and penetrate. They descend, run down, and flow in order to cover and saturate whatever they fall upon. They are examples of the Lord’s love for us. It comes from on high and descends to the lowest of all.
It is in this place that the church, the body of Christ, is blessed. In this place where the sacred anointing oil descends upon all and God gives life abundantly. The church is born of the Spirit of God; united to Christ, and baptized into one body. (1 Corinthians 12:13) We have been saturated with love, anointed and consecrated for the work of ministry.
As the body of Christ in the earth, it is possible for us to dwell together in unity and the blessings are numerous – goodness, pleasure, anointing, love, eternal life, and God’s blessings.
Words and direct quotes are from The Treasury of David by Charles H. Spurgeon. Psalm 133. Note. After the sermon was given, one member came and shared his story about growing up on Lake Erie and watching the mist rise up and turn into sleet and ice. Another member shared the picture of the memberships of the three churches that occupy our campus. This picture showed all of us on the steps of Wheatland. Praise God.