January 30, 2019

The Church Unsleeping

Come, bless the Lord, all you servants of the Lord, who stand by night in the house of the Lord!
Lift up your hands to the holy place, and bless the Lord.
May the Lord, maker of heaven and earth, bless you from Zion.
Ps. 134 

This psalm was probably intended for the Levites, those who were anointed priests of God, and whose right, duty, and privilege it was to invoke God's blessing on the people from the holy place. The extent of the blessing that comes through God's appointed priests is here defined. The God doing the blessing is not some god of wisdom or agriculture or warfare or fertility. This God is the creator of all that is, and as such, all blessing comes from the One Israel calls the Lord.

It is Protestant theology that the priesthood has not been lost or become dormant, nor does it continue on through a select few or through a particular class or family. The priesthood is alive and well and is shared by all believers. It is also Protestant theology that though the physical temple on Mount Zion might have been destroyed, the temple still exists as the body of Christ.
'Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up' ...he was speaking of the temple of his body. [John 2:19, 21]
Through the worship and the service of the church, the Creator of heaven and earth still blesses all people. How different would "church" be if we took this responsibility and privilege to heart, if we realized that our gatherings were not for us alone, but were a blessing to the world, and if the service we performed was not drudgery, but the blessing longed for, the blessing intended all along by the Maker of all things?

That this psalm is a nighttime psalm is particularly moving. As the priests watched through the night that Israel's blessing might not falter, so the church unsleeping, on every continent and island, keeps its watch now. So I hope God will forgive me for praying an evening prayer this morning:
The day thou gavest, Lord, is ended,
the darkness falls at thy behest;
to thee our morning hymns ascended,
thy praise shall sanctify our rest.

We thank thee that thy church, unsleeping,
while earth rolls onward into light,
through all the world her watch is keeping,
and rests not now by day or night.

As o’er each continent and island
the dawn leads on another day,
the voice of prayer is never silent,
nor dies the strain of praise away.

The sun that bids us rest is waking
our kindred ’neath the western sky,
and hour by hour fresh lips are making
thy wondrous doings heard on high.

So be it, Lord; thy throne shall never,
like earth’s proud empires, pass away:
Thy kingdom stands, and grows forever,
till all thy creatures own thy sway. Amen.
—John Ellerton

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