Thursday of 5 Lent

United Under the Lord’s Blessing – Psalm 133

“For there the Lord has commanded the blessing, life forevermore.”

Psalm 133:3

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was interviewed on the television show, Meet the Press, on April 17, 1960.  In that interview he made the following statement about the Church: “I think it is one of the tragedies of our nation, one of the shameful tragedies, that eleven o’clock on Sunday morning is one of the most segregated hours, if not the most segregated of hours, in Christian America. I definitely think the Christian church should be integrated, and any church that stands against integration and that has a segregated body is standing against the spirit and the teachings of Jesus Christ, and it fails to be a true witness.”  Divisions in the Church, though, go far beyond racial discrimination.  Sadly, the disunity of the Body of Christ is in great evidence throughout the world.  Here in Asheville, many attempts have been made to bring the various churches together for united worship.  At an organizational meeting for a pastors’ prayer summit, the divisions became glaringly obvious.  There was one pastor who said that there could be no praying in tongues or he would leave.  Another said unless all Scripture readings were from the King James Bible he would not come.  One pastor pointed at me and asked if I was Catholic, adding “I won’t pray with a heretic.”  There are liturgical churches and non-liturgical, sacramental and non-sacramental, infant baptizers and believer baptizers, Catholic, Protestant, and Messianic Jew.  And, sadly, never shall they meet under one roof.

The Psalmist said, “how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity!”  But how is that ever going to happen when we argue about and emphasize our differences.  Coming together in the New Jerusalem we can hear the words of this Psalm, “For there the Lord has commanded the blessing, life forevermore.”  So much of what divides us is cultural, not Scriptural.  We are afraid of losing what we think of as our unique identity.  We identify with the denomination instead of seeking our identity in the Lord Jesus Himself.  But what is the cure for this disunity?  Brian Zahnd, in his book Postcards from Babylon, says, “Those who feed on faith, hope, and love stand out in a culture characterized by fear; they are distinguished by the healthy glow of a robust peace.”  This is what the Psalmist is pointing toward in his call to worship in Psalm 133.  This Song of Ascent is calling to the returning Jews to focus on the Lord and worship in His restored Temple.  The One True God, and He alone, is the heart of our unity as the People of God.  It is not doctrine, but dominion that unites us.  The Dominion of God.  His dwelling place.  His Jerusalem.

It is in the New Jerusalem that the dividing walls of hostility between believers are broken down.  The Spirit unites, and the brotherhood of the faithful without schism or rivalries can come together in peace and unity.  This was the vision that St. John witnessed on the island of Patmos.  He said, “After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, ‘Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!’”  (Revelation 7:9-10).  Let us thank God that this is a present reality in the New Jerusalem.  And when we dwell there, we can know that joy and peace.

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