Sunday’s sermon: Twinkle Twinkle, Precious Star

Text used – Genesis 15:1-6

  • Every single night, I sing to my children before they go to sleep. The boys take turns choosing the night’s lullaby – “Beautiful Boy,” “St. Judy’s Comet,” “House at Pooh Corner,” “Candle on the Water,” or “Goodnight My Angel.” And then I sing them a short hymn: “Love the Lord Your God.” After that, Julia insists that I sing her one more song: “Twinkle Twinkle, Little Star.” [sing song] Familiar, right? Maybe something you’ve sung with your own children or grandchildren, brothers or sisters?
    • History of “Twinkle Twinkle, Little Star”[1]
      • Started as a poem called “The Star” written in 1806 by English poet Jane Taylor
      • Paired with melody from a French folk song (“Ah, vous dirai-je, Maman”) sometime in the 1830s
    • In truth, stars have fascinated humans as long as we’ve been able to look up at the sky and wonder.
      • Songs and poems
      • Stories and rhymes
      • Ancient philosophy to modern particle physics
      • Astrology and astronomy
      • Different folk lore from different cultures around the world tell the story of how the stars came into being
        • E.g. from Mindanao in the Philippines: One day in the times when the sky was close to the ground a spinster went out to pound rice. Before she began her work, she took off the beads from around her neck and the comb from her hair, and hung them on the sky, which at that time looked like coral rock. Then she began working, and each time that she raised her pestle into the air it struck the sky. For some time she pounded the rice, and then she raised the pestle so high that it struck the sky very hard. Immediately the sky began to rise, and it went up so far that she lost her ornaments. Never did they come down, for the comb became the moon and the beads are the stars that are scattered about.[2]
      • Even the writers of Scripture were fascinated by the stars.
        • Mentioned in the 1st creation account in Gen: God said, “Let there be light in the dome of the sky to separate the day from the night. They will mark events, sacred seasons, days, and years. They will be lights in the dome of the sky to shine on the earth.” And that’s what happened. God made the stars and two great lights: the larger light to rule over the day and the smaller light to rule over the night.[3]
        • Mentioned time and again throughout the psalms and the writings of some of the prophets as evidence of God’s handiwork in the world[4]
        • Inextricably linked to the life of Jesus
          • Birth heralded by a star[5]
          • Stars go dark on the moment of Jesus’ death[6]
        • Stars falling from the heavens = portent of the end of days in a number of different passages[7]
  • And then we come to today’s passage – a short, little interaction between Abram and God full of stars … and full of promise.
    • Background → This story comes about halfway through Abram’s journeys with God.
      • Has already been called by God to leave his homeland to travel to the land of Canaan[8] (huge territory that covers present day Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, and Israel)
      • Has traveled in Egypt with his wife, Sarai, and had dodgy interactions with Pharaoh[9]
      • Rescued his brother, Lot, from rival kings[10]
      • Blessed by Melchizedek, king of Salem (Jerusalem)[11]
    • Abram’s been a busy guy! He’s been traveling. He’s been tangled up in dangerous political intrigue thanks to his brother. He’s built altars to God as he went along. And then we come to today’s passage.
      • First – God’s word to Abram as reassurance and comfort – text: After these events, the Lord’s word came to Abram in a vision, “Don’t be afraid, Abram. I am your protector. Your reward will be very great.”[12]
        • Heb. “reward” is more than just a divine payout – “reward” = wages, fare, expenses, maintenance → So God is promising Abram that he will be taken care of. God is promising Abram that God will be there for him, that God will provide for him – will keep him, will preserve him, will support and sustain him. There’s a longevity implied here. God’s not talking about a one-time, jackpot-type of reward. God’s talking about a long-term care plan. That’s God’s first promise.
      • Abram = not super convinced – text: But Abram said, “Lord God, what can you possibly give me, since I still have no children? The head of my household is Eliezer, a man from Damascus.” He continued, “Since you haven’t given me any children, the head of my household will be my heir.”[13] → Clearly, Abram is having a rough time. He’s feeling discouraged. He’s feeling resentful. He’s feeling frustrated. Inheritance in ancient times was everything – being able to pass on your possessions, your land, and your name to your eldest son, or, if you didn’t have any sons, to the men that married your daughter/s. And yet Abram has found himself with no heirs.
