4th Sunday of Easter / children’s musical?
Psalm 23 (NRSV)
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 right paths for his name’s sake.
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.
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 my whole life long.
Can there be a more familiar part of the Bible than Psalm 23? In our lectionary study group, we discovered that we could pretty much recite the whole thing from memory. Sometimes children’s Bibles will put Psalm 23 on a special page, maybe with a picture of Jesus (the Good Shepherd) carrying a sheep. We want our children to hear these comforting words, that God is always with us, always caring for us. We also hear Psalm 23 at funerals. The promise of God being with us “in the valley of the shadow of death” (in the older translation) is especially comforting at times of death. All of this is good stuff—and we need to hear all of it: that we are loved, cared for, granted rest, led in right paths, comforted, and so on—all by God. But one little piece strikes me as particularly interesting: “You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.” We spent a lot of time talking about that one. Does it mean that I can sit down and eat and be safe, even though I’m surrounded by enemies, because God will protect me? Does it mean that I get to eat and my enemies DO NOT—they starve and I get to dance on their graves? Or does it mean that God sets a table and invites us all to sit down together—me AND my enemies—to make them no longer enemies but friends? I think this last one is closer to the truth, and that means Psalm 23, in addition to being one of the most comforting texts in all of scripture, is also one of the most challenging because we’re invited to make peace with our enemies!