I am preaching through the Psalms of Ascent, and contemplating that each Psalm was sung by pilgrims on the way to the City of God. I cannot help but draw parallels between that ancient pilgrimage and the pilgrimage of the Christian to that New Jerusalem that is to come. I believe that the Psalms have an intentional metaphorical nature for us to consider.
So coming to Psalm 122 and the delight of the pilgrim for the house of God, for the gathered community, the accountability of judgement, and the protection the place of God provides, I am moved to see significant lines drawn between that ancient assembly at the Temple of God with the New Testament expression of the assembly of church.
The delight that the Psalmist expresses over his arrival is probably more paralleled by many of us arriving at the mall to buy new clothes. Or the arrival of a Tigers fans at Comerica, or the arrival of a Lions fan . . . (Nevermind.) He says something like, “I can’t believe my feet are standing in the VERY GATES of Jerusalem! He has come with community, into community for the purpose of offering his thanks.
But the songwriter ends his Psalm with the following, “For my brothers and companions’ sake I will say, “Peace be within you!” For the sake of the house of the LORD our God, I will seek your good.” Psalms 122:8-9 (ESV) There are two reasons why the Psalmist blesses the city and they are both significant! He blesses the city and prays for its peace, for the sake of his friends and family. He recognizes that this place is a blessing to others. And he wants shalom (properly ordered life) within because he knows that this place is a place of blessing, life, and vitality for others.
But secondly, the author recognizes that this city is a special place of God’s presence. And because this is a place of meeting with the Holy God, he pledges to do good for it!
So let me suggest 5 ways that you could do good for your church (the people) because it that assembly is a place of blessing to family and friends, and because it is In that unique gathering of people that God manifests his presence. As the apostle Peter wrote, we are a spiritual house being built up together.
1. Pray for the peace of your church
It may be easier and more appealing to pray for the needs of specific individuals who are going through hard times. And that is a great practice. But I would suggest that it is probably rare that we genuinely cover the entire assembly of our church in prayers for peace. The Shalom that we should ask God for involves properly ordered, healthy relationships toward God and each other within the body as well s protection from dangers outside the church! Life up your church with petitions to God for peace.
2. Do peace toward your church
I believe the more that we pray for the church the more we will recognize that we are to be a part of the solution to some of the very things we are praying for. Doing peace looks like being a peacemaker. It is very important in a gathering of Christians that we are committed to working through conflict with Godly resolution. Gossip, slander, divisiveness, and back channels of communication are a recipe for destruction. Doing peace looks like personally committing to resolving conflict on a personal level and refusing to let it spread.
3. Submit to healthy accountability
The Psalm writer standing within the gates of the city immediately referenced the seats of judgement. He had come to the place of societal accountability. He recognized this as a place where justice was administered and social order was maintained. I do not think it is much of a stretch to say that the very nature of church membership is one of accountability to leadership and each other. We all need others speaking into our lives to hold us close and to keep us from shipwrecking our lives. We are all, “prone to wander . . . Prone to leave the God we love.” Doing good for our church looks like submitting to one another in accountability and opening our lives to loving correction.
4. Share generously
The good of community entails caring for those less fortunate. It looks like taking care of the needs of the church. In a church culture that rarely speaks about the ties between our finances and our walk with God, it seems worth pointing out, that God has blessed us to be a blessing to others. For the sake of the good of your community, consider what God is calling you to do regarding financially supporting the ministry of your local church.
5. Play your part
The best good you can do for your church, is to discharge your calling with joy. You have something your church needs. You have a tangible calling, skill, or talent that God has given to you for the benefit of your church family. For the sake of your family and friends, because this gathering is the place of the unique manifestation of the presence of God, pledge to do good for your church.
Psalm 122 starts with, “I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go to the house of the LORD!” Psalms 122:1 (ESV). How about you? Are you glad at the thought of gathering with the people of God?