        • Hear his frustration in his tone (I think we can even call it a bit accusatory): “Since you haven’t given me any children” → Abram is saying to God, “Look, I’ve done everything you’ve asked. I left my homeland. I’ve traveled hundreds of miles. I’ve built you altars. I’ve followed you all over the place. And still, you haven’t given me any children.” Yes, Abram’s probably bitter and a bit surly in this moment. But there is pain and desperate longing beneath the surface of this accusation. There is the ache of one who has longed for a child and yet has been left longing. I have to confess that my heart breaks a bit for Abram in this moment.
      • Come to God’s great promise – text: The Lord’s word came immediately to him, “This man will not be your heir. Your heir will definitely be your very own biological child.” Then [God] brought Abram outside and said, “Look up at the sky and count the stars if you think you can count them.” [God] continued, “This is how many children you will have.”[14] → Just imagine what Abram would have seen in that moment. He’s in the middle of the desert. It’s the middle of the night. There are no electric lights to pollute the night sky, and it is truly full of stars – more stars than Abram’s eyes can even take in, more stars than Abram can even fathom, certainly more stars than Abram can count. That is God’s promise: not only will you have an heir – a child of your very own – but your descendants will outnumber the stars.
        • Abram’s response – text: Abram trust the Lord, and the Lord recognized Abram’s high moral character.[15]
  • And while that may be the end of our passage this morning, that’s just the beginning.
    • Remember, we’re working through the Narrative Lectionary again this year – telling the Grand Story of faith from the beginning.
      • Started last week with the first part that makes up the foundation of this Grand Story: creation
      • Today’s story introduces the second part of that foundation: promise → The whole rest of this Grand Story that we’re telling and retelling – this story that we’re living and reliving day in and day out as people of faith – is a story that hinges on this promise: that God will bless Abram and his wife, Sarai, with descendants more numerous even than the stars. Because that’s everyone else in this story that we’re telling. That’s everyone else in this story that we’re living. Even us.
    • More numerous than even we can imagine → Thousands and thousands of years after Abram, with all of our advanced technology and scientific innovations, our society that has progressed to not only staring up at space but has actually sent people into space … even we cannot number the stars. We don’t have any idea how many stars there are. And we never will.
      • Introduce Indescribable: 100 Devotions About God and Science by Louie Giglio[16]: book of 100 short devotions for kids that weave science and faith together → In all honesty, there are a few things about this book that I don’t love, but the majority of the devotions in here are great. We use this book every other night with our boys before bedtime.
        • Read portions of #55: “A Star is Born”: The Whirlpool Galaxy is called a grand-design galaxy, and it is made up of hundreds of billions of stars, maybe as many as 500 billion! It’s an incredibly beautiful spot in the universe, and it’s also a very special one. That’s because the Whirlpool Galaxy is a place where stars are born – a sort of baby hospital for stars. You see, in the beginning, God created the first stars in an instant when [God] said, “Let there be light!” Since then stars have formed when giant clouds of space dust and gases pull tighter and tighter and tighter together until … a star is born.[17]
    • You see, we can’t know exactly how many stars are in the universe because there are more stars being born, spinning faster and faster into creation even as we speak. That’s why God’s promise to Abram in this passage is so incredible! It’s a promise that renews. It’s a promise that continues to bear fruit. It’s a promise without end. Just as the universe continues to spin more and more stars into creation, so God’s promise is made new in and through us each and every day.
      • Promise that God will care for us and provide for us
      • Promise that God will be with us
      • Promise that God will love us unconditionally
      • Promise that God’s love will shine brightly in us and through us → As Carl Sagan famously said, “We are made of star stuff.” We are made of promise and hope. We are made of potential and possibility. We are made of God’s intention and truest love. It is the heart of ourselves. It is the heart of our story. So twinkle twinkle, precious star. God knows exactly what and who you are. And that is, indeed, good news. Amen.

