Today we come to the end of the Psalms of Ascent. Here are some final thoughts from Eugene Peterson on the last three….
Psalm 132—Obedience—“How he swore to the Lord”
Christians tramp well-worn paths: obedience has a history.
That history is important for without it we are at the mercy of whims. Memory is a data bank we use to evaluate our position and make decisions. With a biblical memory we have two thousand years of experience from which to make the off-the cuff responses that are required each day in the life of faith. If we are going to live adequately and maturely as the people of God, we need more data to work from than our own experience can give us….
A Christian who stays put is no better than a statue. A person who leaps about constantly is under suspicion of being not a man but a jumping jack. What we require is obedience—the strength to stand and the willingness to leap, and the sense to know when to do which. Which is exactly what we get when an accurate memory of God’s ways is combined with a lively hope in his promises.
Psalm 133—Community—Like the precious oil upon the head”
There are Christians, of course, who never put their names down on a membership list; there are Christians who refuse to respond to the call to worship each Sunday; there are Christians who say, “I love God but I hate the church.” But they are members all the same, whether they like it or not, whether they acknowledge it or not. For God never makes private, secret salvation deals with people. His relationships with us are personal, true: intimate, yes; but private, no. We are a family in Christ. When we become Christians, we are among brothers and sisters in faith. No Christian is an only child….
As we come to declare our love for God we must face the unlovely and lovely fellow sinners whom God loves and commands us to love….
Another common way to avoid community is to turn the church into an institution. In this way people are treated not on the basis of personal relationships but in terms of impersonal functions. Goals are set that will catch the imagination of the largest numbers of people; structures are developed that will accomplish the goal through planning and organization. Organizational planning and institutional goals become the criteria by which the community is defined and evaluated. In the process the church becomes less and less a community, that is, people who pay attention to each other, (“brothers living together”), and more and more a collectivism of “contributing units.”
“No recorded cultural system has ever had enough different expectations to match all the children who were born within it.” Margaret Mead
A Community of faith flourishes when we view each other with this expectancy, wondering what God will do today in this one, in that one. When we are in a community with those Christ loves and redeems, we are constantly finding out new things about them. They are new persons each morning, endless in their possibilities. We explore the fascinating depths of their friendship, share the secrets of their quest. It is impossible to be bored in such a community, impossible to feel alienated among such people.
Psalm 134—Blessing—“Lift up your hands”
Glorify. Enjoy. There are other things involved in Christian discipleship. The Psalms of Ascents have shown some of them. But it is extremely important to know the one thing that overrides everything else. The main thing is not work for the Lord; it is not suffering in the name of the Lord; it is not witnessing to the Lord; it is not teaching Sunday school for the Lord; it is not being responsible for the sake of the Lord in the community; it is not keeping the Ten Commandments; not loving your neighbor; not observing the golden rule. “The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy him forever.” Or, in the vocabulary of Psalm 134, “Bless the Lord.”