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Shepherded

We want, O Shepherd — how much we want!
To be esteemed, to be secure, to be carefree,
and we hoard to fill our insatiable egos.
Feed us with the unlimited harvest
of love, in all and through all and for all.

We are tired, O Shepherd.
Let us lie down, guard us as we lie down,
in green pastures and vast deserts,
by a clear stream, in a sweet oasis
so that the burden does not overcome the joy.

We wander, O Shepherd — incorrigibly!
Every shadowed path and wild bramble
and a few harrowing valleys.
Bless our curiosity, comfort our wayfaring,
be with us until at last we are home.

We are discouraged, O Shepherd:
trapped, it seems, and never enough
in the worldly systems of valuation
that violate your anointing.
Ah, but your oil of favor never runs out!

How good is your mercy!
How present is your justice!
How swift is your fierce love
every moment of our days,
every day of our lives!

on Psalm 23, cross-posted at RevGalBlogPals

At the Table

You make me lie down in green pastures; you lead me beside still waters. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. – Psalm 23:2 & 5 (NRSV)

Green pastures aren’t hard to come by when you grow up in the country. The dairy farm down the road has a green pasture where Holsteins wander until milking time. The small non-commercial farm over the mountain has a green pasture for its ponies. The soy and tobacco farms are richly green across hills of cropland.

Fresh, clean waters are a little harder to find these days, whether in the country or the city. Creeks cloud with the runoff of farm waste and pesticides. Rivers flood with chemical toxins from factories and plastic trash from human consumption. Oceans are contaminated by oil spills, solid debris, and global trade.

But rarer still—and perhaps more essential—is the overflowing banquet table spread in the midst of enemies. The space of relief carved out, protected, on the landscape of distress. The measure of joy poured without reserve or apology, even (and especially) when pain tries to steal the cup. The anointing of life and love that cannot be revoked by enemy hatred, by systemic violence, by the profit machine of death, by the gaping greed of capitalism.

Rare, that is, unless we sit at it—every single time the enemy shows up.

Rare unless we dine at it, deliberately, deliciously, every time the shadows lengthen.

Rare unless we invite one another to it, through hell and high water.

Rare unless we trust that the table is always prepared for us, even when there isn’t a single green pasture or still pool in sight.

God, have mercy: my spirit is frantic and my body is tense, yet there is a table. There is a table, there is a feast, there is a rest, there is a friend. Let me never forget it.

written for the Daily Devotional

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