Text – Psalm 23:
The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.
2 He makes me lie down in green pastures;
he leads me beside still waters;
3 he restores my soul.
He leads me in right paths
for his name’s sake.
4 Even though I walk through the darkest valley,
I fear no evil;
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff—
they comfort me.
5 You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord
my whole life long.
Psalm 23 is an appropriate text to consider both as a Lenten thought as well as a commentary on our fraught pandemic times. This Psalm is thought to have been written by David and it is easy to visualizing his own life and how God had been shepherd to him throughout that life: as a young king learning how to lead his people, during times of war, after his grievous sin with Bathsheba, and when he lost his son, Absolom, to war.
Similarly, Lent prompts us to think deeply about how God has been shepherd to us as well, during times of personal failure, during times of loss, and as we look for meaning when life seems chaotic. Truly, the Lord is our shepherd at such times.
David reflects on the attentions that God gives to God’s sheep. He feeds them, attends to their wounds, and protects them from predators. It is easy to think at such times about the warnings we receive from Peter who spoke of Satan as a “roaring lion seeking whom he will devour.” 1 Peter 5:8. Or God’s warning to Cain that “sin was lurking at the door and its desire is for you,” Genesis 4:7.
We are offered, however, a shepherd’s feast – clear, thirst-quenching water, delicious food, free from dangers, in a setting with no predators. Let is pray that, in Lent, we feast on what God has for us and drive away lurking dangers of the world.
O Eternal Shepherd, how we love grazing in your pastures. Assured, fed, and protected from predators. We confess that sometimes the pastures around us look greener, but we know they are not. Nor do the other shepherds care for the sheep in the way you do. So in this time of Lent, help us to remember our need for you. Forgive us of our wrongs, and lead us in the everlasting Way. In Jesus’ name I pray this. Amen.