Having a Shepherd, Being a Shepherd

Having a Shepherd, Being a Shepherd

At our zoom coffee hour last week, I shared that I had cried that morning.  I don’t stay up late normally and in this time of physical distancing, my bedtime has even gotten a little earlier.  But I have always been a morning person and have been enjoying getting up a little bit earlier these days and reading my emails and checking social media sites before getting up.  And on early Sunday morning, I can check out the Saturday Night Live skits that I missed while sleeping.

Last week Brad Pitt was the host and he started the show dressed as Dr. Anthony Fauci addressing the public to help decipher what several of the President’s statements really meant.  It was a clever skit and I laughed out loud.  (I have to say I have found humor as a good way for me to face and sometimes calm my fears.)  Then at the end of the skit, Brad Pitt takes off his wig and his costume and addresses the camera candidly and in a heartfelt manner.  He thanked Dr. Fauci for his honest and direct reporting of the virus and thanked all the people who work in hospitals and on the first line for their work and commitment.

And I cried…. I actually bawled.  And perhaps you did too when you saw the skit.  We are all raw with emotions and depressed knowing what the world has lost these past few months.

And into this time, we read the 23rd Psalm…. The psalm of comfort and strength.  It begins with the statement that the Lord is my shepherd.  It does not say the Lord is A shepherd but that the Lord is my and your shepherd and we will not want.  God is not a far off distant deity but is one that we can feel, to who we can cry out to and count on in times of real distress.  God gives us what we need, cares for us, and provides a home for us in God’s arms.   The Lord, our God offers security and protection.

This Psalm is the most requested Bible passage for Memorial Services. We read is at times of sorrow… We read it at times of unrest… it is one of the passages we want our young people to know and be able to recite so that they can experience a calm when their lives are in disorder and they are feeling insecure.  The Lord is MY Shepherd.  The Lord is YOUR Shepherd…. and you shall not want.

The imagery of the Lord as Shepherd speaks to protection, to guidance, to sheltering us throughout our lives, and also to providing a meal in front of enemies.  And it isn’t just a meal, of enough food to sustain us, but a six-course banquet.  In the traditional version of the Psalm, it says, my cup runneth over.

And in this time of insecurity…. when our economy has tanked and where over one million people in our country have the virus and more people have died from it than the Vietnam War (which was for me the backdrop of my childhood) we need more than ever to feel that banquet the Lord has given to us in front of our enemies.  We need to feel that we are cared for not just adequately, but in an abundance that will make our cup runneth over.

And my friends, we have. It is in the little things in life where we can feel the abundance. Our cup runneth over.  The mangos ripening on their trees.  The butterflies and the sounds of the frogs at night.  We needed the world to hush in its movement so we could see how our cup runneth over with the blessings of nature.  And our cup runneth over in this day with the friends that are so precious to us at this time, the families we feel blessed to have in our lives and whose physical presence we miss at this time.  Our cup runneth over with this our church family.  We yearn to be together again but are determined to be present in each other’s lives and help each other through this.

Peter Gomes was the Chaplain and minister of Memorial Church at Harvard University with whom I once had the privilege of hearing him preach.  He was known in his lifetime as being the best preacher in our country.  But he was also an effervescent personality who oozed the joy of God’s love. It was not that his life had been easy or that he only saw the good in the world.  He just felt God’s spirit and love around him.  He knew that his cup runneth over.  When people would greet him and ask how he was, his response always was the same.  I am flourishing.  And dear friends, that is my hope and prayer for you.  That even in this time, you feel that God is your shepherd.  You Feel God’s care.  And that you feel that in spite of all that is happening, your cup still runneth over with God’s love. Amen.

Rev. Martha ShiverickHaving a Shepherd, Being a Shepherd

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