Let yourself become open to God and the knowledge that comes from the Word. Ask God for peace at this time.
Psalm 23 (NRSV)
The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures;
he leads me beside still waters;
he restores my soul.
He leads me in right paths
for his name’s sake.
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.
You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
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.
Recently I preached on the beheading of John the Baptizer, a horrific scripture. The point of the sermon was how the tragic story acknowledges that bad stuff happens in this world. There is no “everything happens for a reason.” Some stuff just stinks.
But the next story in Mark is the feeding of the 5000, a wonderful story of love, sharing, mutual care, and trust in God. Put back to back, these stories form a contrast that showed me just how much this world needs Jesus. The reality is that sometimes we find ourselves in (and even produce for ourselves!) valleys in the shadow of death.
That’s what strikes me about Psalm 23. We’ve heard it all our lives, but suddenly I noticed the affirmation that there will be some nasty valleys in life. There just are. Maybe that’s why Psalm 23 has always provided such hope! It shows us that we desperately need God to shepherd us through those valleys into better days. We need to be lead by God’s love, grace, mercy, peace, and joy, and share them with one another. Then, we pray that we will find the green pastures and still waters, and restoration for our souls.
God of life, thank you for shepherding us through our valleys. We know they will be there. We know it because we’ve lived in those valleys before, and still do today. But we also know that you are the one who will bring us through them, into better days. So teach us your wisdom that is love of you and neighbor, and show us what those green pastures look like. Amen.
Go with God.