Psalm 23 (NRSV)
Verse 1The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.
Verse 2He makes me lie down in green pastures; he leads me beside still waters;
Verse 3he restores my soul. He leads me in right paths for his name's sake.
Verse 4Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I fear no evil; for you are with me; your rod and your staff they comfort me.
Verse 5You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.
Verse 6Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord my whole life long.
These are not words of death.
Like most pastors, I’ve read these words at countless burials, memorials, and funerals. These well-worn words have already become like a favorite go-to tool in my nascent craft of ministry. Yet even though these are words so often associated with funerals, they are not words of death.
Listen how these words brim with life! For sheep like you and I, green pastures are . . . delicious! Still waters are great spots to fill a belly without falling into dangerous rapids. And right pathways are way better than getting lost.
But the psalm writer knows that life brims with challenges, too. Yet even there, in the challenges, in the pain, in the fear, the Lord never stops seeking life for you. The Shepherd guides you to a table and promises cups brimming with abundant life.
These are words of life.
Lord, lead us and guide us to delicious pastures, still waters, and brimming tables. Remind us that you walk with us in the dark places, guiding us to lives of goodness and mercy. Amen.