Many memorial services or services of death and resurrection
employ this psalm to bring comfort and hope to the
grieving. The psalm acknowledges the presence of grief, of going
through dark places, of facing the reality of loss and death. Yet, it
offers profound comfort and hope. God is with us through it all.

Many of us have been sustained by the memorizing of the
old King James verse, “Yea, though I walk through the valley of
the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me.”
Death causes a jumble of feelings and emotions, deep valleys
and dark shadows. Yet the psalm carries a promise of moving
through the chaos, walking through the valleys. We may
journey there for a while; we may return there suddenly when
memories evoke a strong pang of loss, but we do not live forever
in the valley of death. And we don’t walk in the shadows alone.

One friend who was grieving the tragic death of her thirty-
year-old daughter from melanoma told me of looking out
over the water one night not long after her daughter had been
buried and seeing three lighted crosses shining on the water.
She received it as a sign of God’s presence for her and for her
daughter. Yes, they were the masts of three nighttime fishing
boats, but it felt like comfort to her. God was with her.

The psalm ends with household comforts, a grace-filled
welcome, a place at the table, a cup that overflows. From the
fields and streams in the first verses to the tables of plenty in
God’s presence, the psalm radiates assurance, comfort, and hope
in all times and seasons.

Loving God, set a table in my heart for you and for strangers and friends—a big, welcoming table of abundance, kindness, and joy. Give me that openness of spirit and quiet assurance that we will celebrate together for a long time—even forever. Amen.

Pray the Scriptures Using Audio Lectio
Read John 9:1-41

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Lectionary Week
March 20–26, 2017
Scripture Overview

First Samuel 16 reminds us of the bold risk that Yahweh took in the anointing of this young and unheralded shepherd. If 1 Samuel 16 causes us to wonder about the adequacy of all human shepherds, Psalm 23 reassures us that one Shepherd never fails. The New Testament passages consider the tension between light and darkness as a metaphor for the conflict between good and evil. In Ephesians 5, the struggle has already been resolved but takes seriously the continuing problem of sin. By means of the love and presence of Jesus Christ, even the power of evil cannot withstand the light. Then John 9 emphasizes the power of Christ as a bringer of light in the story of the man born blind.

Questions and Suggestions for Reflection

• Read 1 Samuel 16:1-13. How often do you allow external appearances to affect your decisions? In what ways are you learning to look on the heart?
• Read Psalm 23. When do you take time for yourself by slowing your pace, breathing deeply, and allowing God to restore your soul? How might this become a daily habit?
• Read Ephesians 5:8-14. How do you discover what pleases God? How does your living reflect your discovery?
• Read John 9:1-41. When have you experienced a “healing” that brought you back into community—either at home, work, or faith setting?

Respond by posting a prayer.

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