by Rev. Kathleen Sheets
Lent Ponderings - jasoncstanley.comLike a child’s well-worn blanket this passage is clutched tightly in times of grief, sorrow, and frustration. These words of comfort provide connective strands forming a framework for the sometimes violently moving of the shuttle of time marching forward. It’s woven fibers surround us with memories of the times when we’ve needed these words to help show us a way forward and memories of the times when we’ve felt the green meadows and still waters for ourselves.We encounter this verse with tear crowded eyes gazing on an open casket or the cemetery dirt smudging our best pair of shoes. Our mouths move unconsciously as we together remember the promise God’s providence, even and especially in this very moment.

In memory wings of nursing care facilities these words are spoken with the clarity and reverence formerly applied to the joyous litany of names of beloved grandchildren and great grandchildren.

In last year’s lectionary cycle this passage was challengingly juxtaposed with the news accounts of the Boston Marathon bombing, nuclear threats in North Korea, and a large explosion in West, Texas. God’s word of comfort and rest in direct defiance to the horrors of this world.

I trust in the providence of Psalm 34:18, “The Lord is near to the brokenhearted, and saves the crushed in spirit.”

Psalm 23 speaks with a lightness and a joy that I do not always feel for myself. It forecasts a lush meadow that I haven’t seen for many snow-covered months.

And yet.

We whisper these words, side by side with our grandparents, with children just learning these words, with the memories of the long gone beloved. We speak God’s message of defiance of the ways of the world: contentment, rest, direction, purpose, safety, security, and beauty. I need this message when I’m in my own dark valleys, when I’m in the midst of those who would cause me harm, when I am breathless with exhaustion. I need to believe God’s message of respite and care; and when I can’t believe it for myself, I need you to believe it on my behalf. I need these words whispered over my own tears, my own sorrow. I need my tears wiped by the sleeve of the Father and I need the rest of God’s arms.

Lent is a time of wilderness, a time of exhaustion, and detachment. What better time to seek this word from God? May it give you the strength you need as we walk alone and yet united towards the Cross. Amen.

Rev. Kathleen Sheets is the Pastor of First Presbyterian Church of Jesup, IA. She blogs at Presbydestrian.