“Behold, how good and how pleasant it is
For brothers to dwell together in unity!
Sunday night is our church's annual Joint Summer Picnic – the second installation of our five-part Summer Second Sundays joint meetings with a handful of other area churches (Hyde Park Baptist, Bible Chapel, Valley Chapel, and Liberty Baptist). And I am so glad that we at Pleasant Ridge can once again be a part! It truly is a joy and privilege to spend a Sunday evening in fellowship with the people of God – and especially so when we can demonstrate our kinship by gathering together across local church boundaries. What a reminder that God has “many people in this city” and that we are building the kingdom of God, not the kingdom of Pleasant Ridge Baptist Church!
I fully expect it to be a “good” and “pleasant” evening. Maybe not weather-wise! But it should indeed be “good” and “pleasant” to see the assorted people of God gathered together in “unity.” People from numerous different pockets of our city – some of them from little neighborhoods on the west side that many in our own church may have never even driven past. People of various social and economic backgrounds. People with various accents – ranging from Kentucky bluegrass, to non-descript Midwestern, to various international flavors as well. Some will be carrying canes, others diaper bags, and still others smart phones. Some will join wholeheartedly in the various activities, others will sit quietly on the side. Some will talk until we’ve learned learned their whole life story, while others will be more shy. There will probably be a handful of different preferred Bible translations. And differing views on the timing of the Lord’s return. And (praise God!) there will be multiplied skin tones, too! And, of course, we’ll be coming from five different churches, and so have five different pastors, and five different sets of readymade table-mates. And so we could clump together in various little groups, centered around one or other of the identities listed above. And some of us will, I am sure … and not necessarily in bad ways, even.
But what I am looking forward to most (and I hope I am alert enough to just pause and take it all in) is seeing all these different people dwelling “together in unity!” I am looking forward to seeing God’s people, in spite of all that could keep us apart, enjoying one another; getting to know one another; counseling one another. Finding new friends and reconnecting with old ones. Feeling an immediate kinship with and love for people that we are meeting for the very first time … and committing to pray for them, even though we don’t know if and when we might see them again. And all of this without the slightest consideration for the various earthly identity markers that might otherwise keep us apart! That will be “good” and “pleasant”!
I am looking forward, Sunday evening, to a little reminder of what the kingdom of heaven will be like: a vast gathering of people – incredibly more diverse than our little gathering – and yet all part of one family. All eyes fixed on one Savior. All loved by the same Father. All washed by the same blood. All drawn by the same Holy Spirit. All captivated by the same words from the same Book. All gathered around the same throne. All singing the same truths. And calling the most unlikely people ‘brother’ and ‘sister,’ and truly loving them – because we have found something (or rather, someone) in common who is far more magnetizing, even, than race, or culture, or nationality, or upbringing, or heart language, or peer group, or any other earthly identity! Jesus! He is our common bond. He is our unity. He is the one who brings us all together into this thing called the family of God! And on Sunday we'll get just a little glimpse of just what that larger family looks like … and how special it really is. I hope we'll stop and take it all in (and that you will do the same in your local setting, too): just “how good and how pleasant it is for brothers to dwell together in unity!”