[1] https://www.britannica.com/story/did-mozart-write-twinkle-twinkle-little-star#:~:text=As%20for%20%E2%80%9CTwinkle%2C%20Twinkle%2C,music%20together%20dates%20to%201838.).

[2] http://getwokebooklist.com/sacredtexts/asia/pft/pft34.htm.

[3] Gen 1:14-16.

[4] Ps 147:4; Ps 136:9; Ps 8:3; Ps 19:1; Dan 12:3; Is 40:26; Amos 5:8; Is 13:10

[5] Mt 2:

[6] Mt 27:45.

[7] Mk 13:25; Mt 24:29; Rev 6:13.

[8] Gen 12:1-9.

[9] Gen 12:10-20.

[10] Gen 14:1-16.

[11] Gen 14:17-24.

[12] Gen 15:1.

[13] Gen 15:2-3.

[14] Gen 15:4-5.

[15] Gen 15:6.

[16] Louie Giglio. Indescribable: 100 Devotions About God and Science. (Nashville, TN: Passion Publishing), 2017.

[17] Giglio, 117.

Sunday’s sermon: Once Upon a Purpose

Adam and Eve” by Omenihu Amachi

Text used – Genesis 2:4-7, 15-17; 3:1-8 (read in the midst of the sermon)

  • Last year, we took a journey through Scripture together. We started in September, and from then until the end of May, we read through the arc of the Grand Story of faith. We started in Genesis, reading through bits and pieces of the Old Testament until Christmas – enter the Baby Jesus, enter the New Testament. Then we read through bits and pieces of the gospel of Mark until Pentecost.
    • Did this because we were following a new lectionary – Narrative Lectionary
      • Devised in 2010 by Profs. Rolf Jacobson and Craig Koester at Luther Seminary in St. Paul
      • Purpose: to “follow the sweep of the biblical story, from Creation through the early Christian church. The texts show the breadth and variety of voices within Scripture. They invite people to hear the stories of Abraham and Sarah, Moses and the prophets, Jesus, and Paul. Listening to the many different voices within Scripture enriches preaching and the life of faith.”[1]
      • Best part: Narrative Lectionary = 4-yr. cycle → different readings every year that take us through that “sweep of the Biblical story”
        • Helps us to become more and more familiar with that grand arc of God’s Story of Faith: creation → covenants → prophets → Messiah → early church → And everything in between. It’s important for us as Christians to be familiar with this age-old story because it’s our story. → story that we continue to tell and live into each and every time we pray, each and every time we share our faith, each and every time we turn and return to God
  • So here we are in September again, ready to start the next cycle. And where do we start? The beginning. The very beginning. Creation.
    • First, begin with some basic background → In “scholar speak,” this is called Biblical historical criticism.
      • Important to remember that all of these stories were being told for centuries before anyone wrote them down → And just like any story that gets passed down and down and down and down and down, the stories changed somewhat. Some details were forgotten. Others were embellished. Sometimes the order or the names of the characters got shifted around a little. Sometimes the same story was told from a different perspective. That’s the nature of telling a story, hearing the story, and telling the story again.
        • E.g. – family story told by two people at once → Both people were there. Both people have some of the elements of the story in common. But they also both have their own, personal experiences. One person heard this. The other person saw that. They both felt and thought different things about the same situation, and all of those differences color their telling of the story. And parts of the Biblical narrative are no different.
          • See this in the gospels
            • A few stories/passages that are incredibly similar
            • Some stories that are shared but told differently
            • Some stories that show up only in one or two of the gospels
            • Each individual gospel is someone’s individual account of Jesus’ life and teachings.
          • OT “Documentary Hypothesis”: idea that 4 different authors contributed to the Torah – first 5 books of the Bible (Gen, Ex, Lev, Num, Deut) → We’re not going to dig deeply into this hypothesis today because it can get fairly technical and extensive, but one of the ways that scholars delineate which source contributed which part of the text has to do with the name that the author uses for God. In some sections of the Torah, the name “Yahweh” is used for God. In other sections, the name “Elohim” is used.
    • 2 different creation stories in Genesis = perfect illustration of this
      • Story from Gen 1 = narrative of God’s creation on each individual day peppered with God’s declaration that that new creation is “very good” → ends with God resting on the seventh day
        • Account of God creating humanity is both short and broad in its scope: God created humanity in God’s own image, in the divine image God created them, male and female God created them. God blessed them and said to them, “Be fertile and multiply; fill the earth and master it. Take charge of the fish of the sea, the birds of the sky, and everything crawling on the ground.”[2]
      • 2nd creation account in Gen = sort of the exact opposite
        • Small amount of detail given to the creation of the world and the creatures within in BUT much greater focus on God’s creation of and relationship with humans – Friends, listen for God’s story in today’s Scripture reading: [READ SCRIPTURE]
          • Shares a few elements with the Gen 1 story of creation but also includes a lot of different details
  • Now, before we tackle the main message of today’s Scripture reading, we need to address the elephant in the room … or rather, the snake in the room: Eve … the fruit … the snake … and sin. For centuries, the blame for that Original Sin has been placed on Eve’s shoulders. This passage has been used as a weapon against women to subjugate them and deny them opportunities.
    • Began with Latin Fathers back in the 2nd and 3rd centuries → shifted the blame of sin from both Adam and Eve to rest it squarely on Eve’s shoulders → attitude passed down from generation to generation throughout the church
