For the three of you that regularly read my blog, you know how much I have loved my master’s program through Rochester College. Once again, if you are a minister, elder, or just someone involved in a local church that wants to grow and stretch, I HIGHLY recommend the MRE in Missional Leadership. What Dr. Mark Love is doing with graduate education for ministers is unparalleled. I want to share a quick snippet of something I learned at our intensive course back in January from Dr. John Barton that fits nicely with the events of today.
This morning, the Common Prayer book had a devotional reading from Psalm 133. This was a striking reading today based on the scene in Baltimore. Dr. Barton and my cohort dwelled in the text of Psalm 133 when we were in Portland earlier this year. We learned that the Psalm begins with the Hebrew words “hinnay tobe!” Or, “Behold! Good!” Now I am not a biblical language expert, so I’m taking Dr. Barton’s word on this one. But, he says the Psalm begins with this proclamation that is the same one God uses when the world is created. “God made light. There was morning and there was day, hinnay tobe!” This isn’t a sentimentalized cushy “good”. This is a divine proclamation from the Creator. And what is it that has the Psalmist using this phrase? “When kindred live together in unity!”
The psalm goes on to describe that it is like oil running down the beard of Aaron. In a dry climate with cracked skin, soothing oil would have been a practice of hospitality. Then the psalmist describes that it is “like the dew of Hermon, which falls on the mountains of Zion.” The psalmist is naming something physically impossible, but invoking the imagination of the people. Why? Because God cares deeply about reconciliation and unity.
So Dr. Barton shared these thoughts with us, and I want to share a few good quotes I have in my notes from him:
“You want to know what God is excited about? The goodness of unity.”
“God is into reconciliation that leads to unity, especially between former enemies.”
God gets excited about the goodness of unity. God is into reconciliation, especially between former enemies. Think of Paul here in Romans 5 noting that God reconciles us to him while we are still his enemies. And think of Christ dying while we were still sinners. And Corinthians says we have been given this same ministry of reconciliation. If God gets excited about the goodness of unity and proclaims “hinnay tobe!”, what must God be feeling in light of the chaos in Baltimore, and around the world?
Today, join me in praying for unity, reconciliation, and forgiveness for God’s good world. Let us resist the urge to cast stones and engage in internet debates about how things should be handled. Rather, let’s come together as God’s people praying for peace, and living lives that extend that peace as far as it is possible among us, through the power of the Holy Spirit.
I leave you with one final thought from Dr. Barton. He said that we live in a world where violence and chaos are unsurprising. All we need to do is take a short history course to see this reality. What is surprising, so says Dr. Barton, is when there is an outbreak of peace. Then, “hinnay tobe!” We are called to be God’s agents of outbreak, outbreaking peace in a violent world.
“A lesson from Baltimore: You cannot police well unless you love your neighbors and you cannot wage wars well unless you love your enemies.” – Miroslav Volf