1-3 How wonderful, how beautiful,
when brothers and sisters get along!
It’s like costly anointing oil
flowing down head and beard,
Flowing down Aaron’s beard,
flowing down the collar of his priestly robes.
It’s like the dew on Mount Hermon
flowing down the slopes of Zion.
Yes, that’s where God commands the blessing,
ordains eternal life.
The Message (MSG)
Copyright © 1993, 2002, 2018 by Eugene H. Peterson
I took this Psalm from Eugene Peterson’s translation of the Bible called The Message, which is a translation that puts the scripture into contemporary language. I like to read this version sometimes because it helps me to “hear” the scriptures differently than I ordinarily do. The language is immediate, contemporary, and direct. This particular passage is from a collection within the Psalms called “Songs of Ascent,” which contains Psalms 120-134. They are pilgrim songs, intended to be sung by travelers as they traversed the road to Jerusalem for festivals and worship. I love this collection of songs because they reflect the pilgrims’ hopes as they made their way to the Temple for worship and the joy they felt at gathering together as God’s people in God’s house. I often imagine the travelers, weary from long days on the road, breaking out in song together and finding that their spirits are lifted as they remember the goal: to gather for worship.
One of the thing I love about this particular Psalm is the joy that radiates from this text, “How wonderful, how beautiful, when brothers and sisters get along!” I sense a longing to be together in these words, a desire to be with friends, family, and thinking about the joy that can bring. The gift of family, friends, and being together is one of God’s richest gifts. One of the things that is beautiful about worship is that it is, typically, something that we do with others – friends, families, brothers and sisters in Christ.
For me, not being able to gather together for worship and making personal connections with my church family is one of the most challenging aspects of social isolation. Believe me, I like going out to a restaurant as much (probably more, honestly) as the next person. While I miss going out to restuaurants, to the Ambler Theater, to the store, and the coffee shop, the thing I miss the most is the opportunities to gather with my brothers and sisters for worship, Bible study, and informal gatherings with my church family. When we get to the other side of this crisis, when we gather together again, that will be a sweet moment!
Although we can’t be together in person I am grateful for the ways that we can connect with each other: online, on the phone, writing emails, notes, or even waving from the car or even chatting across the street. One of the things that has been sustaining for me is to be intentional about making connections with people. I have been spending a lot of time on the phone, writing emails and other messages, and I have been the recipient of a lot of people reaching out, too. I am grateful for these ways of staying connected to each other.
By being intentional, I have reconnected with some old friends. My best friend and I have made a commitment to talk every week, which has been great. My mom and I talk almost every day. I have reconnected with friends from seminary, high school, and other people with whom I have lost touch over the years. One of the small blessings has been the opportunitiy to reach out and hear from old friends and to realize how important those connections are.
There are opportunities for us to reach out to each other. For some of us, it might mean writing a letter or two each day, just to keep in touch. Or to pick up the phone and make a call to keep a connection with a friend or a family member. Perhaps it means adding some people to your prayer list, and then letting people know you are praying for them in these strange times.