Wednesday of Pentecost 20– Psalm 23

1 The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
    He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.
    He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness
    for his name’s sake.

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
    I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
    your rod and your staff,
    they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me
    in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
    my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
    all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord

I started writing these devotions for the days of the pandemic when we could not meet. Even when we could gather again, people asked me to continue. I pray they have been a blessing to you. Writing them has been good for me. When one writes something, one always wonders what happens to it. I have gotten many thank you notes and emails from folks who have benefited from my devotions. Technology and human kindness have allowed me to see a little bit of where they have landed. Thank you to all of you who have been in touch.

Today we have before us what I think is the most successful poem ever written. It was penned by King David, fully 3,000 years ago. I will be surprised if anyone is reading my devotions from this week a year from now. David’s poem is not only still published, but also popular. People who otherwise do not read poetry often have a little plaque or picture with these words inscribed hanging somewhere in their house. These are the words of comfort folks turn to when they are in the hospital, facing death, or alone and afraid. I have encountered this Psalm printed on posters in college dorm rooms and framed on the walls of nursing homes. We have lots of poetry from that time. Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey are roughly as old. We have some poetry from the Middle East that is even older. You will not, however, find plates and posters bearing the words of Homer or the Gilgamesh epic hanging in many homes. David is arguably the most successful poet who ever lived.

What does one say about such passage? Perhaps the less said, the better. You do not need me to make these words meaningful. But if you would indulge me, re-read these words slowly and deliberately. Emphasize the personal pronouns in each line: “The Lord is MY shepherd…” I learned this from a dear friend of mine, Len Galster, who now rests in Jesus. Today, he knows these things by sight, no longer by faith. You and I, however, still need these ancient words of David to remind us of what God has promised us. He is my shepherd. I shall not want.

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