Rev. Johanna Hattendorf is a UCC pastor who lives in Danvers, MA.
Scripture: Psalm 23 (NRSV)
A Psalm of David.
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.
Reflection: Green Pastures
When I was a child, growing up in the church, I can remember learning Bible verses by memory. The 23rd psalm was one of the very first passages I learned to recite. Embedded in those early neural pathways, these familiar words became a great comfort as I struggled with anxiety and insomnia in my teens. Laying awake in the darkness of my room, the words beginning to roll out with a whisper: “The Lord is my shepherd I shall not want.. . . “ I found comfort, solace, and yes, sleep.
As a pastor, over 20+ years of ministry, I have recited these words at bedsides and funerals, sung them in choirs, listened to many, many different versions by others, and yes, I continue to recite these words when I (still!!) wake in the night and can’t go back to sleep.
Today, I write these words from the lock-down of Covid-19. Fear, panic and a rising death toll is sweeping across the globe. The Shadow of Death is all around us as we struggle with an invisible enemy.
Yet, into a global pandemic, we have these amazing words from Psalm 23.
There is a reason that this psalm is recited at funerals and comforts a lonely teen lying awake at night—it is the hope that is embodied in this psalm. We are not alone in our fear. We are not passing through this shadow of death by ourselves. In the midst of all the pain, sorrow, fear, confusion, and yes grief: the God of all ages and times is with us, providing rest, nurture, comfort, and restoration of our weary and frightened spirits. We are finding that comfort in new ways: across the lines of technology, in Facebook, Instagram, and other social media, in phone calls and e-mails, and even in on-line worship. We find comfort from the bravery and compassion of those on the front lines. And the small gestures of friends and loved ones as we find new ways to communicate our love from a “safe distance”.
Many of us, in our grief and fear and worry are finding our way outside. Into “green pastures, still waters” and the blossoming of spring that is happening in our backyards and outside our windows. Here we discover what the psalmist knew, that there is solace and comfort when we come in direct contact with the God of all creation.
I, too, have found comfort in being outside. Shortly before the Spring Equinox, I wrote a small poem which I share with you today.
The forsythia in the backyard
is bursting with buds.
Toby (the dog) scrapes away the dead leaves
left over from last Fall
thrusting his nose deep into the earth
Tail wagging, he propels me forward,
Nose to ground,
Chasing the scent of spring.
Loving God, during this time, even as we continue to move through the shadow of death, may we find hope and renewal—in the scent of spring, in the emergence of new life, and in the God of all creation whose goodness and mercy shall follow us all the days of our lives.
New Prayer Requests:
We ask churches and church leaders to join us in the following prayers either by sharing them during worship, printing them in bulletins, or sharing them in some other way. To make a prayer request, please contact Drew Page at email@example.com.
Prayers of Intercession:
- For those who have been victims of domestic abuse or violence as the reported number of incidents rises during the Covid-19 lockdown
- For the family and friends of Rev. Mr. Allen F. Tinkham, UCC pastor who served in MA and CT and a former CT Conference staff person, who died on April 23
- For the family and friends of Rev. Charles C. Close, UCC pastor who served in CT, MA and NH, as well as serving on the MA Conference Board of directors. Rev. Close died on April 23
Prayers of Joy and Thanksgiving:
- For the hope that comes in seeing places in the world where the new infections of Covid-19 virus are beginning to slow down
- For open spaces where people can go to be outdoors during the lockdown
Please Pray for the Following SNEUCC Churches:
Riverton Congregational Church, Riverton, CT
Riverside Congregational UCC, Riverside, RI
First Congregational Church of Ridgefield, Ridgefield, CT
Ridgebury Congregational Church, UCC, Ridgefield, CT
Richmond Congregational Church UCC, Richmond, MA
Rehoboth Congregational Church, UCC, Rehoboth, MA
First Church of Christ, Congregational, Redding Center, CT
First Congregational Church, UCC, Reading, MA
First Congregational Church UCC, Raynham, MA
First Congregational Church UCC, Randolph, MA
Bethany Congregational Church, Quincy, MA
This Week in History:
April 29, 2010 (10 years ago) The U.S. Navy announces an end to a ban on women serving on U.S. submarines. Women, who represent about 15% of the navy personnel, were able to serve on surface ships, but not on submarines. The Navy announce it would need time to create suitable accommodations for women on board, which was thought to take about one year. The first women to serve on board submarines were officers beginning in 2012. The first enlisted female was Chief Petty Officer Dominique Saavedra, who was assigned to the USS Michigan in 2016.
“Study the past if you would define the future.”