I love the 23rd Psalm. I am requested to read it at funerals and at people’s bedsides in the hospital. Just the mention of the psalm brings a smile to peoples faces. When I announced I was beginning a three-part sermon series on Psalm 23 many people said they were excited to hear it.
I decided to use the Message version of the Psalm for my preaching series.
“God, my shepherd! I don’t need a thing. You have bedded me down in lush meadows, you find me quiet pools from which to drink. True to your word, you let me catch my breath and send me in the right direction.
Even when the way goes through Death Valley, I’m not afraid when you walk at my side. Your trusty shepherd’s crook makes me feel secure.
You serve me a six-course dinner right in front of my enemies. You revive my drooping head; my cup brims with blessing.
Your beauty and love chase after me every day of my life. I’m back home in the house of God for the rest of my life.”
Several things about this version really touch me. To say to God “I don’t need a thing” is a powerful acknowledgement that God is providing for us abundantly and we need only to recognize and give thanksgiving for our many blessings. God is always true to who and what God is and so when God proclaims Spirit’s presence in our lives we can rest with the assuredness that it now, and forever is so.
One of the most striking things about this scripture for me is that even when we go through tough times (the dark valleys) God is forever with us. The God who created the light also created the dark. If God created it then it is always whole and perfect and complete. God walks with us, hand in hand, through the dark times and walks with us right back out into that glorious light. Our travel through those dark moments is part of the journey and not meant to be the place we remain. We don’t set up housekeeping in the dark, we don’t homestead for the rest of our lives, but we continue the journey we began as God’s perfect creation. Strength for the dark times in life is always poured forth by God to meet whatever need we may have. This is the evidence of our faith.
As the Psalm continues we are served a banquet new blessings and new hope in the face of obstacles and we are revived from whatever our challenges have been. Refreshed and nourished we are back in the house of God and there it is we are welcomed for eternity.
This is a Psalm that reminds us who we are as God’s precious creation. It reminds us that God’s presence is forever with us and that we need only look within to find the peace, blessings, grace and comfort of a God who loves us unconditionally.
It is little wonder that people fall in love with this text, in whatever translation they prefer. Many people know it only as “the one about the shepherd.” The shepherd who is understood to be the foundation of guidance to the source of life, peace, protection and happiness, the divine caretaker of one’s flock who keeps those in its charge from wrong paths and brings them safely home when they wander away. It is a Psalm of hospitality and one of choices. God’s perfect welcoming Spirit of hospitality that invites us in and asks us to choose life, and life abundant.
Each time I read this Psalm, no matter the setting, I am forever moved. And so, in the words of the Message translation, I invite all people to catch their breath beside the quiet waters and know they are back home on the house of the Lord now, and forever.
Rev. Jefferson Beeker
We live our lives one thought at a time. Let each of those thoughts really count for something wonderful.
Be prepared to change your thinking and change your life. Please join us each Sunday at 5:30 PM in our Social Hall at First Christian Church, North Hollywood, CA for our Contemporary Celebration and Praise service. Come as you are and enjoy an hour of great music from our wonderful band and singers, inspiring messages and good fellowship. Those things in life that you have been seeking have also been seeking you. Now is a good time to receive them. We will lift one another to live exciting, abundant new lives of possibility and purpose.
Also, join me on Wednesday evenings from 7 to 8 PM for an hour of guided and silent meditation, reflection, affirmation and prayer. As always, we will share communion together. Everyone is welcome.
First Christian Church, North Hollywood, 4390 Colfax Avenue, Studio City, CA 91604. http://www.fccnh.org
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