Year B – Easter 7 – Psalm 1

Psalm 1:  Happy are those who do not follow the advice of the wicked, or take the path that sinners tread, or sit in the seat of scoffers; 2 but their delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law they meditate day and night. 3 They are like trees planted by streams of water, which yield their fruit in its season, and their leaves do not wither.  In all that they do, they prosper. 4 The wicked are not so, but are like chaff that the wind drives away. 5 Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous; 6 for the Lord watches over the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish.  (NRSV)

Summary:   There is a lot of advice floating around in the world.  There are self-help sections in bookstores and libraries; entire magazines devoted to telling you one hundred and one ways to do this or that; and then, if all else fails, you can just “research” it on the internet.  Of course, not all of this advice can be trusted.  Psalm 1 presents us with two fundamental options for life:  we either ground ourselves upon the law of the Lord or we don’t.  For when we do, we are better equipped at judging those other various advice and paths in this life.  Not only that, but our lives will have stability and worth as the Lord watches over us.  But in sharp contrast, for those who do not listen to God; they are like chaff blown in the wind and perish under judgment.

Insight:  The stability and success of our lives is measured a bit differently then we might suppose.  But Psalm 1 makes two general points about measuring life:  First, God’s advice is the only life-giving approach to life.  The Apostle John is even more explicit in this week’s epistle reading:  “Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life” (1 Jn. 5:12).  In other words, we are either dead or alive; grounded upon the Creator and his guidance or left suppressing his existence, and so, making up self-serving advice as we go along.  That is no way to be stable.  Second, only true happiness and joy are found in him.  In fact, it is Christ’s own joy in us.  Listen to his prayer to the Father:  “But now I am coming to you, and I speak these things in the world so that they may have my joy made complete in themselves” (Jn. 17:13).  God himself lived among humanity and shared true life and true joy with us; that is something to meditate upon day and night.

Child Catechism:  Where is wisdom found?  In the only Creator of the universe, who spoke by the prophets and by his Son; and has given us guidance by his Spirit’s written Word.

Discussion:  Psalm 1 says that God’s law combats bad advice, what would be an example of bad advice?   Can even sinful people often good advice?  Consider what James says about doubt and instability in his epistle (cf.  1:5-11), what was his answer towards doubt?  How does prayer strengthen our devotion and understanding of God and his word?

Father,  May Christ’s joy and wisdom enter our hearts and minds,  that those of who doubt may ask in only faith,  that we might speak truly and loving to the unstable world,  in the power of your life-giving Spirit and Son, you lives and reigns with you, Amen.

 

Contributed by:  M.  West

Year B – Easter 4 – Psalm 23

Psalm 23:  The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. 2 He makes me lie down in green pastures; he leads me beside still waters; 3he 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.  (NRSV)

Summary:  Despite its lack of cultural relevance, our thoughts of a what a shepherd is, remains a powerful and moving metaphor; Especially when we consider how such imagery informs the Lord’s devoted interaction and guidance within our individual lives.  Throughout history, readers have found this psalm particularly comforting and deeply personal.  God’s care and leading are intimately felt by David’s firsthand experience and poetic imagery.  Thankfully we have a share in David’s voice:  even in the darkest valley, our Divine Shepherd is leading you and me.

Insight:  Biblically, shepherding is a leadership trait that describes even ungodly leaders.  Naturally, such bad leaders were called ‘bad’ shepherds, and they were one of the most damaging and reoccurring threats to the flock of Israel (Jeremiah 23).  However, God was never unsympathetic to such leadership problems; he promised one day to shepherd his people himself (Ezekiel 34).  So when Jesus came onto the scene proclaiming he was the ‘good’ shepherd (Jn 10:14), he was more than just speak of his tender care and pastoral heart,[1] he was claiming to be David’s divine shepherd of Psalm 23.  In fact, “no human king of Israel was ever given the title [of shepherd].”[2]  But now, we have the privilege and responsibility to serve the Shepherd King of Israel.

Likewise, the image of Christ as a shepherd should instill in us a picture of great dignity as well as unsurpassable tenderness.  In Psalm 23, David expresses them both.  He was a man striving to live in that appropriate fear and adoration of Lord.  As we serve the risen and reigning Christ, we must impress upon ourselves the same:  we too have nothing to fear, with no wants, and only the shepherd’s leading:  Surely, goodness and mercy follow us all the days of our lives!

Child Catechism:  How is God a shepherd?  God rules the universe with a shepherd’s caring and tender guidance, deserving for his name’s sake, all creation’s love and respect.

Discussion:  In the Near East, shepherding was a regal image as well as a commonplace profession; what modern everyday occupations might you use to describe God’s guidance?  How does C.S. Lewis’ Aslan help depict the appropriate fear and adoration of who God is?

Prayer – Father, we thank for your shepherd-like leading and provision in our lives, Grant us the grace to follow the one and only Shepherd King:  Christ Jesus;  And it is in his Name and the blessed unity of his Spirit that we pray.  Amen.

Contributed by:  M. West


[1] Peter C. Craigie.  Ezekiel.  (Philadelphia:  Westminster, 1983):  243.

[2] Timothy S. Laniak.  Shepherds After My Own Heart:  Pastoral Traditions and Leadership in the Bible.  (Downers Grove:  InterVarsity, 2006):  249.