Think On These Things

by Rev. Kevin Daugherty

Lord, we pray that your grace may always precede and follow us, that we may continually be given to good works; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

First Reading: Isaiah 25:1-9
Psalm: Psalm 23
Second Reading: Philippians 4:1-9
Gospel: Matthew 22:1-14

Yesterday, a few of us at Unfailing Love met for a small worship service in my home. Even though the lectionary provides four Scripture passages each week, I specifically focused upon two this week: Psalm 23 and Philippians 4. There has been some hardship in the Unfailing Love community recently, with one person becoming hospitalized and now in rehab, and another person experiencing the death of a family member. With these events in mind, Psalm 23 and Philippians 4 seemed like the perfect passages to focus upon.

Psalm 23 is simply beautiful and largely speaks for itself. I want to present it below in the Coverdale translation:

The Lord is my shepherd : therefore can I lack nothing.
He shall feed me in a green pasture : and lead me forth beside the waters of comfort.
He shall convert my soul : and bring me forth in the paths of righteousness, for his Name’s sake.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil : for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff comfort me.
Thou shalt prepare a table before me against them that trouble me : thou hast anointed my head with oil, and my cup shall be full.
But thy loving-kindness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life : and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.

This is the Psalm as it appears in the 1662 Book of Common Prayer, which is perhaps the most influential book in the English language after the King James Bible. It is a classic, and this psalm is also a classic.

If you ask people about their favorite psalms or scriptures, Psalm 23 is always at the top of the list, and for good reason. This is a psalm of comfort. It is in direct contrast to Psalm 22, which begins with these words, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? why art thou so far from helping me, and from the words of my roaring?” In Psalm 23, the tone comes back around. It tells shows us that our troubles are temporary. God is with us, and he will guide us back again to the green pastures and waters of comfort. 

As long as we live upon this earth within the present age, we will have moments of difficulty, but we have to remember that God is our shepherd, and he guides us through those moments and gives us the spiritual and mental strength to handle them.

This is what brings us to Philippians 4, which is a relevant passage to understanding just how God can help us through trials and tribulations. Here is the relevant portion of the text:

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Keep on doing the things that you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you.

Paul offers wonderful advice here for anyone who is going through a rough time. He tells us to transfer our focus from the problems in our lives to “whatever is honorable, just, pure, pleasing, commendable, and worthy of praise”. Paul tells us to not worry, but instead to focus upon the good, and to present the bad to God.

The picture attached to this post is an image from my great-grandmother’s family Bible. This passage was one of her favorites, as can be seen by the markings she left there. Over the last few years, it has become one of my favorites as well. Not only because of the markings in my great-grandmother’s Bible, but also the fact that it is such a powerful, relevant message for so many people.

As you go about this week, meditate upon these verses. First, God is your shepherd, and he will lead you through the wilderness in your life. Second, God is a God of peace. By casting your cares upon him, his peace will be with you.