I always associate Psalm 133 with the 1969 red Toyota Corona that I owned when I was young and slightly more foolish. The car had an oil filter located behind the wheel-well which required an extra joint between your elbow and wrist to reach. Back then, I felt that my manliness depended upon changing my own oil. The little car regularly baptized me for my sins. Oil dripped down over my long hippy hair, and nigh, even unto my beard and the collar of my turtleneck.
Psalm 133 waxes longingly for intimate spiritual fellowship. It speaks of the brotherhood of the temple priests, but we can easily imagine that this is what Christ wants for his church. The fellowship of those who love each other in the Lord is like sweet, cool, anointing oil, dabbing the forehead, and then, refreshing the parched skin of God’s wilderness dwelling people.
This hymn to congregational love, recognizes that it is rare. We live in the secular world. We duck into church, sometimes too busy to take off our coats. We worship God the way microwaves cook food. We pass the peace, half listen to announcements, and smile at the children going down the aisle for their mini-sermon. We name things like this as ‘signs of fellowship.’ We don’t know what we are missing. The days of King David may not have had much spiritual love either, but at least they didn’t kid themselves like we do.
It is impossible to separate Christ’s gospel from his command that we form nurturing fellowships. I think that when Jesus says, “Love each other as I have loved you,” he is pointing to the hard organizational work he accepted as his calling when he knit the first disciples together into a unity (John 15). Like stars fleeing the big bang, our members fly apart from the fellowship that marked the day of Pentecost when; they were all together in one place (Acts 2:1).
The important thing to know about the oil that flowed down Aaron’s face and even to the collar of his robes, is that Psalm 133 is poetry. Poetry speaks to the heart. It reminds us of our humanity and the joy that comes when we do our spiritual dance in harmony with others.