With God by Our Side
“even when I walk through the darkest valleys, I will fear no evil…” Psalm 23
The 23rd Psalm is the most well-known Psalm of the Hebraic Psalter. It brings solace in the times of “darkest valleys”. Our hope is that God’s living presence is with us through all we face as a community.
“The Lord is my Shepherd” is that affirmation that God “keeps us”, “looks after us” and “will protect us”. This past Sunday I asked our community to vote to suspend our meeting together as a church for at least 2-weeks. Prayerfully, I explained the dire emergency which would soon be upon us and we voted “unanimously” to support our community’s health. I want to thank everyone for what I know was a difficult vote.
“I shall not want” … at the same time, I asked everyone to be conscious of our church’s needs financially by helping with cash flow, if people were able to help. Our contributions this week were up substantially. I appreciate everyone’s thoughtfulness.
“He leads me beside still (quiet) waters”. This passage is recognition that “Sheep” are afraid of being carried away in swift waters (roaring rivers), so Good Shepherd seek to provide still or quiet waters. The Shepherd seeks out, then guides his sheep to these refreshing places. It is also a fact that, in the early morning, when conditions are right, dew forms on grass and sheep who eat that moisture-laden grass are hydrated for the entire day. I hope everyone is taking this time of quarantine as a “quiet time” for prayer, devotion, meditation. In our harried lives it is rare to have time set aside for refreshment.
“He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake” means that God will open up new ways for us to travel, leading us with ongoing presence. We will be opening a social platform (“ZOOM”), for people who would like to join remotely and safely (by computer). Later today, we hope to have a “trial run”, informing anyone interested in how to ‘connect’.
“Even though I walk through the Valley of the Shadow of Death (‘darkest valleys’), I fear no evil, for God is with me, God’s rod and staff comfort me”. This is recognition that God’s love is with us so there is nothing to fear. In fact, the entire 23rd Psalm is in the ‘present tense’ (with the exception of the line which is present-future tense). It says, the Living God is always present, always available as our circumstances change. Therefore, as I explained on Sunday, there is NO need to panic … No reason to hoard toilet paper! God’s presence (today in medical technology, first-responders, updated information, a political body working across the aisle (who would have thought!) is living and real. I have heard religious groups saying, “this is God’s punishment” (to my horror); I would say, “God’s got us all thinking of our communities, the most-vulnerable (the least of these), and our loved ones” as never before.
“You prepare a table before me, in the presence of my enemies.” This week I witness the adaptability and commitment of our Church in action. Paul and Sylvia Weld implemented ‘sterile procedures’ to keep our Pantry open and our community fed. People were allowed to pull up in cars, have food stuffs available and each board and information chart signed and sterilized before being returned to the building. Another Pantry worker has provided food to people lost, living in their car, on Rte. 16. “Preparing the Table” is language Shepherds know well. The go in advance of their sheep, remove the thistles, plants, and scorpion nests that would threaten their flock, and then lead them to ‘greener pastures’.
“You anoint my head with oil, my cup runs over” is a reference to this week’s lectionary in Samuel, when the prophet learns that David’s brothers, by outward appearance, were NOT the choice of God. God sees the “heart of the matter”. David realizes in this Psalm, ‘God’s ways are not our ways’. God blesses David, and will continue to bless him, in ways he cannot imagine or yet comprehend. We should not fear, for our God is at work in our lives in miraculous ways which will be evident in the future.
“Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me, all the days of my life, until I dwell in the House of the Lord, forever.” The word “shall follow” is actually more properly translated “pursued me”, as a detective pursues the truth. ‘Goodness and Mercy’ miraculously pursue us, even when we believe we are not worthy of it or cannot comprehend it. This is ultimate faith. We are not fearful of our world because our God will be there in the future to bless us.
Thank you all for your continued faith and commitment,
Rev. John Hughes <’}>< <’}}><< <’}}}><<<<