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.
The only shepherd I have known well happened to be an Australian shepherd dog named Magic. He and his brother Hondo were born about the time I arrived at my first parish and brought much life and companionship to the parsonage which stood in the middle of a cow pasture. Bred to herd and protect, those two pups could surround my neighbor’s forty cows and keep them pinned in a circle.
When the days came when I had a tough decision to make about whether to accept a call to another congregation, Magic would sit by my side as I sat on the porch late at night—brooding, thinking, praying—seeming to understand and accept my searching soul.
Whatever one wants to say about Psalm 23, magnificent in its poetry, powerful in its words of comfort, perhaps more than anything it conveys the image of God the shepherd as a faithful companion, whose very nature is to protect and to walk beside us as we journey.
Great God, you who created us and continue to love that which you have made, thank you for walking beside us. Lead us to lives of service to others. Be there in the places of darkness. Fill us with your goodness and grace. Amen.