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Are you old enough to remember that old commercial? Picture a bunch of young fresh faced hippies on a mountain top, singing a catchy little ditty. Begin swaying. Pop open a frosty bottle of Coke, and sing along.
OK, everybody back from your Coke break? I hope you paid special attention to that phrase, “perfect harmony”, because that’s what I’d like to talk about today.
Here’s the text of today’s psalm, Psalm 133, from the New Living Translation:
A song for the ascent to Jerusalem. A psalm of David.
How wonderful it is, how pleasant, when brothers live together in harmony!
For harmony is as precious as the fragrant anointing oil that was poured over Aaron’s head, that ran down his beard and onto the border of his robe.
Harmony is as refreshing as the dew from Mount Hermon that falls on the mountains of Zion. And the Lord has pronounced his blessing , even life forevermore.
Harmony! Is there anything sweeter?
I had the privilege of singing in my church’s choir last Sunday, to celebrate Resurrection Sunday/Easter. What a joy that was for me!!! And talk about a flashback to college days!
In college, I enjoyed four years of singing in a cappella choirs. And nothing brought more joy to my heart than singing and touring with those choirs. We talked and laughed and sang and talked and laughed some more. If I were designing my perfect world, I would schedule in touring with a bunch of talented singers, singing inspired music, seeing the world, and generally having a ball for at least several weeks out of each year. I think that was one of the places in my life that I truly found my bliss.
And if there is any one thing that I have learned from participating in this Beth Moore study, it is that life is a pilgrimage: we are all just pilgrims on our journey to heaven. So, as long as we’re all on the way together, don’t you think a little Journey Music is in order? I do. As long as it’s in harmony. Because there ain’t much more painful than music that is NOT in harmony – when somebody’s singing flat or sharp or doesn’t make their entrance at the designated time. Harmony is essential.
But harmony among brothers? Well, that can be rare, can it not? In fact, the first story of brothers that we have in the Bible, the first set of brothers, Cain and Abel, ends in the worst kind of disharmony. It ends up as a murder story.
Brothers, going on a journey together. Does that make YOU have a flashback?
For me, it brings back my family’s epic trek across the USA in the summer of 1962. I was four. I don’t remember much, except that each morning, Mom loaded up the front seat floor of the big old aquamarine 1950 something Chrysler with two Scotch plaid gallon thermos jugs: one with iced tea, and one with ice water. I slept on the floor of the front seat for a lot of that trip, so that’s why I remember sharing my space with those two jugs. And when we crossed the Mojave desert in the middle of summer, with no air conditioning, she would wet down paper towels with ice water and put them on my flushed face. Man, it was hot. And I remember that my brother almost died when his cowboy hat blew off and in chasing it, he couldn’t get stopped going down a gravel slide – almost falling into the mighty, gushing, tumbling waters of the Snake River. And I remember that I rode the Cups and Saucers at The Mad Hatter’s Tea Party at Disneyland and got sick to my stomach. But that’s about all I remember of that trip.
Except to say that my mother and father were probably saints for not killing us kids. And brothers traveling together in reality can be a big whiny, grumbling pain in the butt.
We don’t get to choose our family, do we? We get what we get. Mine was a mixed bag of unconditional, stalwart love, solid dependability, laughter and sniping, and out and out betrayal and pain. Anybody else been there?
For better or for worse, our families helped form us into the human beings that we are today. As Christ followers, our families can be the very catalyst that keeps our prayer lives ignited, and ongoing. And let’s face it, it’s the hard times that cause us to draw nearer to Christ. Harmony, as David says, is precious. And we were designed to respond to it. To long for it.
If you’ve been through the pain, even more can you say from the depths of your heart, “How WONDERFUL it is, how PLEASANT, when brothers live together in harmony.” Really, there’s just not much sweeter than when we do get back together, letting go of the past and the pain, and just allow each other the grace and the space to be who we are and how we are, and choose to love, regardless.
So, yes, this psalm celebrates brothers living together in harmony. As a psalm of ascent, it would have been journey music for them, as they traveled on their pilgrimage to Jerusalem. With old Uncle Simon, and weird cousin Phineas, and dear Aunt Naomi. And all their foibles. And eccentricities. It is a call, I think, to unity. A call to let go of the hurts, and open the heart, one more time. Accepting one’s brother without looking at him through the filter of unmet expectations. A reminder of the sweetness that harmony brings to our lives.
We long for harmony with those beyond our extended family, too. I’m referring here to the family that we get to choose: our friends. (Side note: Why is it so much easier to extend grace to them, than to our own biological families? Maybe it’s the lack of close proximity? Maybe that they’re people we chose in the first place because we like them? I’m not completely sure, but I think it’s worth considering – how we might extend the same grace towards our own families that we extend to our friends.)
But this psalm alludes to even more than that, I think. The analogy of of the dews of Mount Hermon falling on the mountains of Zion. Geographically speaking, that is a literal impossibility, since Mount Hermon lies in the north of Israel, and Jerusalem is in the south. But I think David was longing for a unity among his countrymen. That those who lived in the north of Israel might extend the kind of love that fosters unity toward their countrymen who lived in the South. That all God’s people might extend the kind of grace toward each other that allows us to experience harmony. It’s a call to the church, today, as well.
Jesus longed for unity among his followers. He prayed for it in John 17:20-21. “That the world might know”. Our unity, our harmony, was how the world would know that God the Father had truly sent Jesus, His Son. So it is a reminder to me to lighten up on my judgmental attitude toward churches and groups of people I have judged. The whole judging thing: that’s pretty much God’s department. A particular form of worship may not be to my taste, but if they belong to Jesus, it’s His job to get them straightened out, and He is well able to do that.
After all, if they belong to Him, looks like we’ll be spending eternity together, so I might as well get going on learning to love and serve them now. Life forevermore, well, that’s a long time.
Here’s my version of the psalm:
It is so good to live in harmony with my brothers and sisters.
Anointed by our Lord, we know that we are loved and chosen: set apart by Him for a special purpose.
We receive the Lord’s mercies like dew – fresh and new every morning –
and the greatest thing of all is to know that we have eternity to enjoy this perfect harmony forever.