Lelisa Desisa of EthiopiaPsalm 23
We spoke the 23rd psalm yesterday at the funeral service of Calvary member Vernon Johnson. In some ways it has become a fixture of the funeral liturgy and rightly so. The image of peaceful pastures and still waters and a forever dwelling place in the house of the Lord is fitting for a funeral as the familiar words rarely fail to provide comfort. We didn't know that the shadow of the valley of death would be cast over Boston later that day in a way that seems especially cruel and demonic. Not that other acts of indiscriminate violence are not equally evil only that to attack an event that has so much of the beauty and nobility of the human spirit attached to it heightens the heartbreak and tragedy. So what comfort can “the Lord is my shepherd” provide in such circumstances? It should not escape our attention that “the Lord is my shepherd” (Psalm 23:1) comes directly after “my God, my God why have you forsaken me” (Psalm 22:1). If the scriptures did not graphically and truthfully acknowledge the depths of despair that we experience the rod and staff could not offer any comfort in the valley of the shadow of all the deaths we suffer. As it is God in Jesus suffered a cruel and violent death at the hands of enemies and defeated their evil schemes by refusing to lie quietly in the grave. Despite the darkness of the shadow death did not have the last word for Jesus and it will not have the last word over us. Goodness is stronger than evil. Life is stronger than death. As for those who serve death and perpetrate such heinous acts as the bombing in Boston they will one day enter the valley of the shadow themselves and I doubt the rod and staff will offer much comfort.