Thursday 18 April 2024

Home with God

I write about the 23rd psalm a lot and talk about it even more. “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want” begin some of the most familiar words in the Bible.

You might have heard it in church, maybe even sang it, or memorized it in Sunday School or heard it at a funeral or celebration of life. It’s so common to that last one that you probably have heard even if you’ve never been to church. It’s the go-to verse in books, movies and television for a funeral scene. So much so that it might, at times, feel like a cliché.

But it’s not. It speaks and speaks and speaks in so many ways. It talks about God’s presence and how God provides, nurtures and protects through every moment of our lives. Every moment, from green pastures to shadowy valleys, when facing and enemy to when our lives are full to overflowing, in moments of fear and moments of joy. And then, when this life is done, we find a home with God. It offers comfort, hope, surety and strength.

And because the author uses an image - the shepherd - personal to themselves and from their own time, it can also invite us to wonder about how we image God and our own relationship with God. Not just through sheep and shepherd, but in the images we travel through in the psalm. April 22nd is Earth Day, I good time to wonder about our relationship with God in creation.

Think about where God, the shepherd, leads us. The green pastures, the still waters, the valley of shadow, all these moments that we describe with the earth we know. Wherever we are in the geography of our lives, God is with us. We are restored and refreshed from our rest, lying down in the green pastures. Beside still waters we’re led down paths that are right. And even when are lives seem full of shadows, as if we are in the deepest valley, God goes there with us. Wherever we go, God’s presence leads us away from fear into the confidence of an intimate, life-giving relationship, one in which there is “goodness and mercy” that doesn’t have to be earned, only accepted. 

Living with respect, care and love must be part of our relationship with the real earth, not just the metaphor. We are connected to it as closely as we are connected to God. I hear that in the psalm’s closing words, “I will dwell in the house of the Lord my whole life long.” Maybe that means a metaphorical house, but I like to think it can be the real thing, too: God is alive in all creation.

What if we thought of this earth as the sacred space of God’s house, the physical manifestation of God’s presence in all creation, including us. Jesus, in John’s gospel, tells the disciples that “in my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?” (John 14:2) Perhaps this is just one of the many dwelling places. Perhaps we are that connected to each other, to creation and to God.

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