It’s not often that we read from the King James translation of the Bible on a Sunday morning. Most often we read from the New Revised Standard translation (our pew bibles) that has gender-inclusive language. Sometimes we read from The Message translation that has “current, fresh, and understandable” language. But this morning was different — we were reading the 23rd Psalm, and it just doesn’t sound right unless it’s the language of “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down, …” I didn’t grow up in a church that asked us to memorize scripture — but I grew up knowing this passage by heart. Perhaps you can still recite it too. Though this psalm is an appropriate one to read at funerals and memorial services, I believe it can be even more critical for us when we are in the midst of life.
Have you ever been scared? Really scared? Have you ever felt all alone and overwhelmed? Have you walked that valley filled with shadows? The writer of the psalm has, and he learned to trust that his Good Shepherd God was walking with him. He laments that he’s in a darker place than he ever imagined he’d be and God answered: The darkness will not win. One of our children said it best this morning in Young Disciples Moment, sometimes I think there are monsters in my closet when I go to bed, but when my mommy comes in, I’m not scared of them. Just as God is like the Good Shepherd who tends to his sheep 24/7, God is also like that mommy.
It’s generally believed that King David wrote the 23rd Psalm. David who knew pain and darkness much of which was his own making. And if it wasn’t David who wrote it — whoever actually first spoke the words of this psalm; they were spoken from personal experience of being really really afraid. And his experience was this:
One man’s testimony has endured and inspired and comforted and led people to The Good Shepherd – our God — for centuries. I’m quite sure the ancient Psalmist is not the only one who could inspire us. As a pastor privy to people’s experiences of walking through darkness, I I know many who have been really scared and yet have known and felt the presence of God walking through the darkness with them. I believe the darkness is not quite so frightening the next time because you know that you have been lost and found. Can you imagine the effect your words could be to someone who just knows about the lost and not the found?
I challenge and encourage you to use your words to make a difference in someone’s life. To close this posting — and as I closed my sermon this morning — here is an improvisation I found on the 23rd Psalm. Her words inspired me this week as I prepared to preach. Perhaps they will encourage you too. Maybe you’ll spend some time writing your own. Who knows how critical those words will be to you the next time the darkness comes?
I am a child of God
I have everything I need.
This beautiful earth feeds my body.
You feed my soul.
You guide me in the ways of Life,
for You are Life.
And though I will walk through dark places, and eventually to death,
I need never be afraid.
For You are with me always,
In You I can find comfort.
With Your help, I can face whatever comes.
My joy overflows.
Your goodness and blessing will be with me
Every day of my life — and forever.
Christine Robinson, 2006.