      • Used to keep women out of leadership
      • Used to keep women uneducated
      • Used to keep women subservient
      • Used to keep women entirely dependent on men for centuries
      • Used to justify prejudice and violence against women for centuries → twisted and distorted in some of the most unjust, malicious, evil ways
    • And while I wish I could say we have grown past this image and twisted, harmful theology, friends, there are still plenty of people around the world today that still use this passage as justification for hate and discrimination against women. I cannot tell you the number of colleagues I have who have felt the painful reverberations of the way this passage as been warped and manipulated. Strong, intelligent women called by God to serve churches here in America today have been told they’re too pretty to be the pastor … have been told people are amazed a woman can preach so well … have been told that they can “have” the children’s message but the “real” sermon is for the man on staff (even if she is the senior pastor and the man is the associate) … have been told they can’t be the real pastor because they’re women. I cannot tell you the number of women I know who have experienced inappropriate interactions – both physical and verbal – with men in their church because those men refuse to see them as authoritative leaders called by God … simply because they are women. And as heinous and inexcusable as all of that is, we know that it’s so much worse for so many women around the world. And friends, that is not what this passage is about.
  • So what does this passage say, then? What’s the point of this 2nd creation narrative from Genesis? Why start the story here?
    • 2 parts of today’s story → creation part and the fall from grace
      • 1st part = creation
        • God creates this beautiful world and then creates humanity – text: The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.[3]
          • Heb. “take care of it” = watch/guard it, save it, protect it, revere it – connotations of being careful and attentive
        • Comes with the implication of moderation and preservation – text: And the Lord God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.”[4] God gives creation to Adam so that Adam may care for the world – so that Adam may find sustenance and shelter in it, so that Adam may find joy and recreation in it, so that Adam may find reverence and sacredness in it. So that Adam may find purpose in it. Not so that Adam may do as he pleased with every blade of grass and flower, bending the natural world to Adam’s own will and whim, wasting the lives of all creatures – walking, crawling, swimming, flying – for sport. Adam is given stewardship of this creation … not supreme rule.
          • Scholar: The Creator who gives life also gives meaning and purpose to life. We are called to serve as caretakers in God’s good creation – stewards of a world we did not make and can receive only as a gift held in trust. … The freedom God ordains is expansive but not boundless. There are limits to the exercise of our creaturely freedom.[5]
      • 2nd part of the story = the fall → humanity’s first failure in that care of creation
        • Adam and Eve encounter the serpent
        • Serpent convinces them to eat the fruit of the tree that God had forbidden
        • Adam and Eve disobey God’s command and eat the fruit
        • Interesting discrepancy in Eve’s story vs. what God said to Adam
          • Important to note: When God gave the directive not to eat the fruit from the tree, God gave that directive to Adam before creating Eve → So Eve never heard those words from God. Clearly, Adam must have conveyed them to her because she conveys them to the serpent as part of her argument against eating the fruit … but her words do not exactly echo God’s own.
            • God (text): “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you it from it you will certainly die.”[6]
            • Eve to the serpent (text): “God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’”[7]
            • Scholar highlights the crucial difference: This interaction holds the first distortion of God’s words. God never said, “Don’t touch the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil”; rather, God warned not to eat of it. The woman did a curious thing in that she restricted her own freedom and said God had done it. Here we see the first cracks form in the relationship between humanity and God.[8] → Cracks in the relationship between humanity and God. The point at which our own self-indulgent, misguided, internally-driven purpose overrides God’s purpose for us, and we turn away. Sin.
        • Another scholar puts this a different way (encompassing all creation): God sends us into the garden because the garden needs service and preservation, and we are God’s instrument for caring for creation. Even though this mission is compelling and should be all-consuming, we share a human propensity for distraction. In the midst of caring for the garden, we will inevitably find fruit, and we will think that the fruit looks good to eat. … We will use our God-given intellect to rationalize doing things that are not part of our mission, or we will just settle for doing as others tell us, when we need to concentrate on God’s mission in the world.[9]
    • And when we hold those two things in tension – God’s call to purpose in this world and our “human propensity for distraction” – we find the reason for beginning this year’s journey through God’s Grand Story here in this creation account from Genesis. We find the ultimate purpose to which we are called – following God, being in relationship with God, and caring for all God’s creation (flora and fauna; animal, vegetable, and mineral; humans and neighbors of all colors, creeds, and persuasions). And we find a reminder of just how easy … how absent-minded … how inviting it can be to stray from that purpose. Once upon a purpose, there was God … and creation … and humanity. And the story continues. Amen.

