A Psalm of David.
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.
If there was ever a perfect time for this psalm to show up in the lectionary, it is now.
I’ve sat down to write on this text three times now. I keep getting distracted. It’s quiet here in the office these days. More so than usual. And when it’s too quiet the mind wanders, kind of like sheep. “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.” What else should I be doing right now? Have I heard from this person? Let me look up their number. Let me call them. I wonder if there are any news updates? I’ll check Twitter. “The Lord is my shepherd…” Oh yeah. I should be writing. I wonder if anyone I know is sick? What if I get sick? What if the baby gets sick? “The Lord is my shepherd.”
Psalm 23 may be one of the most familiar passages of scripture to many of us. It is a staple of Christian funerals and comes up in the lectionary a couple times a year. It’s a Psalm for times of crisis. It speaks of hope and trust in the midst of darkness and fear. It speaks comfort to mourners, safety to those in chaos, peace to anxious times. It is full of the promise of God’s presence in times of struggle and suffering. “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.” “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, thou art with me.” “My cup runneth over.” “Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” This is the kind of stuff we need to hear all the time, but especially in days like today.
Maybe you’re home alone, isolated from friends and family to keep yourself and others safe from spreading the virus. Maybe all you have for company is the talking heads on the TV which tells us that things are getting worse, and will continue to get worse, before they are better. Or maybe you have recently lost your job because non-essential businesses are closing. Or maybe you have to go to one of those essential jobs, and risk getting infected yourself. This Psalm is for you. Even now, in all of this, the Lord is your shepherd. Yea, though you walk through the valley of the shadow of death. Fear not. God is with you.
In this season we’re in it is extremely easy to become distracted and overwhelmed. I am feeling that way literally every day, several times a day. This Psalm speaks a beautiful word of calm for me when my brain, like a sheep, begins to wander. “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.”
Pick a phrase from this psalm. “The Lord is my shepherd”, or “Yea, though I walk through the valley”, or “my cup runs over,” any phrase that brings you a sense of comfort in these days of fear and anxiety. Write it on your mirror. Put a sticky note on your lap-top screen (that’s what I did) or your dashboard, or anywhere where you will see it often. Let this Psalm feed you throughout this week.
I pray for you all daily. Please keep reaching out to one another. Write letters and make calls and remind each other that yes, God is with us in this darkest valley, and we are here for each other too.
God is with you,
Pastor Shea Berbaum