Psalm 23 (NRSV)
The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures;
he leads me beside still waters;
he restores my soul.
He leads me in right paths
for his name's sake.
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.
You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
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's Earth Day, and we are called to lie down in green pastures, beside still waters and contemplate the beauty of this earth with which God has blessed us!
We know what we are supposed to do: care for the earth, don't litter, don't over use resources, recycle, compost, advocate for non polluting ways of life - we have the list down! It is part of our Christian "duty" and liberal ways. God knows I applaud it all! Can we however move ourselves to embrace this gift with more than just concerned actions?
On this day might we also give a little care to "restoring" our souls? For the beauty of this earth, we sing grateful praises to God, the hymn tells us, and we praise "the love which from our birth over and around us lies" ("For the Beauty of the Earth" by Fiolliott Pierpont). This earth is a blessing and a gift from a creator who called it ALL good, especially each of us. What blessed care! What unimaginable love!
I live next door to sheep and they are not the brightest or the cleanest of God's creatures so imaging God as my shepherd does give me pause. The thought of unrelenting care and concern for me however does restore my soul, "my cup overflows" with "goodness and mercy" always at my back! I am so beloved that no matter what ill advised or "sheep" like decisions I make, God will never stop loving me! I want to dwell in that kind of protection forever! Yes the psalm is a well worn staple, but I want never to tire of hearing its promise of restoration and love.
Someone once asked if God loves us just the way we are, why do we still need to come to church and hear sermons? Because we do not believe in that love, was my answer and we need to be reminded of this Shepherd who always has our back! "I just want to be a sheep! I pray the Lord my soul to keep. I just wanna be a sheep. Baa, baa, baa, baa" (Song by Brian M. Howard).
God as we contemplate the beauty and care of this earth, open our eyes to the green pastures and still waters. Move us to take time to "lie down" and rest in you. Lead us in the right paths so that we might stop, breathe, believe and enjoy the restoration your love offers us this and every day. Amen