[1] From “What is the narrative lectionary?” section, https://www.workingpreacher.org/narrative_faqs.aspx?fbclid=IwAR3BDmu06cmxC8YduElc_f6htjLr72lgIPf9euMTfpC47fOF0CZTpygB7u4.

[2] Gen 1:27-28.

[3] Gen 2:15.

[4] Gen 2:16.

[5] Allen C. McSween, Jr. “First Sunday in Lent – Genesis 2:15-17; 3:1-7 – Pastoral Perspective” in Feasting on the Word: Preaching the Revised Common Lectionary – Year A, vol. 2.  (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2010), 26.

[6] Gen 2:116-17.

[7] Gen 3:3 (emphasis added).

[8] Lisa Sharon Harper. The Very Good Gospel: How Everything Wrong Can Be Made Right. (New York, NY: Waterbrook, 2016), 46.

[9] Jon L. Berquist. “First Sunday in Lent – Genesis 2:15-17; 3:1-7 – Homiletical Perspective” in Feasting on the Word: Preaching the Revised Common Lectionary – Year A, vol. 2. (Louisville,  KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2010), 31.

Sunday’s sermon: Sleeping: Holiness in Rest

Text used – Psalm 23

  • Throughout the summer, friends, we’ve been working our way through Tish Harrison Warren’s Liturgy of the Ordinary: Sacred Practices for Everyday Life[1], and today, we find ourselves on the final chapter … the final sermon in this series.
    • Arc of the book (and arc of the sermon series) has followed a typical day in the life of the author and attempted to find moment of sacredness and connection with God even in the most mundane and routine tasks → Throughout the summer, we’ve talked about …
      • The blessing of waking up – of starting each morning awash in the grace and overwhelming love of God
      • Brushing teeth and eating leftovers – of the blessed embodiedness and physicality of our faith and the way God loves and blesses our bodies
      • Losing keys and fighting with spouses – of the undeniable importance of confession and forgiveness in our lives and in our faith
      • Checking email and calling a friend – of the connectionality and sacred community that we find with God and with one another
      • Making the bed, sitting in traffic, and drinking tea – finding sacredness, sanctuary, and flashes of the holy in some of the most automatic and least expected moments of our days
      • And so it’s only fitting that as we wrap up our series, we do so by wrapping up the day: with rest, with sacred Sabbath rest, with returning to sleep so we can wake up and do it all again tomorrow.
        • Especially appropriate during this time of year → fall is a time when we shift from the busyness and activity and extended hours of light in the summer to the more measured and deliberate slowing-down of autumn
          • Starting to think about closing cabins for the summer
          • Starting to think about putting gardens to bed for the winter months ahead
          • Starting to think about farmers harvesting the crop that they’ve spent all summer tending
          • Starting to watch the light diminish slowly, bit by bit every day as our particular patch of the world tilts further away from the sun and we prepare for the extended darkness and cold of winter
          • It feels like our part of the world is preparing for sleep as well.
  • Here’s the thing, though: we’re going to come at this idea of rest from a slightly different angle than you’ve maybe heard this morning. Very often, when we talk about rest and faith, we’re talking about times to seek relaxation and renewal in God. It’s a conversation about being refreshed. It’s a conversation that feels much like taking a deep breath – cleansing and calming and reassuring. But Warren comes at the idea of going to sleep and rest and faith in a different way. – Warren: Our need for sleep reveals that we have limits. We are unable to defend ourselves, to keep ourselves safe, to master the world around us. Sleep exposes reality. We are frail and weak. We need a guide and a guard. No matter how much I love or fear something, ultimately my human need for rest kicks in. Even when my kids are sick and really need me, I can’t stay awake with them day and night for long. Our powerful need for sleep is a reminder that we are finite. God is the only one who never slumbers nor sleeps.[2] → For Warren, the rest that we find in God is a reminder that God is God and we are not. It’s a reminder that the world does not revolve around us – that the world does not, in fact, require our attentiveness, our activity, our overextendedness, or even our worry to continue its course through the heavens. The world will keep on spinning whether we will it to or not. God will continue working in this world even when we do not. God delights in working in and through us, but God’s work is not dependent solely upon us. Because, indeed, God is God, and we are not.
