I was scheduled to serve at St. John's this morning, and experience has told me to always be ready for anything. And with this being the "Sunday AFTER" the public resignation, and the Sunday WITH the Bishop... well, better be prepared.
As I read, I started thinking... OK, What's going on here: Tabitha, who is Dorcas, is raised from the dead... the Revelation reading has the multitude robed in white having washed their robes in the blood of the Lamb, wiping away every tear... and, of course, there is the 23rd Psalm. Death and resurrection, tears and still waters. Is this a funeral?
Of all the readings, I was interested that the 23rd Psalm was what "popped out" at me. It is so well known... even to people who aren't in church every Sunday. All you have to do is watch the beginning of "The Vicar of Dibley" and you'll hear a sweet young voice lifted in song: "The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures..."
Still, even having heard the words of this psalm repeatedly to the point of "yawn", today I couldn't help but pay attention to the message I think it is trying to communicate:
The LORD is my shepherd; *
I shall not be in want.
Let's just stop there. Who is my shepherd? Is it money? Is it my spouse? Is it my boss? Or... in the situation on hand for us at St. John's... is it the Bishop? NO! The answer is the Lord is the shepherd. Follow, and trust in, that source. Moving on...
2 He makes me lie down in green pastures *
and leads me beside still waters.
3 He revives my soul *
and guides me along right pathways for his Name's sake.
So, those two verses speak to the nourishment that comes from a faith rooted in God... and not those things which will fail. To be made to "lie down" in green pastures has always suggested "death" to me. But maybe it's not a physical death. Maybe it's the lying down of the old self into something rich and lush that leads to the soul being revived and guided along the path that God is leading each of us on. Just my thoughts.
4 Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I shall fear no evil; *
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
Translation: "Life sucks, but I will not let it suck the eternal life out of me."
5 You spread a table before me in the presence of those
who trouble me; *
you have anointed my head with oil,
and my cup is running over.
This verse was a particularly stirring one. I have this image of a huge banquet table with all the best food and wine... and it is there with a seat that is for me to sit in... while on the other side of the table, I see the ones who do not welcome me to this table. And yet, they are there, too. And I know that they are seeing me... and having the same response to me that I have to them. And yet both of us have been anointed on the head with oil (perhaps the seal as one of Christ's own forever?) and our cups are full to the point of over-filled. I also thought of "my cup is running over" as being a good line for how I've been feeling lately: overcommitted and stretched thin. And yet still finding the sustenance to keep extending.
6 Surely your goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days
of my life, *
and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever.
With all of the above, if I am true to my end of the bargain, then I will feel that goodness and mercy that God is always giving and granting and delighting in when we discover it. "Dwell in the House of the Lord": this is a phrase that could go to so many places. But my immediate vision is that I will be filled with God's love... and live that love out loud through my body (the house).
Suddenly, a Psalm that I thought was such a downer becomes a real upper. Or more than that: a reminder and a touchstone to never forget God, and to do what I can to live a life that celebrates the Divinity within.