Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Places Fresh And Green

The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want. Fresh and green are the pastures where he gives me repose. Near restful waters he leads me, to revive my drooping spirit.

Psalm 23
You know, I'm finding my way on this new style of blogging, and certainly not quite sure of myself in it. One thing I may try to do from time to time is reflect on Scripture. I did that little series on the Lord's Prayer a few weeks ago, and people seemed to enjoy it. Certainly, if we are talking about the 'Ten Thousand Places' where we find the face of God, the Word of God provides more like ten million such.

And so I would like to take this most familiar of psalms and spend a few days with it. It is the one psalm that, if a person knows any Scripture at all, they probably know it, or at least the first lines of it. I believe this psalm is a sort of summary of the whole of the Bible. Certainly Jesus takes it up into his own mystery and the very depths of the Christian revelation by calling Himself the Good Shepherd and linking his shepherding work to his dying for his sheep.

It seems to me timely that, as we have lost (sort of) our German Shepherd, and wait with bated breath for the cardinals to select a new shepherd to serve in that capacity, meanwhile confronted again with the painful spectacle of Church leaders falling prey to sin and failure, that a good long contemplation of Christ the Good Shepherd is timely.

The Lord is my shepherd - there is nothing I shall want. Now, that's a statement of faith for you. Do you want anything? Anything at all? Got all you need? Faith answers that question one way; our frail and faithless humanity answers something else entirely.We seem to ourselves to need all kinds of things: if not food and drink, then friendship and love. If not shelter and clothing, then financial security and a decent job prospect.

Need, need, need... well, we have to choose ultimately, what we really believe about all this. If the Lord is our shepherd, then we shall not want. Indeed, we do not want - in Hebrew, the verb tenses are indeterminate, to say the least. God is giving me what I need right now. God is giving you what you need right now, even if what you need may apparently look like a whole lot of things that are unpleasant and mysterious. Who needs cancer, or unemployment, or a bad relationship, or mental illness? Maybe you do... for reasons far from clear to you or to me.

Fresh and green are the pastures where he gives me repose. This is a question of our prayer, I believe. Sometimes God gives us very tangible pastures, overtly beautiful resting places. But more often than not he opens those pasture gates for us in the interior recesses of our being, the pastures of the heart which, if we truly surrender to his leading, become the gateways to the pastures of His Heart. And sometimes it is in trackless wilderness or choking desert or frozen wastelands where those hidden pastures can bloom most verdantly. It is a question of trust, of surrender, and of ceaseless prayer.

Near restful waters he leads me, to revive my drooping spirit. The sacraments have been described using that language many times over the centuries. This whole business of life coming into us from without us - the whole reality of grace, of gift, of refreshing streams penetrating our souls from without, from the great Without which is the true Within - the heart of the Trinity.

I love Psalm 23 because it uses language and image that a child can understand and commit to memory, yet ushers us into mystical heights and depths that are boundless. We will pray this Psalm in heaven, I am sure, and understand it all the better there. Meanwhile, on earth, let's see where the next days take us with it.

1 comment:

  1. To add from my own life. I can attest to the experience as you describe but I recognize when I do turn from want and need to the security of including his presence through such things as praise and worship I often find I experience the joy of His Light shining through me penetrating my issues of want and need in a healing way. In the presence of darkness and uncertainty I am secure in the green pasture and the security of his guidance. When I am in my "do it myself" mode my walk through the pasture includes anxiety and fear.


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