Harmony – Psalm 133

Unity not uniformity

Politicians like to talk about freedom and unity. Freedom is often the freedom for their supporters to ride roughshod over everyone else,and unity means everybody doing as they tell them to do. Ironically the ones who talk most about freedom are often those whose politics are the most authoritarian.

Psalm 133

A song of ascents. Of David.

How good and pleasant it is
    when God’s people live together in unity!

It is like precious oil poured on the head,
    running down on the beard,
running down on Aaron’s beard,
    down on the collar of his robe.
It is as if the dew of Hermon
    were falling on Mount Zion.
For there the Lord bestows his blessing,
    even life for evermore.

Seven people jumping for joy, silhouetted against a sunset.

The Songs of Ascents or Songs of Degrees are calls from the world to God. In the Eastern Orthodox Church and those Eastern Catholic Churches which follow the Byzantine Rite, the Songs of Degrees make up the Eighteenth division of the Psalter and are read on Friday evenings at Vespers throughout the liturgical year.

Living in unity

I do not believe that there is such a thing as authoritarian unity. Uniting because you are told to is a million miles away from uniting because you want to be one with people. When we talk of society these days we normally are ta;king about society in a big way. This is a modern understanding, starting in the mid nineteenth century. Before that societies were smaller. A church congregation is a society, a walking group is a society, the earlier meaning of society can still be found in Building society (the few that are left) or friendly society.

What has social politics to do with the Psalm?

“How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity!” says the psalmist. we do that in society. I can live in unity with a group like a church, if it is too large then I relate to that church through smaller groups within it. I cannot relate to people through the modern understanding of society. How do I relate to 67 million people in the UK? Or to 7.6 billion people in the world. Most effective is to do it as part of a smaller group.

Unity good, uniformity bad

Uniformity and unity are not the same thing. In my church people may be Conservative voters, Labour voters, Green voters or others. People who supported Brexit and those who wish for us to return to the EU. Yet we are one in worshipping God, one in supporting the charities we support and supporting one another. But we are not one because we do things together. We do things together because we are one. There is a unity in diversity that uniformity tries to to at least downgrade if not eradicate. Unity celebrates difference, we are all one because God has made us one.

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