April 28, 2020 by Bob Whitaker
The thing I have missed most during this quarantine period is going to church. But as I write this sentence it seems odd because I still go to church every day. About four staff members are at ECC each day sending emails, connecting with people, having Zoom meetings, writing devotionals, preparing a “virtual devotional” online, planning a virtual worship service for Sunday morning.
Actually I am as busy as ever “at church” but I miss church. It’s the fellowship I miss. I miss the parking lot full of cars and the greeters at the front doors. I miss the frantic parents trying to keep their children from hitting and pushing one another as they exit the minivan. I miss the Gathering Space between services with all the laughter and hugs. I miss the kids rushing to the donut table with the parents saying, “Leave some for others” and then watching them grab another donut when the parent turns away. I miss hearing hundreds of voices sing praises to Christ our King. I miss baptisms and communion and ACGs and membership classes and I miss the oil running down Aaron’s beard… Now you’re saying, “What? Is he talking about Aaron Brown’s beard?” No, I’m referring to Psalm 133. It is one of the Psalms in the Bible and it’s all about church.
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 forevermore.
This is one of the Songs of Ascents that was sung by the ancient pilgrims on their way to Jerusalem. They were delighted to be travelling together to the house of the Lord. The image of a beard full of oil comes from the Old Testament ordination ceremony when the head of Aaron was anointed with oil to symbolize his role as the High Priest. The Psalmist communicates two things in this image: the presence of God in the priestly anointing and the unity of God’s people in worship. The second image is the dew on Mount Hermon. This mountain was the highest point in Israel, standing at 9,000 feet. It was visible from Jerusalem 200 miles away. Because of its altitude there was a morning dew that settled on the mountain, capping it with glistening beauty. These are the images that the Psalmist uses to describe the beauty of a worshipping community.
When the Bible speaks about heaven there are multiple images but one of the most important is the congregation of the saints – a sacred, eternal community. The most profound and mysterious image of God is the Trinity – Father, Son and Holy Spirit eternally united in community with one another. Ideally this eternal unity finds its human expression in the church, people from every tribe, language and nation united in praise to one God. Yes, I miss church and I can hardly wait to see you again!