Sometimes I wonder how I’ve gone from the kid who loved to bring the hose into the sandbox and make mud pies to the adult who reads this passage and says, “Yuck!”

It’s not the family unity that turns me off; it’s the “precious oil on the head, running down upon the beard, on the beard of Aaron, running down on the collar of his robes.” For crying out loud, get me a towel!

Yet this description is intended to deepen spiritual appreciation of the truth of “How very good and pleasant it is when kindred live together in unity.” This psalm, one of fifteen “Psalms of Ascent” (120-134), was likely sung by religious pilgrims as they made their way up to Zion, Jerusalem, the holy city. The faithful recall the priesthood established (See Exodus 28 and 29.) and the ordination ritual of sacred oil poured on the consecrated priest: a moment of great solemnity and great joy. The oil is fragrant and soothing as the unity of kindred can be.

And the oil is precious as unity is precious—as in, “not found as often as we’d like.” This is especially true of the kindred unity the psalm praises. I recently saw a meme that read: “The business advertised they’d treat me like family. I didn’t shop there.” The phrase church family is one I avoid for just that reason; the word family is weighted with meaning, not all of it “good and pleasant.”

Nonetheless, the psalmist’s words are aspirational, and we should not give up on the vision or the metaphor. My aversion to an oil-soaked collar is tempered by the thought that oil sticks to you. Hmmm . . . isn’t that just what God wants—unity that sticks?

Forget the towel! Give me that oil, kindred unity, and the Lord’s blessing of “life forevermore.”

Lord of refreshment, bathe us in the fragrant oil of your reconciling love, that our unity may draw the world to Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit; One God, forever and ever. Amen.

Pray the Scriptures Using Audio Lectio
Read John 20:19-31

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Lectionary Week
April 5–11, 2021
Scripture Overview

Easter promises us the possibility of new life in Christ, but what should that life look like? Scripture makes clear that one sign of union with God is unity with each other. How wonderful it is, the psalmist says, when there is peace among brothers and sisters. Unity and peace do not mean simply the lack of conflict but proactive care for one another. The Christians in Acts lived out this care in a practical way by giving of their material means to help one another. John in his epistle tells us that this fellowship is ultimately modeled on the fellowship we share with God and Christ, while in his Gospel, John teaches that belief in Jesus the Messiah is what binds us all together in this new life.

Questions and Suggestions for Reflection

Read Acts 4:32-35. In what ways does your Christian community extend generosity to those within and those beyond the community?
Read Psalm 133. How do you experience God’s extravagant love for you? What is your response to this love?
Read 1 John 1:1–2:2. What experience of Christ have you “heard . . . seen . . . looked at . . . touched”? How do you share your experience of the risen Christ with others?
Read John 20:19-31. How do you relate to Thomas’s desire for tangible proof of the Resurrection?

Respond by posting a prayer.

I join many of those who will pray for you as you seek to discern what you are called to be at this moment. May God grant you the courage to fulfill that calling. May we all open our eyes and see the misery, open our ears and hear the cries of God’s people, and, like God through the Lord Jesus Christ, be incarnate amongst them.” 

View a growing list of resources for the spiritual work of overcoming racism.