Today’s scripture: Psalm 23
1 The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.
2 He makes me lie down in green pastures;
he leads me beside still waters;
3 he restores my soul.
He leads me in right paths
for his name’s sake.
4 Even though I walk through the darkest valley,
I fear no evil;
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff—
they comfort me.
5 You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord
my whole life long.
If you would like to hear a different beautiful version with the feminine divine you could listen instead….http://http://youtu.be/o9fzWq-d8jU
(one of my favorite ways to hear this scripture). Sometimes we have to listen in order to really hear. So that might be a practice for you this morning instead of just reading this passage…
Psalm 23. One of the best known bible passages. We mostly hear this passage during memorials or at bedsides but it is soooo much more than just a well known verse. If you look again you will find some powerful things here. This is what we might call a Psalm of Trust. This Psalm shows up in a time of crisis (walk through the darkest valley…table of my enemies). And in this time of crisis the language is around deliverance and God’s presence. The main aim of Psalm 23 is to make sure that God’s people have access to language around trust that God is present. No matter what.
Shepherding is hard work. It is a constant practice that continues to protect, guide, lead, restore, and remaining present. By saying that God is with us in this by being our shepherd there is constant presence. It is not just us out there walking through the valley….we can trust that God is nearby. In other words, this Psalm isn’t just about me it is about God and me. It is about relationship.
Above all, this Psalm is comforting. That is why it is used so much. It is comforting to me to think about in my darkest times, I am not alone. I am being restored, cared for, guided. This is what I get from McFerrin’s version sometimes more than just reading it in my head. The music guides me into a comforting place with a different view of God in “she.” When I have read this scripture over and over again at different services, the room visibly relaxes. There is something so wonderful about words that we know that represent a relationship with God. There is something about resting into that.
Yesterday, I had a powerful experience that reminded me of why I do what I do and why I love the people I work with. I was in the front office yesterday morning along with four other women. And we were being pretty raucous. We were joking about this and that. I was at the copy machine getting ready for my evening class. Our fantastic office manager was at her desk laughing. Our fab director of development was joking with me. Our awesome office volunteer for the day as near by. And our incredible volunteer to greet people and help them out came in to hear what the laughter was about. It was a fun time.
Just then a woman and her little dog came into the office and she announced, “Is there anyone in here that could pray with me?” We all stopped and I said, “of course. Let me come over to you!” So I stopped what I was doing and went to her. She didn’t want to leave the front office. No problem. “What can I pray for?” I asked. She teared up and told me about how she was going to have to go through some pretty awful things during the day. After she told me her story and her name, I announced, “Let’s pray.” We prayed for God’s guidance and healing. We prayed overall for God’s presence. When we were finished, we looked up to realize that the entire office had paused in prayer. These incredible women got it. I said to the woman, “I hope its ok that we all just said a prayer for you….would you like to be on our prayer list too?” She teared up some more, “please….please.” She then asked my name. When I told her, her eyes got really wide…”YOU ARE THE PASTOR? I JUST got to pray with the PASTOR?” I laughed and wished her well and I told her I would see her soon. And then I thanked the staff around me. I was so touched that everyone would stop the busy ness and pray with this woman. Thank God I work for a church that gets it…gets the mission of restoration. Gets that God was going to show up and be present. Gets that sometimes prayer and comfort are way more important than continuing on. Thank God I got to be there to be a part of it all.
Today, will you stop and reflect on this scripture again? Forget that it is well known and that you know it forwards and backwards. Take a moment and pray.