Psalm 23

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 – Brandon Hudson

“The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want…”

Every journey must begin somewhere. Every pilgrimage starts with a single step. For us, as we begin our journey together this Lenten season, this Psalm is a good place to start. Today, we embark on a path in which we are seeking to move together in the Way of the Word. This Psalm, among the most well known, is a great comfort. It buoys us in our communal life together as we read it at funerals and ponder the path we walk through the “valley of the shadow of death,” remembering that we are called to “fear no evil.” We clasp our white knuckled hands in a posture of fervent prayer while we recite it in the language of King James as we seek deliverance from the many things that face us, as we search out the comfort of the “rod and staff” of our Savior.

This is a Psalm that reminds us that we do not walk this journey alone. We walk it together; this is the promise of community. And we walk it together with a Shepherd who will not abandon us or forsake us, who has promised us deliverance. And yet, that opening line that we utter under our breath when we are on the verge of feeling forsaken not only reminds us of a promise but pushes us towards a stance. Yes, the Lord is my (our) shepherd. And, I (we) shall not want.

As we begin this journey of Lent together, what wants are driving us? What wants do we need to lay down in order to faithfully follow the Shepherd we proclaim. Is it our drive to always appear right? Is it our want for more than we have been given? Is it our desire to take steps to protect ourselves from the trials of a life lived in vulnerability, taking matters into our own hands when we feel the Shepherd is not sufficient?

The Shepherd will guide us. That is a promise. But I know that we will find the journey an easier one to follow if we are honest at the beginning, if we do the work of recognizing the wants that drive us and laying them aside for the deeper longing of our souls, to be led through life by the One who is Love. May we take a moment today to lay down our wants, our desires, our burdens, our judgments, our self-righteousness, and all those things that keep us from leaning more deeply into trust. May we leave them here at the foot of the cross, with the ashes fresh on our foreheads, so that we can endeavor on this journey more faithfully together.