This country is in the midst of a revolution. I don’t have to tell you that, really. You watch the news or perhaps read the news on the internet. Maybe you still read the newspaper. You know that the conservative values we have held here in the heartland are under assault. I’m not talking about politics, but I am talking about the erosion of traditional values that has slowly taken place over my life time, which is the last 65 years now.
As conservative Christians, we under assault as well. Where we used to be dominant in this country, we are increasingly marginalized by the enlightened progressives who would push us even further into the corner to advance their brand of secularism. In order to do that they have to undermine some of the foundational precepts of Christianity, and of this country. We are made out to be the bad people for opposing of every manner of perversion of what our Lord has ordained.
One is the understanding of the family. In our idealized view of the family, there is a father, a mother, and the children. This is not something that human beings created. It is not natural for human beings to be faithful to one person. You can see this playing out not only in Holy Scripture, under the Old Covenant, but in modern society. For one man and one woman to be faithful to one another is Supernatural. It is a gift from our heavenly Father.
I don’t know about you, but the events of the last decade, not to mention this crazy year, have given me a reason to fear the future. This country has been under siege by radical groups who want to destroy it and replace it with something they don’t even fully understand. I think they just want to watch the world burn. In many other countries who have been given over to secularism, having pushed Christianity to near extinction, their wonderfully tolerant inclusivity has resulted in assaults from radical right-wing religious groups, who are bent on murdering anyone who dares to insult their prophets.
Before this year, I have felt very secure here in our little town, and indeed in this county. After all, I have friends in the police department. This year has been trying on everyone, and I have to admit, I am uneasy about the future. Will the anarchists be knocking on our doors anytime soon? Probably not here, but that doesn’t mean it will never happen. I don’t want to give into fear. I bet you don’t either.
So it is timely that my friend and colleague Fr. David Roseberry has produced this devotional that I have given each of you. It’s called, “When the Lord is my Shepherd; Finding hope in a hard time.”
As you know, if you have been reading this devotional book, Fr. Roseberry has made a small change to the 23rd Psalm, adding one word to the beginning of this well known and often prayed Psalm. His point is that adding this one word shifts our perspective on this poem in a big way. I hope you have been reading the book each day. There are 23 short chapters, and they have helped me re-focus on the only real protector of my life, the Lord as my Shepherd.
In the Gospel according to St. John, Jesus speaks in seven, or eight, depending on how you count them, statements that in the words “I AM.” When Moses asks God in the burning bush who should he tell the people sent him. God answers, “I AM who I AM…This is My name forever, and this is My memorial to all generations”
There is one Hebrew word in our Old Testament that translates to this. Hebrew is written in consonants only, so the letters YHWH are all we get. The Jews knew not to take the Name of the LORD in vain, so they did not speak it out loud. When the Rabbi’s come to this word when reading Holy Scripture, they say the word, Lord. In our Bibles the word is typed in an all-capitals font, LORD. Now you know why.
So when Jesus uses this name, he is telling us that he is “I AM” or the LORD.
The statement I am thinking of now of course is, I AM the Good Shepherd. In this simple statement, our Lord is fulfilling the prophecies of God being the true shepherd to his flock, and telling us that he and the Father are one.
As the sheep follow their shepherd because they know his voice, so our Good Shepherd wants us to follow him. If I think on this, I begin to lose the fear that is trying to creep in and destroy my peace. In verse 4, the psalm shifts from using “He” to the more familiar “You.”
“Even though I walk through the valley of shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for you are with me, your rod and your staff, they comfort me.”
This is a verse that I can keep in the forefront of my mind and use whenever I begin to have any fear of the future.
When the Lord is my shepherd, I have everything I need, and I need not fear anything. He is the Lord and Shepherd of my life, and I lack nothing. I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever. Amen.