This weekend’s lectionary readings are full of so many important and special texts, that I am taking advantage of two blogs and a sermon to touch on three of them. Check out www.firstwelcomingall.blog for the Cinderella story of King David.
In death’s dark vale I fear no ill with thee, dear Lord, beside me; thy rod and staff my comfort still, thy cross before to guide me.
Psalm 23 has to be one of the most beloved texts in all of scripture. It draws us through some of the most beautiful pastoral imagery in the book. It includes everything from luscious green pastures to a still, gentle stream to the table of plenty that comes from the work of the farms that provide us sustenance. These visions offer comfort and peace, no matter what challenge we may face.
Alongside these images for the sheep, come the descriptors of the Shepherd. God’s own self. Our true King of kings, who alone we are meant to trust through all things.
This comes from the ancient model of kingship held by the people of Israel, who believed that the kings were meant to be servants of the people, stewards of their kingdom, and there to ensure the flourishing of all God’s children under their charge. They understood this, however much they may have failed to follow it, because that is the truth of who our God is. The true King. The real great Shepherd.
There is so much that Psalm 23 can teach us about who God is and our relationship to God. But there is one piece of learning that is particularly poignant in the midst of the crisis in which we now find ourselves.
Many of us have learned that God “leads us on the paths of righteousness for God’s own name’s sake.” However, what if I told you that is not what the original Hebrew says? A few years ago, another biblical scholar pointed out that, in fact, the Hebrew says that God leads us on round-about paths until we find the right spot. In other words, sometimes God lets us run around in circles, chasing our tails, until we figure out where we are meant to be.
For many of us, this time of distance from all we know may feel like we are running around in circles, chasing our own tails for no reason. But that is sometimes precisely what we need to do. God is with us whether our path is circular, straight, or curvy.
So take advantage of your time away to rest in the presence of the good Shepherd. Trust that God loves you more than you can imagine and that God can get you to the right spot no matter what this life may throw at you. And know that whatever may come, God will still be with us in the darkest valleys or the most circular paths.