Saturday, March 21, 2020

Lent 4A

Psalm 23

1The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.
2He makes me lie down in green pastures; he leads me beside still waters;
3he restores my soul. He leads me in right paths for his name's sake.
4Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I fear no evil; for you are with me; your rod and your staff— they comfort me.
5You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.
6Surely 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.

NRSV

Psalm 23

1-3God, my shepherd!
I don't need a thing.
You have bedded me down in lush meadows,
you find me quiet pools to drink from.
True to your word,
you let me catch my breath
and send me in the right direction.

4Even when the way goes through
Death Valley,
I'm not afraid
when you walk at my side.
Your trusty shepherd's crook
makes me feel secure.

5You serve me a six-course dinner
right in front of my enemies.
You revive my drooping head;
my cup brims with blessing.

6Your beauty and love chase after me
every day of my life.
I'm back home in the house of God
for the rest of my life.

The Message (MSG) Copyright © 1993, 2002, 2018 by Eugene H. Peterson

COVID-19 – almost the same as last week

To maintain a sense of normalcy during the ongoing Corona Virus global pandemic with its social isolation and uncertainties, I'll keep blogging my SS class notes to send to my usuals. Typically I do that Monday or Tuesday after our discussion so I can include ideas from others – or myself – that weren't in my original notes, so I can add interesting details I didn't get to share with the group, so I even can omit anything that feels semi-irrelevant this time around.

The church's year of grace has reached the fourth Sunday in (but not of) Lent. Not belonging to Lent? Because every Sunday is a little Easter. This midway point has several traditional names and practices. In the North American church, Laetare – or "Rejoice" – probably is the best known. Each Sunday in Advent and Lent has a designation taken from the opening of the Latin Introit or entrance prayer: "Laetare Jerusalem" ("Rejoice, Jerusalem") comes from Isaiah 66:10. Similar to the Third Sunday of Advent, Gaudete (that also means rejoice, be glad), the idea is to take a short break to lighten up before the somber season continues. As Steve V told us last year, Lent 4 is Mother's Day in the UK.

Fun One this time – Theological Comfort Food!

"The Lord is my Shepherd"—Psalm 23! Easter 4 is Good Shepherd Sunday every year; during our current Revised Common Lectionary Year A, Lent 4 is a good shepherd day, too. Besides translations and versions of the biblical text, there are countless paraphrases of Psalm 23. "The Lord is like my Probation Officer..." Did one-time shepherd King David write this psalm? That's unknown, but any sheep-tender would have known the words and imagery well.

The psalms or the psalter is the hymnal of the synagogue. The psalter was the hymnbook for John Calvin's Geneva Reform. The psalms probably are the Old Testament book most Christians know best. As we've mentioned, technically each week's psalm is our (ideally sung) response to the first reading that's generally OT, but during the Great 50 days of Easter it's from the Acts of the Apostles.

Many scriptural narratives originated in an agricultural setting.

• Abram/Abraham left Ur in Chaldea because of the land God promised: "Now the Lord said to Abram, 'Go from your country and your kindred and your father's house to the land that I will show you.'" Genesis 12:1
• God commanded Moses, "Go up to a land flowing with milk and honey..." Exodus 33:3a Milk and honey is a sign of the fullness of God's reign in justice and righteousness for all creation
• In the gospel of John, Jesus announces, "I am the Good Shepherd. I know my own and my own know me." John 10:14
• ...but Jesus of Nazareth lived and ministered in a mostly urban, completely colonial context. A well-tended garden or field grows into a city.
• Land is central in both OT and NT; land is central to our existence—well-stewarded land is necessary for our individual and corporate well-being.

We call our church leaders pastor, the Latin word for shepherd. The senior pastor I used to serve with told me whenever he thought of that congregation's founding pastor, he always remembered "pastoral" means "rural." Although green pastures and dark valleys are countrified imagery, we can translate those meadows and canyons into our recent or current psychological and physical realities; sometimes into wonderfully green fields and disappointingly devastated neighborhoods.

Most hymnals have three or four musical settings of Psalm 23. What one do you especially like? My all-time favorite uses the tune Resignation from Southern Harmony; I especially love Randall Thomson's choral arrangement. By the way, I no longer blog YouTube links because videos come and leave YT with the speed of lightning.

How would you express the ideas in this psalm for your current life?

What's in your 6-course dinner?

Please be well and stay well! Stay tuned for Lent 5!

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