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4. Sunday of Easter, 04/25/2010

Sermon on Psalm 23:, by Jennifer Gold

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 paths of righteousness
   for his name's sake.

 4Even 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.

 5You prepare a table before me
   in the presence of my enemies;
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 forever.



What is it about Psalm 23 that makes it so loved by so many people?

Along with the Lord's Prayer, it is one of the best-known passages in the Bible. And because of that, it's one of those passages that you hear so often, especially at bedsides and gravesides, but have you really truly experienced the depth of what it means for your life in all circumstances-- not just in times of grief, but in times of joy as well?

Inspired by an anonymous interpretation of Psalm 23 I found years ago, We're going to do just that! We're going to take a walk with Jesus through Psalm 23.

Let's begin our walk with Jesus!

The Lord is my shepherd.

Well, now who is this Shepherd we're walking with anyway? Remember Psalm 23 was recorded and sung years before Jesus had entered the picture, So that's not a ridiculous question. But lucky for us: Jesus gives us the answer in our Gospel Reading for today. Jesus says "I am the Good Shepherd." Jesus claims to be our Lord and shepherd that the Psalmist writes about. But how do we know he's the one for sure that we are to follow? First, Jesus says, "the good shepherd lays down his life for his sheep."

The hired hand who does not love the sheep will not risk his life for them when danger threatens. But the good shepherd who truly loves the sheep will set himself between his flock and evil. Evil and doom cannot reach the flock even over his DEAD BODY! The Good Shepherd will die to save his flock And that is what Christ did for us.

And why would he risk his life for his sheep? Because a Good Shepherd has intimate knowledge about each one in his flock. To others the sheep may look all the same, But a good shepherd knows them at a glance, their characteristics and idiosyncrasies; He knows their very hearts! For Jesus says, "I know my own and my own know me." That, my friends, is relationship! So intimate and close is this relationship between Christ and us, That Jesus dares to compare it to relationship he has with the Father- "I know my own and they know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father." That indeed is an intimate relationship!

But that's not all, Jesus desires a relationship even with those who don't know him. For he says, "I have other sheep that belong to this fold.  I must bring them also." The Good Shepherd's heart goes out to even those who do not know him. The Good Shepherd wants an intimate relationship with you!


The Lord is my shepherd . . . Now that is RELATIONSHIP!

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.

Now, certainly, the writer of the psalm was referring to material needs- Food, drink, rest, shelter, etc., But a pastor once overheard a young girl reciting the 23rd psalm And she said, "The Lord is my shepherd.  That's all I want!" In other words, with Jesus as our guide, we have everything we need. I Timothy 6:17 says "set your hopes on God who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment" The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. That's SUPPLY, because he gives us everything we need in due season.

He makes me lie down in green pastures.

What do you picture when you hear this phrase? He makes me lie down in green pastures.  Green is the most restful of all colors, And at the same time the most hopeful,--it implies rain as well as sunshine. In our overly busy lives, we seem to lose the power to relax; So God, who is most merciful compels us to do just that. He makes me lie down in green pastures - That is REST!

He leads me beside still waters.

Not only does the Lord compel us to rest in our walk of life, But the Lord encourages us to take time and to be refreshed and renewed. When your hot and sweaty, what do you do?   Splash a little cold water on your face. You come in from a long day's work and nothing sounds better than a nice hot bath. Your working hard or playing long, nothing refreshes you better than a nice tall glass of ice water. The Good Shepherd leads us to the water to help us be refreshed.

He Restores my soul.

The Good Shepherd doesn't just leave us to rest and relax, For those are a means to an end. Instead, in moments of refreshing quiet, The Good Shepherd restores our very souls To renew us in our walk with him And in it a healing of our mind, body, and spirit takes place. He restores my soul with his healing presence.

He leads me in the paths of righteousness.

Our journey of life is filled with lots of detours that lead us into sin, temptation, and danger. But when we stray and become lost on one of those detours in life, Jesus will come looking for you and will set you on the right path That leads to home-God's eternal home. When you are lost and afraid, look for your Shepherd, because he is already looking for you.

For his name's sake.

Remember how straight was the path for Christ by which he was led to darkness, silence, and despair on the cross. Yet even on that path of death and despair, Jesus still cried out,"Father into your hands I commend my spirit."  Even in such a moment, Jesus surrendered to God's control. And let's remember there was a purpose, For his death on a cross meant life for us forever. Do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, and you shall be saved. That's our purpose for life.

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death.

Being a follower of Christ does not make us immune from life's valleys of darkness and death. And those are the times that most challenge our faith, but remember our guide, the Good Shepherd, has already led the way and been there before us

So fear no evil.

Be reassured and stick close to the Shepherd

For you are with me.

In his faithfulness, the Shepherd never leaves his flock.

His rod and his staff, they will comfort you.

The Shepherd carries a rod, a weapon to fend off the enemies that we encounter, And he carries a staff, a long pole with a hook at the end, To wrap around our bodies and rescue us when we fall into danger. That, my friends, is protection.

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.

In the time this psalm was written, it was not uncommon for a person who was being hunted by enemies to enter someone's tent in order to seek refuge to be safe. The host of the tent would be gracious in their hospitality while the enemies could only stand outside of the tent and do no more but wait. Folks, this is our tent, a refuge in which to feel safe from our enemies. And Jesus is not just our Shepherd, he is the Host as well. And the table is set each and every Sunday And we gather around it as foretaste of the once and final feast that is to come when we will finally one day dwell in the permanent house of the Lord forever. For now, come often to the table that our host has prepared and be strengthened for the journey that lies just outside. For this, this is where our hope is secure in this life and in the life to come.

You anoint my head with oil.

In the ancient Near East, the anointing of oil was a common means of refreshment for weary travelers, and healing oils were sometimes rubbed into the fleece of sheep.

Remember at the Lord's last supper with his disciples, he knelt down to wash their weary feet.

And we use oil today in services of healing for the mind, body, and spirit And to consecrate that which is made holy before God. This is reminder to us that the Shepherd of our souls goes the "extra mile" To give us all that is required for the renewing of our souls, to make us holy before God and to make us feel at home.

My cup runs over.

With the Lord as our Shepherd and the Lord as our Host, There is no lack for anything.

His hospitality is overflowing and his love is more than abundant.

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life.

Ever wonder if the Shepherd has sheep dogs?

A preacher once said, "The Lord is my shepherd, and more than that, he has two fine collie dogs, Goodness and Mercy. With him before and them behind, even poor sinners like you and me Can hope to win home at last." What a blessing!

And I will dwell in the house of the Lord.

Be secure in knowing that because of what Jesus, the Good Shepherd, Has done for us on the cross, when our walk with Jesus on this earth is done, we have a permanent place-no longer a temporary tent such as this one-but a permanent place reserved and waiting for us in the house of the Lord

And we shall dwell in that house of the Lord FOREVER.

That means for all eternity.


Rev. Jennifer Gold
Pastor, Zion Lutheran Church of Helotes
San Antonio, Texas

E-Mail: jgold@zionhelotes.org