The King of love my shepherd is,
whose goodness faileth never;
I nothing lack if I am his
and he is mine forever.
Where streams of living water flow,
my ransomed soul he leadeth
and, where the verdant pastures grow,
with food celestial feedeth.
Perverse and foolish oft I strayed,
but yet in love he sought me,
and on his shoulder gently laid,
and home, rejoicing, brought me.
In death's dark vale I fear no ill,
with thee, dear Lord, beside me,
thy rod and staff my comfort still;
thy cross before to guide me.
Thou spreadst a table in my sight;
thine unction grace bestoweth;
and, oh, what transport of delight
from thy pure chalice floweth!
And so, through all the length of days,
thy goodness faileth never.
Good Shepherd, may I sing thy praise
within thy house forever.
"The King of Love My Shepherd Is" is a paraphrase of Psalm 23. Though Psalm 23 is not part of the lectionary readings for this week, it is undeniably among the images in the room. Ezekiel 34, Psalm 95 and Matthew 25 all draw on the metaphoric language of the shepherd-sheep relationship most associated with Psalm 23. The hymn connects the metaphor for God as king to that of a shepherd; this same connection was made in Psalm 95. The masculine and monarchical language for God is problematic on its own, which is why some faith communities move away from the title, "Christ the King Sunday," to something like, "The Reign of Christ Sunday."
But if the metaphor of "king" can be saved at all on this festival day, it is if it points us to a God who is king of love. Divine love usurps our notions of earthly rulers and ascribes to God an altogether different kind of power--a power grounded in goodness, manifested in mercy and laden in love.
We pray: "The King of love, our shepherd is, whose goodness faileth never."
And the God of love responds: "Nothing will you lack, for you are mine, and I am yours forever." Amen.