My dear parish family:
Psalm 23 is very familiar to many of us. Perhaps it is too familiar; we know it by heart, so we hardly think about it. The entire Psalm is a declaration of what it means to be God’s children – or the sheep belonging to the shepherd. It is a Psalm of what it truly means to be alive. It begins with “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want” We acknowledge that the God who created and sustains all things, who holds us in the palm of his hand, who loved us so much that he offered his own Son to die so that we may live, is in control of our life. “He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul.” All of us have been affected by the brokenness in this world, and for most of us, it has affected us personally. Recently, the Coronavirus, the collapse of the building in Surfside or the loss of a loved one which has affected our physical, emotional and mental health. We also see injustice around us, either to ourselves or to others. Our heavenly father wants to restore our souls, he wants to heal our hurts, and to restore us to wholeness. Restoring our soul also means restoring the connection between us and God that God originally intended. After he restores our soul – “he leads me in paths of righteousness for His Name’s sake”. In restoring our soul, he is showing us some of his heart for his people and his creation, and then invites and leads us to be his hands and feet in this world. For some of us, where we are in our lives, it means raising our children to love God and his creation. For others, it simply means praying or it means asking God to show us how we can participate with him in restoring all things. We all have unique gifts, talents, passion and experience, that God invites us to use in restoring his kingdom.
In verse five, we have a graphic example of what this may look like; “you prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies” A table is always communal. The table alludes to the feast that God prepares for us, extending us an invitation of hope and comfort not only to us, but even to our enemies. “You anoint my head with oil, my cup overflows” In the presence of those who seek to harm me, as I walk along the path that God leads me on, God clearly demonstrates to all those around me that I am special, that I am protected by Him. In addition, my cup of blessing overflows. This is a wonderful image – picture yourself at a communal table, and God’s blessings overflowing your cup, spilling over onto the table, then onto the floor and flowing out to those who seek to harm you. The last verse is a great summary; “surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever”. So, as we live, and allow God’s blessings to flow from us to those around us, it has an impact in time as well – surely goodness and love will follow me – will continue to have an effect after I am gone. “I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever” is a reminder that our life on earth is only the beginning. God is working to restore us, and all of his creation, so that we may enjoy life with him forever, the way that He originally intended when he created us. Psalm 23 is about what it really means to be alive – alive in the context of God’s summary of the law – to love God above all and our neighbor as ourselves. He leads us through this life, sharing God’s blessing to those around us, so that all of his creation can be restored. I invite you always to remember its meaning.