Today's Scripture Reading
The Lord Is My Shepherd
A Psalm of David.
23:1 The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
2 He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.
3 He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness
for his name's sake.
4 Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.
5 You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord
I was surprised to see Psalm 23 listed among the readings for the fourth Sunday of Easter. It had already been a reading for the fourth Sunday of Lent, not too many Sundays ago, and here it shows up during Eastertide. As I prepared for worship on the fourth Sunday of Easter, I wondered what the folks who put together the lectionary readings were thinking when they pointed us to Psalm 23 in this season.
In my preparation, I didn’t find a specific answer to my question. But with Marci McGowen’s devotion from May 6 in mind, I do see Psalm 23 as inviting us to come to Easter however we are feeling. Marci shared with us that she felt like she was still in Lent while her pastor’s sermon moved on to Easter, and ultimately discovering that church is for everyone, even those who aren’t in a place to celebrate.
Psalm 23 is a prayer by someone who has reason to celebrate. The psalmist isn’t in the midst of crisis, but rather knows from experience the care and comfort of God. The Shepherd provides food and drink, rest and comfort, in the wilderness journeys of life. The table is set; the host treats the guest with honor by anointing the guest with oil. There is enough, the cup overflows.
But the psalmist is not naïve. This prayer recognizes that there are valleys in life that are frightening or overwhelming or confusing. Sometimes those valleys seem like they will never end. There is evil. There are enemies. The celebration in Psalm 23, then, is not that Easter means life should be perfect from now on. The celebration is that God is with us whatever life throws at us.
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