Psalm 23 comes up in the Revised Common Lectionary cycle for church this Sunday. It’s a classic. They’re all classic, but #23 may be the best-known of the Psalms.
You may know this trick. Grab any Judeo-Christian Bible. Put your fingers in the middle of the pages in the book and open it. Chances are high, like almost 100%, that you will open the Bible to the Psalms. Right in the middle of the book.
Sure, it’s a cute little parlor trick, but it’s also nice to know. The Psalms are ancient songs, poems, laments, petitions, praises, amazing prayers—all ways to talk to God. And all ways to listen for God. It’s kind of like a prayer app. Open to the middle and seek God through the Psalms.
Psalm 23 is classic.
Sunday School kids for generations have been taught to memorize it and know it by heart. I used to be able to recite the King James Version, but I think my old mind has disconnected from that a little bit over the years. Life, new translations, seminary, and the work have all muddied that water.
I can muddle through it, but not like when I was 10—back in the day, I had it down.
Please forgive the patriarchal language—let’s not throw the baby out with the bath water. Here’s the New Revised Standard Version:
A Psalm of David. 1 The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. 2 He makes me lie down in green pastures; he leads me beside still waters; 3 he restores my soul. He leads me in right paths for his name’s sake. 4 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. 5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. 6 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.
It works better as poetry if it’s centered, doesn’t it? It definitely works better as prayer. Centered.
That’s what we do when we pray. Center ourselves in God.
I’m asking you to read it again, and center yourself here:
What does it look like when “goodness and mercy follow me”?
I’m just gonna leave it all right here in the middle.