The Twenty-third Psalm is a great comfort to us as we imagine the green pastures and still waters. It’s really hard to imagine green pastures and still waters, in the deep of winter! Although with all the rain we’ve been having, it’s more imaginable now than it was last week!
Psalm 23 also recalls the dark valleys and calls us into the not-so-easy practice of sitting down at the table with our enemies. I don’t know about you, but if I sit down to eat with someone I know dislikes me, my stomach is in a knot and I cannot eat a thing!
Yet, David, the shepherd boy who became king, wrote in Psalm 23:5, “You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.” God is preparing a table for us, and is inviting us and anyone we perceive to be our enemy to that table.
What I’ve found, is that our unhurried God is present with us when we sit down to have a meal with our friends and family, and our enemies as well. It doesn’t matter who it is, our unhurried God is always with us, and he wants us to take our time with him and them, getting to know who are perceived enemies really are.
Sometimes it’s just a misunderstanding about something that people thought we said or did, that makes them dislike us. If this is the case, getting to know the truth will go a long way towards reconciliation.
God is with us in the good times and in the difficult times, and invites us to be radically present to each other in the same way; through the good times and the difficult times.
Have we been too busy to be really present to one another? Is there someone you’ve been meaning to make time for, but you’ve been too busy?
When Joe was in the hospital this summer, we knew you were all with us. He received many cards and we could feel your prayers and your love surrounding us and supporting us. Thank you. Your prayers and your cards were able to get us through his illness; along with those amazing doctors at the hospital in Minneapolis.
We went to see his doctor on March 7th, and he is very pleased with how Joe is doing. He’ll be off the Prednisone altogether April 6. That’s what he was hoping for!
When we are busy all the time, it may be because we’re covering up for something. We’re covering up emotions that we don’t want to deal with, or situations we don’t want to confront. Think about it. Are there emotions you don’t want to deal with, or situations you don’t want to confront? Is that why you may be pushing down the thought of reconciling with a family member or friend?
Dr. Harry Ironside, a great preacher, used to be the pastor of the Moody Church in Chicago. He told a story of a poor dear little old lady who lived by herself. Somehow, she convinced herself that she was being followed by two men everywhere she went, and she developed a phobia about it.
She tried psychiatrists, she tried counselors, she would regularly call the police. But nobody could help her because nobody was following her. Well, finally she went to see her pastor about the problem. She said, “Pastor, I have a very serious problem.” He said, “What is it?”
She said, “Everywhere I go two men follow me. When I go to the grocery store, they follow me. When I get on the streetcar, they follow me. When I come home, they are right behind me. When I go into my bedroom they’re right there at my bed.” He said, “Well, have you reported this to the police?” She said, “Yes, but they say they’re not there. But I know they are. I can see them. Can you help me?”
The Holy Spirit of God instantly spoke to that pastor, and he put his arm around that dear lady and he said, “You are one of the most blessed women I’ve ever met!” She said, “I am. How do you figure that?” He said, “Don’t you know who those men are?” She said, “No, do you?” He said, “Oh yes, they’re David’s friends.”
He then turned to Psalm 23 and read her these words: “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life.” He said, “Sweet lady, those two men are goodness and mercy, and God has sent them to follow you all the days of your life.” She said, “Pastor, that’s wonderful, and to think all this time I’ve been afraid of them!” From that day on she would go to the streetcar, and before she would get on, she would wait for goodness and mercy to get on with her. When she would come home to her apartment, she would open the door and let goodness and mercy go in with her. She lived the rest of her life that way, always secure in the fact that goodness and mercy were following her.
They’re not imaginary; they are real. God’s goodness and God’s mercy follow us all the days of our life. All we have to do is let them minister to us.
God is with us. When we know it and when we can’t imagine it, God is with us. When we feel it and when we can’t fathom it, God is with us. The Psalmist said it best: “Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast” (Psalm 139:7-10). We cannot hide from the goodness and the mercy of God.
When Jesus gathered his disciples in the upper room, he knew he would soon be leaving them. Jesus said to his disciples in John 14:15-17, “If you love me, you will obey what I command. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever—the Spirit of truth,—you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you.” And in John 14:27 Jesus said to them, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”
When we come to realize that God’s goodness and God’s mercy are with us always, there is peace. Peace that comes not from this world, but from Jesus. I can testify to that. There is nothing like the peace that Jesus gives to you, when you give your heart to Jesus.
This peace which comes from our relationship with our Savior, enables us to sit down at a table with our enemies knowing that Jesus, the peacemaker, is right there with us.
Take Jesus with you when you are trying to reconcile with a family member, friend, or perceived enemy. God’s goodness and God’s mercy will be with you at the table. And Jesus the peacemaker, through the Holy Spirit, will be with you also.
Pastor Rosemary DeHut