For me, this week has been a mixture of grief, reminders of past events, and consequences of actions…… and one Psalm has been reeling in my head….Psalm 23
It’s the most well-known Psalm in the Bible. We all know it, we have sung it, read it, maybe have a book mark with it on .. Some of you here may want it sung at your funeral, some of you may have had it at your wedding … It’s a firm favourite of the Queen …. to the tune Crimond.
I’ve read it a thousand times, memorized it as a child, preached and used it as a focus in prayer groups and have even sung several settings of it in a choir…. the most famous being Howard Goodall setting to the ‘Vicar of Dibley’.It speaks of a place where through trials and temptations, the Lord is there to guide us to a place of safety and security, a place where we be healed and anointed, a place where we will rest and find peace … Dwelling in the house of the Lord forever … Many envisage this as heaven, whatever it is like to you…we are yet again reminded that we live in a chaotic world, a world of pain, of mess, of tyranny and evil.
The Psalm has an enormous capacity to absorb the imagination, because it is a Psalm that was made for terror, yet it is typically read as a Psalm of comfort, and that is surely still there, but there are also at least two penetrating verses.
“I will fear no evil, for you are with me.”…The Psalmist doesn’t deny fear and the reality of evil, nor its capacity to wreak havoc…. but the Psalmist has adopted a resolute stance in the face of this real threat–No Fear.
“You spread a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil. My cup overflows.”
If our first impulse is fear in the face of terror, our second impulse is vengeance. I mentioned earlier that I have been recalling past events and consequences of actions, especially to those people who have are innocent bystanders. I want to get even with those who have hurt the people I love. Yet this passage can give comfort, to the troubled, guidance to those who seek a path, but by opening up the Psalm deeper we can reveal that it is a comfort borne out of pain and grief, and we all here are familiar with those emotions… for it is
- where the ordinary meets the extraordinary,
- where God encounters the rawness of humanity.
Christians and the Church need to lead society by re-framing this Psalm, not as a wishy washy psalm but a psalm with backbone….. then and only then can we stand alongside our brothers and sisters and say we will fear no evil for God is with us, and he will wipe away every tear away from our eyes, for God anoints our heads and then our cup will overflow.
God of mixed emotions
When we feel troubled, carry us to a place of safety
When we feel angry, carry us to place of peace
When we feel hurt, carry us to place of blessing.
When we fear evil, carry us to place where your Spirit dwells
When we feel confronted, anoint our heads with oil
God of mixed emotions ….Shalom