    • This is a blessing! → meant to relieve some of the weight that we have placed upon our own shoulders
      • As parents/grandparents
      • As partners/spouses
      • As children of aging parents
      • As workers in whatever industry you find yourself in (especially teachers/school administrators and staff and health care workers right now ♥)
      • When we go to sleep at night, we cannot function in these roles that make up the fabric of our lives. When we wake up again in the morning, we can once again don whatever hats we need or choose to wear, but when we sleep, we must lay those hats down. We must pause. We must breathe. We must let go and let God.
    • Now believe me, I know that’s often easier said than done, especially in times of great stress and worry. I have spent plenty of nights awake at 3:00 a.m. going over and over this decision or that upcoming event, this parenting dilemma or that task that remains unfinished. And there are plenty of nights when, even if I sleep all the way through, I don’t get as much sleep as I should because I stay up too late or get up way too early in order to get more work done. And, y’all, I know I’m not alone in that.
      • Warren quotes data from a National Health Interview Survey: Nearly 30 percent of adults average less than six hours of sleep per night, significantly under the recommended seven to eight hours. Only about 30 percent of high school students reported getting at least eight hours of sleep on an average school night, though they need around ten. In one national study, over 7 percent of people between twenty-five and thirty-five admitted to actually nodding off while driving in the past month.[3] → Clearly, we need more rest. Clearly, we have taken on the burden of too much – too many tasks, too much worry, too much to think about and turn over and over in our minds. Clearly, we have elevated the notion of productivity over basically everything else in our lives and our days.
  • In this vein, Warren introduces a particular phrase in this chapter → It’s a revolutionary phrase. It’s a phrase that just might turn your life upside-down. Are you read for this? The phrase is: “the blessedness of unproductivity.” “The blessedness of unproductivity.” This basic idea behind this phrase: those moments of pause, of rest, of putting everything down remind us that God’s got this. This idea of the blessedness of unproductivity is why our Scripture reading for this morning is so perfect. Psalm 23 – a psalm of rest; a psalm of letting go; a psalm to remind us that God was and is and always will be there for us, providing and guiding and guarding and blessing.
    • Very 1st verse sets the tone: The Lord is my shepherd. I lack nothing.[4]
      • Role of a shepherd = something many of us have lost touch with, I think → It’s not the tender, picturesque life of laying about in the fields that Hollywood has conjured up over the decades. Shepherding is rough. Shepherding is constant. Shepherding is taking the well-being of an entire group squarely on your own shoulders – the guiding, the protecting, bringing the new lives into the world and helping the oldest and sickest ones to leave this world as peacefully and comfortably and humanely as possible. Right off the bat, Psalm 23 recognizes not that we play this shepherding role for anyone else but that God plays this shepherding role for us.
