All We Like Sheep Have Gone Astray
based on Psalm 23
by HW in HI
Soon enough Lent will be gone. Soon enough it will be Palm Sunday and then Holy Week. Easter will dawn. Lent will have slipped through our fingers, like so much sand. The promises we have made - Gone. The intentions to read the Bible Gone. The giving up of some little thing to remind us of the Saviours love Gone. The promise to pray everyday Gone. Not a trace.
There is still a little time left. We can still look into our lives and ask, Is this a holy Lent? Or better yet, Is this a holy life?
The Lord is our shepherd. We believe we have forever to get it together. We believe we have forever to live a holy life. Tomorrow we will start. Or Lent next year. There is so much to do now, God will have to wait. And God does wait. Patiently. Sometimes just out of sight. Sometimes standing right in front of us, holding his shepherds staff, saying, Come. Its no mistake that God has so often been compared to a shepherd. He is something like a shepherd. Relentlessly calling to us, beckoning, desiring us to move outside of our comfort zone. More, saying to us: Turn around! Give up your sinful ways. Give up your many temptations. Let go of your past. He knows we are like sheep, for all we like sheep, have gone astray.
We shall not want. God has given us every good thing to take care of our needs and the needs of others. We want the glamorous additions to our lives, but they are just diversions, really. If we are honest, our needs are fulfilled. If not by us, then by others. Jesus came to give us an abundant life. And so he has.
He makes us lie down in green pastures, and leads us beside still waters. He bids us to pause, to enter into our lives deliberately, and to slow down. Enjoy the moment. Lie down in green pastures. Let the still waters soothe us. Luxuriate in that prayerful moment of our lives, a gift from God.
He restores our souls, and guides in the paths of righteousness for his names sake. Even now, this Lent, God is restoring our souls. Helping us to prune, cut back, to prepare our hearts. Our souls need restoring. The evreyday hurts, the assaults by others and by ourselves wound our souls, leaving them exposed, but unfulfilled. Yet God prepares them to be restored, perhaps working as a great carpenter: sanding, caulking, finishing. Come Easter morning, we will see that he has, indeed, restored our souls. Gods reputation rests upon Easter morning. Without it, much is lost and little is gained. Our children will hunt for eggs, we will have a wonderful party, but most importantly we will shout in one voice, He is Risen Indeed. Until that time, his reputation is on the line. He leads us for his names sake.
Though we walk through the valley of death, we do not fear evil. The valley of death. That place between sleep and dawn where nightmares loom. Some nightmares vanish with the dawn. Other stay with us, they have become our lives. How many of us have known heart ache and loss? Difficult times when a loved one dies, or our work life is painful. Times when the school day seems like something we cannot handle even one more hour? Times when depression threatens to overwhelm us? It is then that we walk through the valley of death.
We fear no evil, because God with us. Even in the valley of death, at our lowest, at our weakest, God is with us. God entered our world as Jesus, Emmanuel, God With Us. To take the terror our of death. To leave Paul asking in 1 Corinthians, Death, Where is They sting? If God is for us, who can be against us?
You spread a table before us, in the presence of our enemies. We set a table for God each Sunday. It is an action of honor and service. Yet God sets a table for us also. God provides for us even in the midst of trouble and heartache, even in the midst of those who despise us.
You anoint us with oil, our cup is so full it overflows. Samuel anointed David thousands of years ago, declaring a little shepherd boy king. He filled a horn with precious oil and traveled at Gods bequest, seeking Jesses son. The son chosen by God was not the eldest, not what anyone would have expected. Samuel heard the word of God, The Lord does not see as mortals see; they look on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart. And the youngest least likely son, David, was anointed with the oil. So, too, God has anointed each of us. We are anointed in our baptism, declaring us children of God, and marked as Christs own forever.
Surely goodness and mercy will follow us all the says of our lives If God is for us, who can be against us?
And we shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
One night a man had a dream. He dreamt dreamed he was walking along the beach with God. Across the sky flashed scenes from his life. For each scene, he noticed two sets of footprints in the sand, one belonging to him, and the other to God.
When the last scene of his life flashed before him, he looked back at the footprints in the sand. He noticed that many times along the path of his life there was only one set of footprints in the sand. This happened at the very lowest and saddest times of my life. This really bothered him, and he asked God,
"God, you said that once I decided to follow you you'd walk with me all the way. But I have noticed that during the most difficult times in my life, there is only one set of footprints. I don't understand why when I needed you most you would leave me."
God replied, "I love you and would never leave you. During your times of suffering, when you see only one set of footprints, it was then that I carried you."
If God is for us, who can be against us?
Frank Schaefer, for JavaCasa Resources and the Desperate Preacher's Site, 1999