(Acts 2:42-47 Psalm 23 1 Peter 2:19-25 John 10:1-10)
“The Psalm that Touches Deeply!”
(Preacher enters dressed like a shepherd)
Hey, I’m back here today! Does anyone even know that I’m a shepherd?
If I said, “the Lord is my life coach,” or “the Lord is my personal trainer,” or even “the Lord is my hard drive,” maybe people in this 21st century would understand.
So why, out of 150 Psalms in the Hebrew Bible, why this one?
Why is this Psalm we call the Twenty-third Psalm the one that goes with us through the years?
Why is this the one that touches us?
What is it about these ancient words that endure, outlast time, bridge generations?
What makes these words live? And last?
You will understand these more modern examples, although they were similar 3000 years ago:
>>>You tell me of your mother, lying sick in a nursing home bed. You are frantic and afraid, not knowing what to say or how to pray, you reach for the small Bible on the table and turn to the 23rd Psalm.
>>>You remember earlier in the night when you were caught in crossfire, and now safely lying on your bunk, you reach for the small Bible to find the 23rd Psalm.
>>>You remember the evening of broken promises when all patience is exhausted, out of glue, hope abandoned, alone in the midst of shattered dreams, without enough pills to numb the hurt, and you remember those mysterious words read to you by your grandmother as a child.
The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want.
Even then, like today, we live in a world saturated with people wanting more and more. But these words are about not wanting. I know the answer to most every anxiety and uncertainty is to go shopping, to accumulate more “things,” (it wasn’t much different 3000 years ago, although the shopping was different!) here is a promise that wanting does not have to control our lives. Wanting something more is not the answer. We can, instead, be satisfied, be returned to sanity by what we have and who we are and where we are. I no longer need to be a hostage to “more” things.
He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters.
Being free from our obsessive wanting may be what green pastures are all about. Looking at the clouds…walking in the grass…sitting on the deck…for me seeing the open skies. “Still waters” time is when the silt settles and the cloudiness is gone, and you look down and see deep. It is about a contented soul.
He guides me along right pathways for your name’s sake.
Restoring, reclaiming, renewing our souls has something to do with finding an alternative to the raging and rushing waters of our lives that diminish and damage our souls. (Boy, things never change!) It’s about finding the right path and knowing it!
Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for you are with me.
It does not say “If” I walk through the valley of the shadow of death. It says “though.” It is taken for granted that each one of us will have dark valleys in our lives. And when we are in dark valleys—of sadness, of loss, of depression and despair, of pain—not the absence of fear, not alone in our fear, but the assurance not to be overwhelmed by the evil that robs us of hope. That’s a hard one at any time!
Your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
My shepherd’s staff helps guide and lead, and therefore provides comfort and assurance to sheep. The shepherd will NOT turn our walk through the dark valley into a comfortable stroll. Rather, we have the promise that our walk will be filled with strength. The promise is NOT that darkness will disappear; but that we are never alone! Wow! We have the assurance of God’s presence! And even if the darkest valleys never do end, but return to haunt us when we are vulnerable… we never need walk alone. Never alone! Sounds too good to be true!
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.
There are many Psalms that assure us of the victory over our enemies. In this Psalm, we are reminded that the table is set in the presence of enemies. That doesn’t make any sense! But maybe it is as simple as knowing that where we least want to be, in the presence of enemies, is where the table of the Lord’s abundance is most readily available. Healing happens when we desire God’s abundance—even when sitting with enemies.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
Our arms are not our arms alone. Each day we walk the path toward our home. The promise of life, Risen life, the life of Promise, the abundant life of God’s love and grace—here and in the world to come.
For nearly 3000 years these amazing, comforting words have touched the deepest places inside people like you. Let it happen once again! Hear the words. Let them embrace your life!
Go in search of your shepherd; one who quiets your wants; one who leads you to lie down in green pastures; one who restores your soul. Seek such a shepherd in your dark valleys, where you least want to be. Drink from an overflowing cup that waits at the table. Go seeking. Welcome goodness and mercy. Come home to yourself. Come home to God! Amen.