An act of worship at home
Reading Psalm 23
The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures;
he leads me beside still waters; he restores my soul.
He leads me in right paths for his name’s sake.
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.
You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.
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.
Today I would like to share a personal response to this Psalm by Alison, a Minister after giving birth to Olivia, her second child.
After reading Psalm 23 she wrote this –
I had braced myself to deal with sleepless nights, endless crying, an aching body, and a stroppy two-year old. I could have coped with all that. But instead, I have found myself having to face other demons – and they have been brought out by my response to God’s love.
Psalm 23 celebrates God’s loving care, but how is this usually experienced? For most of us, most of the time, it is mediated through other people. And so it was after Olivia’s birth. A friend offered to arrange some meals but instead of some homemade soups we were provided with six weeks of meals delivered to our door along with offers to hoover, do dishes as well as others hanging out and taking in my laundry (which, as they know, I received with very bad grace).
For while I feel incredibly privileged to have this royal treatment, this time around I don’t ‘need’ it in the same way that I did with our first child.
I don’t really want a watchful shepherd looking out for me. I don’t really want to be loved by God. I find it hard enough to accept my husband’s love. How on earth can I accept the indescribable vastness of God’s love?
This love is too big and scary for me to accept. And this is why I have found it so difficult to accept my friends’ help. If I can ignore or reject the love of God’s people manifested in small and practical ways, then I can avoid the enormousness of God’s love in its raw and terrifying power and unfathomable depth.
Psalm 23 brought this home. The shepherd watched over me, and in doing so, told me I am worthy of such care. The shepherd made sure I did not want. The shepherd walked with me through the dark valley of childbirth and soothed my fear. The shepherd prepared a table of meals cooked by other people, and gave me another beautiful daughter to overwhelm me with love. Goodness and mercy are with me now – and I have to learn to accept them.
I have no idea how I’m going to do that! This testimony is not complete. But in telling this story, I take a step towards accepting the love that is so freely offered, and which I am so afraid to take. And in sharing this story, I ask you, as God’s people and fellow sheep, to help me.
We pray for the lost sheep of this world: for politicians striving to hang onto power and influence, for leaders of the nations who have forgotten to serve the common good.
We pray for the lost sheep of this world: for those who follow the fashions and frivolities of today at the expense of tomorrow, for those who get swept along by the crowd on tides of prejudice and easy judgements.
We pray for the lost sheep of this world: for those who wander off on their own, to escape from reality, for those who are led astray, away from safety and well-being.
We pray for the lost sheep of this world: for those who take what they have for granted,
for those who are unable to give thanks for the things they have.
The Lord’s my Shepherd, I’ll not want:
He makes me down to lie
In pastures green; He leadeth me
The quiet waters by.
My soul He doth restore again,
And me to walk doth make
Within the paths of righteousness,
E’en for His own name’s sake.
Yea, though I walk through death’s dark vale,
Yet will I fear no ill:
For Thou art with me, and Thy rod
And staff me comfort still.
My table Thou hast furnishèd
In presence of my foes;
My head Thou dost with oil anoint,
And my cup overflows.
Goodness and mercy all my life
Shall surely follow me;
And in God’s house for evermore
My dwelling-place shall be.
Lord, when we feel lost and confused…
When we are tired by caring for others…
When we’re tempted by the wolves…
When we’re enjoying good pasture and rest…
Send us out to be faithful sheep and bless us,
in the name of Christ our Lord. Amen.