Pastor Cheryl Hoffman's sermon for Sunday, May 8, 2022 Readings: Revelation 7:9-17, Psalm 23, John 10: 22-30
Today’s readings include one of the most controversial readings in all of scripture, the 23rd Psalm. How can Psalm 23 be controversial, you want to know? Psalm 23 is one of those texts you either love, or you hate. It either brings great comfort and peace, or it makes you roll your eyes.
There is one thing that everyone seems to agree on, including the other pastors at Tuesday’s pericope session, if you are going to use or recite the 23rd Psalm, it should be in the language of the Bible’s King James version.
“The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
“He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.
“He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.
“Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.
“Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”
Now, for the sake of full disclosure, I must admit that I fall in the second of the two categories I mentioned earlier. Psalm 23 is not my favorite. It’s much more likely to make my eyes roll than to make me feel wrapped in a warm blanket.
That having been said, there was a question asked Tuesday which made me go back and listen anew to those few verses. The question was, “Why do we reserve this Psalm for funerals?” With the exception of Good Shepherd Sunday and one Sunday during Lent, that’s where we most often hear and recite the 23rd Psalm, funerals and memorial services. Which is why it is not my favorite Psalm. It’s become pigeonholed and worn-out. At times, I think it’s as much a cliché, as it is a Psalm.
But there is so much more to the Psalm than the fourth verse, “though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.”
And my colleague is right. This Psalm is for every day of life, “Surely, goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” Even now, including today.