The congregation I serve faced a lot of death and dying during the season of Lent. In addition to losing a few beloved congregational members, we also received a larger than normal number of requests for funerals from the surrounding community. Many congregations seem to go through such seasons. As it turned out, we held memorial services every week during Lent, sometimes multiple services in a weekend. Of course, almost every service included a reading of Psalm 23. There is something timeless and hopeful about these familiar words: "Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I fear no evil; for you are with me." We take comfort in knowing that even though God as our shepherd cannot circumvent the darkest valleys for us, God does stay with us. We have no need to fear the unknown--even the unknown of death--because there is no place where God's love cannot find us.
God, our shepherd, thank you for your faithfulness to us in all the seasons of our lives. Give us strength to let go of our fear so that we can follow you with open, trusting hearts. Amen.
Psalm 23 (NRSV)
1 The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.
2 He makes me lie down in green pastures; he leads me beside still waters;
3 he restores my soul. He leads me in right paths for his name's sake.
4 Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I fear no evil; for you are with me; your rod and your staff-- they comfort me
5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.
6 Surely 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.