Ecce Quam Bonum! These three Latin words are carved in moss-covered stones and lintels of doorways across the campus of my alma mater, the University of the South in Sewanee, Tennessee. Ecce Quam Bonum! “Behold, how good!” These words begin Psalm 133, and they speak of the desire for joyful, harmonious fellowship with our brothers and sisters: “Behold, how good and pleasant it is, when brethren live together in unity!”
The lectionary for the Second Sunday of Easter joins this psalm with three readings, each of which speaks of community and fellowship. In the Acts of the Apostles, Luke paints a happily-ever-after picture of the apostles and their companions, in which the “whole group of those who believed were of one heart and soul” (4:32). In the First Letter of John, the writer says, “We declare to you what we have seen and heard so that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ” (1:3). In the Gospel, the risen Jesus appears to the disciples as a group, grants them peace, and breathes the Holy Spirit upon them. Thomas is not with the disciples at the time, so as a group they seek him out and tell him the good news. A week later, when Thomas has returned to the fellowship, Jesus once again appears, and Thomas believes.
At church this Sunday, we are baptizing a beautiful newborn, and I can’t think of better lessons to accompany the joyous occasion. The sacrament of Baptism celebrates the inward movement of God in a person’s life by outwardly welcoming that person into God’s family the Church. Hmm… I know that definition sounds incredibly boring and academic, so let me try again, this time with a musical metaphor.
The music of God plays in each one of our hearts. Sometimes the music is soft, a half-whispered lullaby, barely discernible over the din of the world. Sometimes the notes crescendo to a deafening fortissimo that knocks us, weeping, to our knees. Most often, the music sounds as the percussive TUB-thp of our hearts — a rhythm that, if you listen closely, beats in time with the rest of the performing forces of creation.
Each one of us has the music of God resounding within, but the symphony is incomplete until we have found each other, until we have joined together in fellowship as the orchestra of God. In Greek, this fellowship is called koinonia, but I’ve always thought that “fellowship” is a rather limp translation. For the sake of our metaphor, let’s translate koinonia as “harmony,” which lands much closer to the descriptive intent of the Greek word. Musical harmony is the collection of notes that adds structure, color, tone, depth, and meaning to the main tune. This tune, called the “melody” is the music of God within us. The combination of our own unique passions, trials, joys, griefs, and loves creates the harmony of the music of God.
In the sacrament of Holy Baptism, we welcome another violin or French horn or bassoon into the orchestra. We await eagerly the subtle changes in timbre that the new life will bring. Together, we play the koinonia, the harmony, of the music of God to a world so accustomed only to noise and clatter. The movements of our symphony resonate with the movement of God in this world. This is the sacrament of Holy Baptism: new sound, new harmony, new resonance in the symphony of the music of God.
Behold how good and pleasant it is when brethren live and sing and make music together in unity.