Readings for the day (4th Sunday in Lent – Sunday, March 26, 2017):
Dear friends in Christ, grace to you and peace from God our Father, and our Lord and Savior Jesus the Christ. Amen.
Well it won’t be too long now before the snow is all gone, the grass green again, and the flags waving at the golf courses again. So it’s time to dust off those clubs because spring is coming.
Today our Psalm should have been very familiar to most of you. Psalm 23 is a very important passage in the Bible that is essential to our faith. Psalm 23 is like that putter in your golf bag – it is essential to your golf game. That is of course unless you are really good at golf and never need to use your putter. But I don’t think any of us are that good. For me I think my golf score would actually be better if I never had to putt. My golf game isn’t good enough to eliminate the putter from my bag.
Psalm 23 is essential for daily life. When things go south in life, not if, this Psalm becomes essential. When we can’t seem to see what’s really going on, this Psalm is essential.
No matter how hard we try to avoid going through those dark valleys, because of the brokenness of this world, eventually we do go through some dark places. Parents divorce, loved ones battle cancer, those close to you struggle with chemical dependency, infertility issues arise, friends let current issues breakup years of friendship, and way too many children and adults wrestle with mental illness. Like I said, it’s not a matter of if you will see a dark valley in your life – it is a matter of when that dark valley will occur. And just because you go through it once, doesn’t mean that it can’t happen again.
These parents who have this son who was blind since birth certainly had to have seen this dark valley – especially since at that time if there was anything wrong with you, you were considered unclean, an outcast. Plus if you associated yourself, and specifically toughed an unclean person, you too were to be considered unclean, an outcast. So these parents did what they needed to in order to help their son, but since at this time when Jesus heals him, he is of age, the parents are not willing to stand up for him or speak for him on his behalf. They simply say twice, “He is of age, ask him.” How awful of a valley to walk through all those years, knowing that when your son gets older, he will be considered an outcast in society.
So the Psalmist says, “Even though I walk through the darkest valley…” Not even a slightly dark valley, or a partially dark valley, but the darkest valley… “I fear no evil; for you are with me…” I fear no evil, not because I read something on Google and the situation doesn’t sound all that bad. Not because I can justify a friend’s erratic behavior. And we certainly don’t fear evil because we somehow think that if we just ignore the problem/the dark valley that it will just go away. No! We fear no evil because our God, the God who is our Shepherd and Lord, who doesn’t make us lie down in a pile of manure, but he makes us lie down in green pastures; is also the one who promises to be with us always until the end of the age. We fear no evil as we go through the dark valleys of this life because our God is with us every step of the way.
So if you, your parents, or someone close to you is having marital issues – God is with you in the midst of that heartache. If you or a loved one is battling cancer – God is fighting alongside you or them. If someone close to you is struggling with chemical dependency, whether it be drugs, alcohol, pain medication, or something else – God is with them. If you or a friend is struggling with infertility issues – you are not alone, God still loves you and them, and if it is God’s will, a baby will come in God’s time.
My friends, the judgments need to end. Maybe you are part of the problem, maybe you aren’t, but more people throughout the country keep leaving the church mostly because of the judgments that they are faced with when they enter the doors of the Lord’s house on account of the dark valley that they are going through. Now certainly our God is one of judgment and promises that on the Last Day there will be a judgment period where He will be separating the sheep from the goats. But that’s not our job, and I’m very grateful that this was not included in my job description. Instead we tell of this hope that we have because we don’t meet and play around in the manure pile, but in the green pastures with still (not rough) waters. God wants the best for his children, not the worst.
Even in the midst of our dark valleys, the Psalmist says, “You [God] prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.” Our enemy is whatever dark valley we find ourselves walking through. Maybe it is a mental illness or addiction. Maybe it is cancer or some other illness. Maybe it is marital or friendship issues. No matter what the dark valley is, God sets the table anyway, anoints your head with oil, fills your cup until it is overflowing, and says, “I’m not going anywhere.” In fact you shall dwell in the house of the Lord your whole life long.
We have lots of tools at our disposal, and there are many good passages in Scripture, but the minimal length and the richness of the imagery in Psalm 23 certainly makes these 6 verses your putter – an essential part of our daily lives as we put our trust in God alone to help get us through the dark valleys that we walk through. The Lord is your shepherd and He will lead you in right path so that you may dwell in the house of the Lord forever. Amen.
© 2017 Anthony Christoffels. All rights reserved.