MODERN PRAYERS - PSALM 23 REIMAGINED
By: Rebecca Garrett Pace
Director of Worship and a Poet Who Doesn’t Even Know It
A couple Sundays ago, we read Psalm 23, and we read John 10, and we talked a lot about Jesus the Good Shepherd. “I know my sheep, and my sheep know me,” Jesus said. “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want,” the psalmist said.
But really, how do I relate to these things in my own life? How many of us have spent a night outside in a pasture with a herd of sheep? How many of us know what it’s like to be a shepherd? (Not meaning to assume here, so I’ll just answer for myself: the last time I was within 6 feet of a sheep was in 5th grade when we went on a field trip to Lazy Five Ranch in North Carolina, and it was hot and I got bitten by mosquitoes and honestly the sheep were not as cool as the zebra and the llama).
What do this psalm, and this idea of God as our shepherd, mean for us today?
I asked this question of two of our community members and dear friends of mine, Shellie Ross and Lisa Hancock, and we did some holy imagining what it might look, feel, and sound like to rewrite Psalm 23 for us today. As you read these reflections on our own modern psalms, I invite you to try your hand at this activity, too. What would you say in your own version of Psalm 23? What would say if you could write a letter to God?
Psalm 23 - rewritten
A psalm of Shellie Ross
Oh God, you are my shepherd. I should not desire much more.
(But I desire to visit my isolated grandma.)
I have my share of comforts, and knowing you are there offers peace.
(Especially in the chaos, crisis and unknown.)
You calm my inner being and soul.
I recognize your voice, God, encouraging me to always do the right thing.
Even though life is surrounded by death, sickness, solitude and unsafety,
I am not afraid,
(But really I am, sometimes.)
for I trust that I am not alone.
You are always prepared and keeping watch —
And knowing this brings comforts even on the darkest of days.
Even when it seems that others do not think of me or wish me well,
You are there, providing and caring for me.
When I feel down, you remind me of your love;
If I’d just look, I’d see my life has such goodness and blessing!
May I always be able to identify kindness and goodness in life,
And forever, be in the presence of you, the Good Shepherd.
Psalm 23 - rewritten
A psalm of Lisa Hancock
God is my Mother. She takes care me in ways I can’t even comprehend. She reminds me to eat foods that nourish body and soul and gathers me up in Her arms to find comfort and rest. She is my home. She continues to show me the way to live with myself and neighbors well, even when I do not listen very well.
In times of distress when I cannot see one step ahead or behind me and I fear the unknown, you are with me. Your steady, faithful arms surround me, grounding me and protecting me, even when I need protection from myself.
You set a table with tea and cookies (my favorite!) and invite me to sit down with my enemies (not really my favorite). You remind me in their presence that I am yours and you are always caring for me. In that moment, I recognize that my enemies are your children, too.
Surely your abundant goodness and mercy will flow before me, setting my path and showing me the way to go, as long as I live, and I will find my home in my Mother’s arms for ever and ever. Amen.
Psalm 23 - rewritten
A Psalm of Rebecca Garrett Pace
Jesus is my shepherd, and I honestly feel sorry for him, because I can be quite a stubborn sheep.
I shall not want. Or that’s the way it should work, but yet I always want for more. I’m working on it.
He makes me lie down in green pastures; he leads me beside still waters; he restores my soul. Jesus is teaching me how to care. To care for myself, so that I can then care for others. To care for the earth, so I can live in green pastures with still waters and not make a mess of them just because I can. To care for my soul, which is fed by gratitude and joy and kindness.
He leads me in right paths for his name’s sake. Unfortunately he keeps talking too softly for me to hear him, so I keep having to guess what the right paths are, and go on a hunch, and ask for forgiveness when I get it wrong.
Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I fear no evil — well that’s just wishful thinking. I fear all the time. All the things. So much fear. But I am learning how to sit in the darkness, and be open to what I might learn from it, and really the most important bit is that…
you are with me.
Your music, your friendship, your wisdom, your words, your kindness, your presence through others - they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies, and you tell me that there’s extra room at the table, and it’s actually your table and not mine, so I should scoot over and make room and invite my enemies to eat with me and give them the last piece of homemade bread and extra butter because that’s what you would do. Which is annoying but I know you’re right.
you anoint my head with oil - you protect and love me, you nurture, you guide, you heal me.
my cup overflows. God, I am grateful. I am so incredibly overwhelmed by goodness in my life.
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.
And when the goodness and mercy are obscured, O God, help me know you’re still there. Always. Forever. Amen.
I stumbled across this post this morning. Actually, God led me to it. I had googled "23rd Psalm", with the intention of finding a better way to apply it to everyday life and not just a psalm we hear at funerals. I am delighted to read these practical and living versions, and wanted to thank all of you.
Likewise. Thank you