Sacred Shepherdology

On May 7, 2017, in Sunshine Cathedral, by Rev.Dr. Robert

Sacred Shepherdology Psalm 23 Easter 4, 2017 Rev. Dr. Durrell Watkins, Senior Minister The Lord is my shepherd. I need that word today. The Lord is my shepherd. “LORD” in the text is in all caps, which means it is replacing the word Yahweh, which is the I Am…I Am what I am; I will […]

Sacred Shepherdology
Psalm 23
Easter 4, 2017
Rev. Dr. Durrell Watkins, Senior Minister

The Lord is my shepherd. I need that word today. The Lord is my shepherd.
“LORD” in the text is in all caps, which means it is replacing the word Yahweh, which is the I Am…I Am what I am; I will be what I will be; I am that which is. So, the Lord is my shepherd means that wherever we are, God is.

When we hear, the Lord is my shepherd…that’s actually saying that we can’t be separated from God’s love. We are never alone. Whatever we face, we face held by love and grace. The Lord is my shepherd. Like I said, I need that reminder sometimes; I need it today.

So, that’s a lot is packed into that one word: Lord. But there’s a lot to that word “shepherd”, also.

Remember, every Xmas, we revisit the story of angels visiting shepherds. Shepherds work hard, and spend a lot of time outdoors no matter how hot or cold or damp or dry the weather may be. Shepherds are not the elite. Oh there are other times in scripture when God is a solid rock, a grand castle, a beautiful rainbow, a doting mother, or a fierce warrior…but in our most famous psalm, the Great I Am is portrayed with rather a humble image. The Lord is my shepherd.

If you feel lowly, discounted, left out, targeted, disposable…guess what. The Lord is your SHEPHERD. If you feel lowly, God is with the lowly, shows up as lowly as we may need – God is our shepherd.
When you are down and out, remember that even in that state you are made in the divine image.
If you feel down and out, the good news is God is the God of the down and out. God is a shepherd…God lives with the sheep. God loves the sheep. God cares about the sheep. God spends every minute concerned for the sheep.
When you feel as if the world is against you, as if your government, your family, your own body has betrayed you, as if you are a helpless lamb…the good news is The Lord is our shepherd. The omnipresent I AM is present with me just as I AM…the lord is my shepherd.

Does God want every person fed?
Does God want every person to live in safety and with dignity?
Does God want every person to have access to medical care?
Does God want people to have equal protection and equal opportunity no matter where they are from or how they pray or who they love?
The answer is, “The Lord is my shepherd.”
The shepherd doesn’t abandon any lamb. The shepherd does all she can for every lamb. Does God want you to have liberty, justice, hope, peace, joy, love, healing? The answer is clear. The Lord is your shepherd!

Let’s look at each line of the psalm this morning. It really is, or can be, very empowering.

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. (Omnipresent love is with us, what more do we need?)

God makes me to lie down in green pastures and leads me beside the still waters
(those are comforting images. Things aren’t always as we wish they were, but God is present to offer comfort and guidance…in God we find rest and refreshment so we can continue the journey).

God restores my soul.
(When our souls, our dignity, our personhood is attacked by religious leaders and politicians who treat us as topics for debate rather than children of God, when they try to control our bodies, deny the complexities of gender variance, or discriminate against people for being same-gender loving…when they attack our souls, God restores our souls! The deck may seem stacked lately in favor of fundamentalism and against basic human compassion, but we’ve lived through such times before…these days will give way to better ones, and while we work and wait, God restores our souls!).

God leads me in the right paths for the sake of God’s own goodness
(we who choose the progressive spiritual path are being led to justice and healing, which is always the will of God).

Yes, even if I should walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil for God is with me…the Shepherd’s rod and staff comfort me
(some may not see my sacred value, some may not think I deserve equality, that my rights are as important as their prejudices, but what they don’t know is that God loves what they refuse to love, the Shepherd is with me and is sharing the tools with me that I need to survive any onslaught of hate, bigotry, or ill-will).

God prepares a table before me in the presence of my enemies, anoints my head with scented oil, fills my cup to overflowing
(that is, there are those who don’t want me at the table, or even in the room, or in the hospital, or in the school, or in the country, or in the wedding chapel…they don’t want me but God wants the best for me…not only does God say i have a place at the table, God says the table is set in my honor! Your honor! And those who hated us and called it love, who discriminated against us and called it religious freedom, who said we didn’t deserve living wages and adequate care, marriage equality or clean water and air…they will one day, in this life or the next, realize that God loves us every bit as much as God loves them, God’s love excludes no one for any reason, and when they defend their cruelty in the name of God, they are using God’s name in vain).

And the last verse: Surely, certainly, you can count on it…Goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever
(so many people try to use religion to keep us out or in line or beaten down…but the God who is omnipresent Love offers us only goodness and grace and there is nothing that can ever separate us from the loving heart of God).

Finally, I want to point out that the 23rd psalm is an affirmative prayer. The psalmist doesn’t beg God to be kind or present or loving or generous…the psalmist declares that’s what God is. The prayer is an affirmation of the goodness of God which helps the one saying the prayer then trust in that goodness.

The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. God makes me to lie down in green pastures and leads me beside the still waters. God restores my soul. God leads me in the right paths for the sake of God’s own goodness. Yes, even if I should walk through the valley of the shadow of death I will fear no evil, for God is with me; the Shepherd’s rod and staff comfort me. God prepares a table before me in the presence of my enemies, anoints my head with scented oil, and fills my cup to overflowing. Surely, goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.

And so will you, and this is the good news! Amen.
© Durrell Watkins 2017

The light of God surrounds me;
the love of God enfolds me.
The power of God protects me;
the presence of God watches over me.
Wherever I am, God is, and all is well.
Amen.

 

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