May 11, 2014: The Universal Psalm

Let us pray: Dear Savior, we thank You for being the Good Shepherd of our souls and taking such wonderful care of us. You watch over us, tend to our every need, refresh us with love and compassion, and generally protect us from anything truly bad in this life. For such tender care we give You our thanks, praise, and allegiance. Amen

GRACE MERCY AND PEACE ARE YOURS FROM CHRIST, THE GOOD SHEPHERD OF OUR SOULS!

TEXT: Psalm 23

Dearly Beloved By Christ:

Back in the days of ancient history my senior class was preparing to graduate from high school. After all, May is the month of graduations in Minnesota. We all wore the usual caps and gowns. When it came time to try them on the day before the big event, something quite unusual was discovered. They were all the same size! Apparently someone at the rental place got the order wrong, and sent a medium sized gown and cap for everyone. It was actually very funny. The center on the basketball team looked like he was wearing a mini-skirt. Our shortest student’s gown dragged on the floor. The caps looked like giant mushrooms on some and tiny berets on others. Moral to the story: there is no universal size that fits all.

This past week I changed the plug on the lawn-mower. I took it out, journeyed to the store where I purchased it, and waited for a replacement. They didn’t have one, as the motor is now built in China. They had to order it and finally it arrived. It cost me a week of hassle. Gone are the days of universal spark plugs for lawnmowers! One size does not fit all.

Perhaps that’s why I really enjoy the 23rd Psalm and so do you. It’s the most beloved of all Psalms and the most recognizable. We love it because it really does fit everyone, it’s really:

THE UNIVERSAL PSALM

I

Of course, it was written by King David, who was a shepherd early in his life. And his opening words are very instructive: “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall lack for nothing.” Now we would all agree that the Lord, Jehovah, the Almighty God really is in charge of our lives. He proved it by sending us His Son, Jesus, to “lay down His life for the sheep” while hanging on a cross to save us. But don’t forget about those words: “I will lack for nothing.” Exactly what does that mean?

Wants, desires, and needs are all different. We may want to be millionaires, but few of us are—so does that mean God hasn’t kept His word? We may desire to be “forever young” and look like the models in those glossy ads, but few of us do—does that mean God lied here? What do you and I truly need in this life? Well, only God truly understands our needs fully, but generally we’d say: food, clothing, shelter, love, and a sense of purpose. Which one of those needs are you lacking right now? You’re all fairly well fed, some of us more than others! We all have more clothes than we can wear at any one time. We all have a roof over our heads. We’re all loved by someone, not to mention God Himself. And as to a sense of purpose, we all have responsibilities in life that God has laid upon us, including “loving your neighbor as yourself.” Yes, we lack for nothing! God is good!

II

May is the “green month.” So, the next words fit: “He makes me to lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul.” Your current job may appear to be a parched field of dry straw. Your hectic lifestyle may be anything but quiet. All of us could use a vacation and its restorative powers. And yet, God still provides. Maybe He’s opening new doors for work. Maybe He’s sending new ways for you to slow down and smell the roses. Be open to all the opportunities He sends your way. He loves you, His sheep. And Sunday worship is always a way to step back from the world, take stock of your life, and recharge, isn’t it? That’s what the “day of rest” means.

“He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.” In other words, for Jesus’ sake God nudges us into His pathways of rightness throughout our lives. He forgives our failings. He fixes our bad decisions and makes daily adjustments to our bad choices. He sees all, hears all, and fixes all because He’s our Good Shepherd. Paul’s words from Romans 8 fit here: “All things work together for good to those who love God.”

And what about the big stuff: namely death—our own or a loved one’s? Death is part of life. It is part of being mortal. In actuality, death is easy. You just pass from this world into another. And for the Christian, that “other” is glorious, eternal, and painfree. It’s the stuff leading up to death, the fear and uncertainty, the pain and feelings of loss that are the hard part. “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.” Christ’s rod and staff are not meant to inflict pain, but to nudge us along and away from genuine danger—the eternal kind that really does kill the soul. And Jesus knows all the pitfalls along the way of death because He’s already walked them in our place. Moreover, we’re never alone at such times. That’s His promise to us. Alone means fearful. With Him means comfort.

III

Food is the universal good times medicine. Food means life and it also means enjoyment. Eating the fullness of life when those who wish to deprive you of such enjoyment is a delicious dish. In heaven we will experience this fully, but even now it occurs. For happiness and fulfillment in life are a powerful antidote to naysayers. “You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies, you anoint my head with oil, my cup (of blessings) overflows.” Although we always seem to think blessings only come in large packages, never overlook the little packages. Most folks think a lot of money is a blessing. But, time with your kids, days with your loved ones, moments of introspection, sitting in the May sunshine and lounging—money cannot purchase these…..

One of my favorite words is: “languid.” It evokes summer sunshine, warmth, carefree days that just go on and on forever. That’s what comes to mind as I read these final words: “Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” What more could anyone want out of life? Yes, these universal truths are all found in the Universal Psalm. And your Good Shepherd, Jesus Christ, gives them to you, today. Amen