“The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want…” If you were to ask almost any Christian (or even a good number of non-Christians) to tell you where those words come from in the Bible, or even to say what comes next, you might be surprised at how many could do so. For there is no other scriptural passage that is as well-known or well-loved as the 23rd Psalm (the Lord’s Prayer is probably a close second, although many folks aren’t as sure as to where that is found in the Bible). I have always been fascinated in reading accounts of how this Psalm has become as well-known as it has. From Garrison Keillor’s fictional account of a child in Lake Wobegon being called on to recite it at the town’s annual Memorial Day celebration (he was always afraid it would be him and he’d forget the words!) to the in-depth epilogue to William Halliday’s book The Psalms Through Three Thousand Years entitled “How the Twenty-Third Psalm Became a Secular Icon”, many writers of both fiction and non-fiction have attempted to discover why this particular Psalm has become so familiar to so many people both inside and outside the church.
In Christian worship, it has long been the tradition to read the 23rd Psalm on “Good Shepherd’s Sunday”, which is always the third Sunday after Easter. As I saw this Sunday approaching again, I thought it might be time in my own devotional and preaching routine to spend a little more time with the 23rd Psalm than just one Sunday this year. For I too have seen over the years how people are affected by hearing these familiar words being spoken at funerals, in Bible studies, and in many other settings. So in that spirit, I invite you to join me in worship as we spend a few Sundays with the 23rd Psalm, beginning on April 15th. As I have begun pondering it in smaller sections, I am beginning to understand why this Psalm speaks to so many people in so many situations of their lives. For there is indeed a wide theological scope that is covered in these few verses. The other thing I am realizing again is how its message is still relevant for us in the world in which we live today. In the end, it is perhaps for those reasons that we all love the 23rd Psalm.
In the Name of the Shepherd,