(A parady on Psalm 23 focusing only on us)
“The culture is my shepherd. So, I always want more. I stumble from mall to mall, then job to job,and then again, shrink to shrink, seeking relief but never finding any. I am trapped in the valley of the shadow of my own death. Do I feel sorry for myself? You betcha!
I fear everything from processed food, to power lines, to holding a cell phone to my ear., driving on N. 76 Street. I go down to the weekly staff meetings, and I am surrounded by those whom I’m convinced are out to get me. When I go home, even the dog scowls at me.
I anoint my head. I anoint my headache with extra-strength Tylenol, twice what the bottle prescribes. My beer mug runneth over. Surely misery and misfortune will always be my lot, and I will live in self-doubt and pain for the rest of my lonely, miserable life.” Amen.
I know I’m preaching to the choir this weekend but listen up anyway, please. Clear your heads (but not right now…but one day next week). Just imagine my imaginary tale. There is no church. There is no faith. There is no sacrificial lamb and there is no holy bread to nourish you for another week. Just imagine. There are no prayers, only pleas pleading to yourself…with all those pleading prayers directed to that one person. Being social beings, some of you would introduce yourselves to your neighbors, and slowly a dialogue about this “life thing” would emerge with numerous discussions, disagreements, and agreements. An early church gathering happens with others soon joining you.
I said I was preaching to the choir. We all have this place. We all have each other either by name or a smile entering and leaving the church. Centuries tested and tested each day again, just like the apostles.
Today’s gospel is a respite between two significant events. Before this passage, Jesus sent them out “two by two” to announce repentance and the coming Kingdom. How much dust did they kick from their feet from slamming doors or weird looks? Probably as much as the Mormons get from me knocking on my door. Those folks who welcome them? Feed, bathe, and offer them a bed during their time there. One apostle sheepishly asks, “My Master said not to bring a second tunic. Do you have a washing machine?” To which, the host replies, “It hasn’t been invented yet. Go find a river and a rock!”
After this passage, Jesus feeds thousands of them with a mere means of leftover food. Like “sheep without a shepherd,” we heard today. We honor this time-tested shepherd. We rely on this “good shepherd” through all of life’s low valleys and glorious mountains. To those inquiring, searching folks in my fable, it can only be genuine when it leads above and beyond… us.
The beauties and confusing stories found in the Bible are historically always before us…and, more often than not…living within us this very present day. What was the first published book? No, it wasn’t “Catcher in the Rye.”
(A contemporary interpretation on Psalm 23 focusing on the “Good Shepherd”)
“Oh Lord, you are my shepherd. I need nor desire anything more. I have my share of comforts knowing You are there offering peace. (Especially in the chaos, crises, and the unknown.) You calm my inner being and soul. I recognize your voice, God, encouraging me always to do the right thing. Even though life surrounds me by death, sickness, solitude, and unsafety, I am not afraid (But, honestly, really…sometimes I am.), for I trust that I am not alone. You are always prepared and keep watch; knowing this brings comfort to me even during my darkest days.
Even when it seems that others do not think of me or wish me well, You are there, providing and caring for me. When I feel down, You remind me of Your love; If I would only just look, I’d see my life has such goodness and blessing. May I always be able to identify kindness and goodness in life, both mine and in others. And forever, may I be in the presence of You, my good and only shepherd.” Amen.