Psalm 23 is familiar to most churchgoers. Read aloud on some of the most somber of occasions, it reflects the believer’s spiritual journey here on earth as well as one’s future residence in heaven. The psalm provides us with words of assurance, comfort, compassion, and love within a relationship with the good and faithful shepherd. It mirrors this divine relationship in rich and grand ways—for example, the strength and support found when one relies on God for direction and guidance; the reconciliation offered during table fellowship with those we disagree with; and an anointing of God’s blessings for our personal and communal restoration.
To say that God is the good shepherd is implied in the psalm. For those who would question whether God is benevolent, the psalmist and the Christian can say with utmost biblical authority, “Yes, God is!” The psalmist most likely understood that his readers would know that sheep needed lush grass to forage in—a challenge, to say the least, for a shepherd to find among erratic, winter rains in parts of Palestine. But God, the good shepherd, knows where to find green pastures and leads the sheep to such a place of nourishment. We too find rest and nourishment for our souls as we “lie down in green pastures.” Thus, the preacher on Sunday morning can exclaim, “God is good!” and hear the resounding response from the congregation, “All the time!”
Our passage today reminds us that God is present indeed! It’s easy to get lost amid the ambient noises in our lives—a backdrop of distractions and busyness. However, we aren’t alone as we experience the “valleys” in our lives. During those arid seasons of faith, we traverse the desert landscape as the good shepherd leads us toward a heavenly oasis filled with vegetation, water, and rest for our souls.
God, good and faithful shepherd, carry me toward lush pastures so I can find rest for my soul. Amen.
This week’s readings open with a confrontation in Acts between Peter and John and some of the religious leaders. Peter speaks in harsh terms to the leaders, stating that they had killed Jesus; yet by the power of Jesus’ name, a man who could not walk has been healed. By that same name spiritual healing happens as well. The other three passages employ the metaphor of the Good Shepherd. “The Lord is my shepherd,” the psalmist declares, and the shepherd cares for all our needs. In John’s Gospel, Jesus declares that he is the Good Shepherd who lays down his life for his sheep. First John repeats this imagery. Jesus proved his love when he lay down his life for us. If we truly love one another, we also ought to sacrifice in tangible ways
Read Acts 4:5-12. When have you gotten into difficulty for exercising your Christian faith and values? If never, why not?
Read Psalm 23. What is your first memory of hearing or reading this psalm? Has it had a significant role in your life of faith? If so, what has its role been?
Read 1 John 3:16-24. How do your actions reflect your love for God and for your fellow children of God?
Read John 10:11-18. What “wolves” have you faced in your life? How have you experienced the presence of the Good Shepherd with you as you faced these threats?
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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