This part of Psalm 23 may mystify the young child who learns
this scripture by heart as a prayer. But as that child matures,
the invitation to the Lord’s banquet of bountiful grace and nourishment
will be experienced in real, living human community.
Sooner or later, we are positioned to break bread in the presence
of someone we believe to be our adversary. And Jesus, our good
shepherd, leads the way to transforming love by reminding us
that love for our enemies will be one of the ways we are recognized
as his beloved flock. (See Matthew 5:43-48.)
The house of the Lord, where we hope to dwell both on
earth and in heaven, brings together all of the human family—
the ones we like, the ones who are like us, and the ones we
fear, especially the ones we believe are not like us. We humans
draw these lines readily, in our families and in nations, often to
our peril. Jesus knows that it may be a saving grace when an
“enemy” like the Samaritan crosses the road to rescue a Jewish
man left for dead, bringing first aid and underwriting the cost
of his ongoing health care. (See Luke 10:25-37.) We glimpse
the overflowing love of the table of our Lord when we recall
stories like this and when we courageously follow Jesus into
relationships like these that reveal communities of God’s justice
How can we grow in this profound practice of love? The
psalmist describes feeling at home with God as he dwells in
the world. Trusting God’s powerful guidance and unconditional
love anchors each follower of Jesus as we face every opponent.
Find and be found in God’s presence by prayer and by praise at
the table where enemies can become friends.
Lord, may we feast in your overflowing abundance, especially in living relationship with our adversaries. Forgive us as we forgive others the injuries we cause one another. Amen.
Three of the texts use the image of shepherd and sheep. Psalm 23 and John 10 picture the familiar relationship of trust that sheep exhibit toward the shep- herd. The shepherd places himself between the dependent sheep and the aggressive enemy to ward off destruction and exploitation. John 10 and 1 Peter 2 introduce the costly price paid for protection. The sheep’s safety comes with immense and undeserved sacrifice. In 1 Peter 2, the shepherd’s sacrifice makes possible the return of wayward sheep who have wandered away from the shepherd’s protection.
• Read Acts 2:42-47. How has joining with other believers in prayer, fellowship, and study strengthened your faith?
• Read Psalm 23. What narrow passages of life have you navigated? Upon whom did you depend during that time?
• Read 1 Peter 2:19-25. When have you encountered unjust suffering? What redemptive value did it hold for you?
• Read John 10:1-10. “I am the gate. Whoever enters through me will be saved.” How have you allowed Jesus to be the gate to your discipleship?
Respond by posting a prayer.
I join many of those who will pray for you as you seek to discern what you are called to be at this moment. May God grant you the courage to fulfill that calling. May we all open our eyes and see the misery, open our ears and hear the cries of God’s people, and, like God through the Lord Jesus Christ, be incarnate amongst them.”
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