By Pat Russell
"You Are With Me" – Psalm 23
Sermon by Pastor Bruce Spear, March 29, 2020
This last Sunday Pastor Bruce gave us some wonderful images from Psalm 23 to hold in our minds during these troublesome days. He spoke of the way Hebrew poetry is structured in a mountain format with the theme halfway through, like the peak of the mountain. The theme in this psalm by David is “You are with me.” This is the peak of the poem; this is the peak of our lives!
With that in mind he then pointed out three ways he is with us: he is a rod of protection; he nourishes us with green pastures and quiet waters; he blesses us in the midst of calamities.
If you would like to take this psalm more deeply into your thinking, feeling, and actions, use this exercise below to guide you. It is written by Jan Johnson who led me and others while on retreat. I have modified it somewhat to fit our situation.
Live in this passage and take it everywhere with you by memorizing it.
1. Pick the version you want to memorize. Feel free can pull favorite words from different versions.
2. Print it out, perhaps in large type, and carry it around with you.
3. Take some focused time to memorize it, which won’t be difficult because you’ve heard it so much. Go over it in your mind while you’re driving to pick up your grocery order.
4. Pray it back to God, especially when you feel uneasy. For example: O Lord, I really want to trust you as my shepherd who looks after my well-being. Help me to believe today that I have everything I need. You might want to pray it for someone else. For example: Help the suffering people in hospitals to have a sense of you as their shepherd. Please provide for each of them today every single thing they need, even when it looks impossible.
5. Interact with it.
Ø God as Protector, Provider, Doctor, Healer, Therapist, Good Parent who disciplines fairly, Rescuer, Companion, Delighted Manager. Make up a few more like that. (v. 1)
Ø You lying down carefree as can be in the midst of a rich pasture because you have everything you need. You walking beside water but not guzzling it because you have everything you need. (v. 2)
Ø Your soul restored rather than broken in any way. (Maybe: Your mind restored rather than broken in any way; your feelings restored rather than broken in any way, and so on with will, body, and social context.) (v. 3)
Ø You following Jesus down a path and knowing it’s good and makes sense. (v. 3b).
Ø You walking through a dark valley but God is your companion. You conscious of God guiding you, using circumstances, Scripture, people and others to protect you (as a rod) and rescue you (as a staff). (v. 4)
Ø You sitting with a difficult person, but knowing you have everything you need—that your cup overflows. (v. 5)
Ø You glad and content that Christ dwells in you and that you are “in Christ.” (v. 6)
If you wish, picture yourself believing this in a situation in which you are often afraid: listening to the news, reading the stock reports, rocking a sick child, or thinking about an elderly person you cannot visit. Enjoy moving out of stages in which your soul is on alert, to trusting the world is a perfectly safe place to be.
Images taken from Trusting God for Everything (by Jan Johnson).
If you would like to connect with me about “Going Deeper” or about living in these days of confinement and stress, feel free to email me.