Psalm 23

Rev. Michael Joncas composed and published “Shelter Me” in response to the global crisis of COVID-19.
Spiritu’s members recorded the song from the shelter of their homes.
Michael Joncas © 2020 GIA Publications, Inc.

You lead me to rest in the sweet grasses
To lie down by the quiet waters
And I am refreshed
You lead me down the right path
The path that unwinds in the pattern of your name
And even if I walk through the valley of the shadow of death
I will not fear
For you are with me
Comforting me with your rod and your staff
Showing me each step
You prepare a table for me
In the midst of my adversity
And moisten my head with oil
Surely my cup is overflowing
And goodness and kindness will follow me
All the days of my life
And in the long days beyond
I will always live within your house (Norman Fischer, from Opening to You)
John McCluckie reflects: I am struck by that phrase, ‘the path that unwinds in the pattern of your name’ in place of the more familiar ‘he leads me in right paths for his name’s sake’. For it is the unfolding pattern of our footsteps that reveals Truth to us – this life and not some other, imagined, idealised life that is our true teacher, manifesting our nature as eternal, made in the image and likeness of the Creator. There is great refreshment in choosing simply to walk the path that unwinds before us and not to crave some other. Even in adversity there is a table set for us.

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want;
We believe in the goodness of God.
We believe God hears and responds to our needs.
We believe God responds to all children everywhere.

He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters, he restores my soul.
We are grateful that we’ve been blessed with enough water.
But we know that many do not have enough.
Not enough water, not enough food, not enough peace.

He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
Too many children do not see God’s righteousness.
Too many children watch violence, taste hunger, feel fear.
Too many children cry from the unspeakable horror of war.

Even 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.
To become involved is risky. Pain is often contagious.
Our hearts may be broken and our lives may be threatened.
Yet we hear God calling and we can no longer hide.

Thou preparest a table for me in the presence of my enemies;
thou annointest me head with oil, my cup overflows.
Our steps may be small and timid.
We may read a book, write a letter, or make a gift.
But each tiny step is blessed by God and multiplies.

Surely goodness and mercy
shall follow me all the days of my life;
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
God is more relentless than war.
God is more pervasive than hatred.
God is more insistent than despair.

(Katy, liturgy outside)

Bush Psalm (an Australian version of Psalm 23)
The Lord is my guide through this wide, red land.
He leads me to grassy camping grounds where I can rest.
He shows me the way to the refreshing water of a billabong
where I quench my thirsty spirit.
He is the travel guide who maps the corrugated track for me to follow,
for there is danger from my enemies of heat and inexperience
and mechanical failure.
It comforts me to know that all throughout,
he never leaves my side.
You are present in the hospitality
around the campfire
of a cattle muster –
you heal my wounded spirit with the oil of your grace,
so that I can be certain of your goodness and mercy as long as I live,
and reserve a place in your house without walls forever.
(Source: Linda Sutton, in Frontier News, November 2013)

“The Lord is my constant companion.
There is no need that He cannot fulfill.
Whether His course for me points to the mountaintops
of glorious ecstasy or to the valleys of human suffering,
He is by my side,
He is ever present with me.
He is close beside me when I tread the dark streets of danger,
and even when I flirt with death itself,
He will not leave me.
When the pain is severe,
He is near to comfort.
When the burden is heavy,
He is there to lean upon.
He touches me with eternal joy.
When I feel empty and alone,
He fills the aching vacuum with His power.
My security is in His promise to be near to me always,
and in the knowledge that He will never let me go.”
(Psalm 23, as interpreted by Leslie Brandt in Psalms/Now (Concordia, 1973), p.38.

Urban Shepherd (based on Psalm 23)
urban shepherd
you lead us through skyscraper canyons
past carbon monoxide
and mirror glass
and busker
you make us to lie down on park benches
and rest beside sewage settlement ponds
you keep our feet on pavement and escalator and lift shaft
and guide us through the back alleys
of our city
though we enter the concrete crevasse
we will not fear the chaos
for you are with us
you grant us a site in the sun
at a sidewalk cafe
where we drink cappuccino and are glad
you give us doughnut stalls
and film festivals and neon signs
surely your goodness and poverty
will follow us all the days of our lives
and we will come at last to the holy city
(Source: Mike Riddell, on Jonny Baker Worship Tricks)

The Soul Shepherding Psalm: Psalm 23
The Lord Jesus is my Soul Shepherd
who meets all my needs and makes me smile
He gets me to stop working and to relax
with him in his Father’s loving arms
He takes me into a quiet place
to be still and know that he is God and I am loved
He heals and rejuvenates my whole being
with his grace from the inside out
He holds my hand at the crossroads
and walks me onto the path of life
Even though I go through dark and difficult times
I don’t fear anything bad because you are with me
You discipline me in love and converse patiently with me
to bring out the best in me
You prepare a celebration to bless and honor me
right in front of my enemies
You anoint me with your Spirit to minister to others
out of the overflow of your love to me
I can count on your generous favor and tender mercy
coming to me wherever I go
I will live in the presence of Christ as his beloved
in all things and at all times
(Bill Gaultiere and Kristi Gaultiere, Soul Shepherding)

You are enough for us;
you give us rest in soft fields
and beside whispering streams;
you restore and renew us,
and lead us into life-giving ways;
When death and evil come close to us,
you carry us through,
you protect and comfort us;
when others seek to do us harm,
your grace uplifts and provides for us
in public view;
you fill us with your strength
and we enjoy overflowing abundance;
We have confidence that your goodness and compassion
will fill our days,
and we will stay immersed in your life and presence
forever. Amen.
(John van de Laar, Sacredise)

The Lord is my Pace-maker, I shall not rush;
He makes me stop and rest for quiet intervals.
He provides me with images of stillness, which restore my serenity;
He leads me in ways of efficiency through calmness of mind,
And His guidance is peace.
Even though I have a great many things to accomplish each day,
I will not fret, for His presence is here.
His timelessness, His all importance, will keep me in balance.
He prepares refreshment and renewal in the midst of my activity
By anointing my mind with His oils of creativity.
My cup of joyous energy overflows.
Surely harmony and effectiveness shall be the fruits of my hours,
For I shall walk in the peace of my Lord,
and dwell in His house for ever.
(A translation of a Japanese paraphrase of the 23rd Psalm, composed by Toki Miyashina, included in Psalm 23: An Anthology compiled by KH Strange & RG Sandbach)
At first glance the phrase ‘he leads me in ways of efficiency’ may seem cold and clinical, particularly if interpreted in terms of our profit-prioritising business culture. However the context of the whole phrase ‘He leads me in ways of efficiency through calmness of mind’ suggests to me that taking time to pray and contemplate then enables us to act according to the Chambers dictionary definition of efficiency: ‘capable of doing what may be required; effective; competent or proficient’. In these times of Covid 19 virus, I was very struck on Saturday by the notice posted on the door of St Andrew’s & St George’s West Church in George St, which ended thus: ‘Prayer is the bridge from panic to peace’.
(Anne Wyllie, on John McCluckie’s website)

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Rev Sandy Boyce is a Uniting Church in Australia Minister (Deacon). This blog may be a help to people planning worship services.
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