1 Oh, how good and
pleasant it is, when kindred live together in unity!
2 It is like fine
oil upon the head that runs down upon the beard,
3 upon the beard of
Aaron, and runs down upon the collar of his robe.
4 It is like the
dew of Hermon that falls upon the hills of Zion.
5 For there the
Lord has ordained the blessing: life for evermore.
In September 1938,
the German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote a short and influential book on
Christian community called Life Together. He began this book
with the first verse of Psalm 133, “How very good and pleasant it is
when kindred live together in unity!” In a time when the Nazi
authorities were increasingly oppressing churches, Bonhoeffer wanted to define
what authentic and essential Christian community looked like. He chose Ps
133.1 to show just why it is not just a happy thing – “good and pleasant”
– for Christians to be together, but that community (Gemeinsames
leben) is necessary for our flourishing and for our existence as the
people of God and the Body of Christ.
for Bonhoeffer is a place where we experience grace through the Word, the
gospel of Christ, which we tell to one another, both in our worship as well as
in our friendship and encouragement to one another as we face the challenges of
our daily lives. Our community is totally dependent on the
Word. Without Jesus Christ in our midst, we can not know God or call on
God, and nor can we know other Christians. Christian community, in
short, is where we experience Christ, and is the place where the world can see
The great challenge
of this pandemic is that it hinders the church’s freedom to live
together. Some buildings stay shuttered, and others have cautiously
opened but constrained in what they can do. Many of the faithful
rightly choose to stay home and protect themselves and others as they need
to. While these limitations are regrettable, they scarce
compare to those imposed on the church in times of persecution, yet Bonhoeffer
knew that the church was most real in times of hardship. In such times,
he wrote, the mere presence of other believers is “an incomparable joy and
strength to the believer”. Why not then choose one person you haven’t
seen face to face in a long while, reach out to them, tell them that they are
blessed and loved. Let that moment be a place where you can both experience
and know Christ.