        • 2nd part of that first verse underlines the total provision of this shepherding role: I lack nothing → Heb. = literally “not” + complex word that means doing without, being deprived, being deficient → So because God plays that shepherding role for us – that guarding and guiding role – we are not deficient. We are not deficient in what we need. We are not deficient in what we have. And most importantly, we are not deficient in who we are. So often, our busyness and overextended productivity stems from our own insecurities – insecurities about who others think we are and insecurities about who we think we are. We overwork ourselves day in and day out because we do not feel like we are enough. And yet right off the bat, Psalm 23 tells us that because God is our constant source and companion, we are truly and unquestionably enough.
    • Goes on to detail all the ways in which God provides for us: He lets me rest in grassy meadows; he leads me to restful waters; he keeps me alive. He guides me in proper paths for the sake of his good name. Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I fear no danger because you are with me. Your rod and your staff – they protect me. You set a table for me right in front of my enemies. You bathe my head in oil; my cup is so full it spills over![5] → Everything that we need – food and water, safety and guidance, blessing and breath itself – come from God. Note that not a single one of those verses says, “Because I did this, God provides,” or “Because I earned this, God rewarded me,” or “Because I believed exactly the right thing … because I followed exactly the right doctrine … because I was a member of the right and only church … God was with me.” None of the provisions – none of those “enoughs” – are tied in any way to any action on our behalf. This psalm is all about how and what God does for us simple because God is God and we are not.
      • Along these lines, Warren poses a powerful and thought-provoking question → First, she makes a great point about our utter and undeniable reliance on God: Each night when we yield to sleep, we practice letting go of our reliance on self-effort and abiding in the good grace of our Creator. Thus embracing sleep is not only a confession of limits; it is also a joyful confession of God’s limitless care for us. For Christians, the act of ceasing and relaxing into sleep is an act of reliance on God. [She then poses her question:] What if Christians were known as a countercultural community of the well-rested – people who embrace our limits with zest and even joy? As believers we can relish sleep as not only necessary but as an embodied response to the truth of Scripture: we are finite, weak creatures who are abundantly cared for by our strong and loving Creator.[6]
        • Echoed in the final verse of the psalm: Yes, goodness and faithful love will pursue me all the days of my life, and I will live in the Lord’s house as long as I live.[7] → Notice that God’s goodness and faithful love will not sit idly and disinterestedly on the sidelines of life waiting for us to make time. “Yes, goodness and faithful love will pursue me all the days of my life.” While we are working, while we are worrying, while we are weeping, while we are wandering, God’s goodness and faithful love pursues us. While we are praising, while we are playing, while we are preoccupied, while we are procrastinating, God’s goodness and faithful love pursues us.
          • Heb. “pursues” = verb that carried considerable insistence and doggedness → It is a thoroughly active verb. It is a tenacious verb. It is a verb with grit and endurance – one of those verbs that takes on a life of it’s own. That is how God pursues us. That is how God cares for us. That is how God provides for us. That is how God loves us. And that, friends, is why God is God and we are not. So rest easy. Rest true. Rest unburdened. Because God’s got you. Truly, thanks be to God. Amen.

[1] Tish Harrison Warren. Liturgy of the Ordinary: Sacred Practices in Everyday Life. (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press), 2016.

[2] Warren, 144.

[3] Warren, 145.

[4] Ps 23:1.

[5] Ps 23:2-5.

[6] Warren, 152.

[7] Ps 23:6.