READING Psalm 23 “The Lord is My Shepherd”
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures; he leads me beside still waters; he restores my soul. He leads me in right paths for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I fear no evil; for you are with me; your rod and your staff – they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely 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.
MESSAGE “Restoring Your Soul” James R. Renfrew, Teaching Elder
Let’s read the Psalm again, this time more slowly. The 23rd Psalm is a very familiar one to most people. Is there a phrase that especially jumps out at you as you hear it today, or is there a phrase that intersects with your life somehow, or is there a verse that intrigues you and you want to learn more? On a cold April day one phrase that gets my attention is “lying down in a green pasture”, because it’s been a long time since any of us laid down on the grass around here! But for now, just tilt back in your pew and remember what it feels like to lay down in the grass, feel the warmth of the sun and watch the clouds roll by. Ahhh! Which phrase gets your attention?
The phrase that I am going to spend time with is this one “He restores my soul”. First of all, I’ll need to reflect on what my soul is!
Where is your soul, what is your soul? Your doctor cannot find your soul on an x-ray or an MRI, or treat your soul with pills or surgery. You might even describe your soul as invisible, but Christians have been talking about the soul for two thousand years, so it must represent something important. Your soul is what animates you, your soul is the difference between you alive and active vs. you a “bag of bones and body fluid”. I can’t show it to you on a diagram of the human body, but I know you’d miss it if it wasn’t there. It’s what continues after death, the essence of who you are, the seat of immortality. It’s the part of you attuned to God. It’s the part of you that soars and sings, the part that makes commitments, the part that nurtures love, the part that reaches out in hope and possibility.
Now, how is your soul? If there was a blood test to measure the health of your soul, what would it find? My computer tells me from time to time that I need to remove viruses, defragment my hard drive, and add new programs. If there was such a test for the health of your soul, what would it be telling you about yourself? Healthy, unhealthy, improving, weakening, healing or fragmenting? But there’s no test, there’s no chart, no print-out. Yet, I think I could ask you – flat out – how’s your soul doing this morning?, and I bet a lot of you would have an answer. I’d even hazard a guess that part of the reason you come to Sunday worship week after week, month after month, year after year, is restoration of your soul, restoration of hope, restoration of peace, restoration of the heart, restoration of the mind, restoration of the soul.
Now what are some of the ways God can restore your soul? Can you give me some ideas? What are the ways that God restores your soul?
These days I think for me it is mainly music that creates an opening for God’s restorative work, music that I listen to, and music that I practice, music that I share. So that’s one direction I might go with the message. And maybe that’s appropriate as a lead-in for next Sunday when we enjoy the music of “The traveling Troubadours/Old Hippies” during worship. Music restores my soul; how does God reach your soul? Prayer, meditation, poetry, singing, exercise, reading, cooking, hiking and camping, traveling, children & grandchildren?
Along with the Psalm 23 we are also be reading from John’s Gospel, the part where Jesus describes himself as the “Good Shepherd”, perhaps a more intimate extension of what is offered in the Psalm. One obstacle for me is that I’m not too familiar with shepherds and sheep. How many of you have any experience with sheep? The minute I actually talk about sheep, all of you with any experience with sheep at all will tell me how wrong I am. So I try substituting words that relate more closely to my own experience. A teacher and students, a supervisor and workers, a conductor and musicians, and a coach and a team come to mind. How else might you connect with this reading out of your own experience?
On Sunday we will share communion. In a departure from our usual communion liturgy I’ll be making frequent reference to these two readings and the images they offer for the love of Christ touching our lives in the bread and the cup. God is ready to offer so much! Are you ready to receive what God has to offer? Join us!
SACRAMENT OF THE LORD’S SUPPER
Come to the Table of Jesus Christ!
Come to share the bread and cup!
Come to belong!
Come to be a link in the chain of hope!
Come to be healed!
Come to celebrate love!
Come to experience joy!
Come to be restored!
Jesus and his disciples gathered in that Upper Room long ago. As the meal began Jesus lifted up the bread and broke it, saying “This is my body broken for you”. His body broken, that we might be restored.
“I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me. And I lay down my life for the sheep.” [John 10:14,15]
The Bread of Life, enough for everyone!
As the meal drew to a close Jesus lifted up a cup and he said, “This cup restores God’s covenant; this is my blood poured out for the whole world to be healed.” His cup raised up, to restore your soul!
“You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.” [Psalm 23:5]
The Cup of Salvation; it is never empty!