I am looking at a message to share in some form on Sunday, and was sitting with the lectionary. How fitting, in some way that the Psalm reading this week is Psalm 23. It is one of those Psalms that most people can recite from memory, using the King James version. We use it at funerals, or occasions of great distress and disaster to remind us of God’s nearness, his care for us and his presence all around us.

This seems like the perfect time to dwell on it again…

Psalm 23
The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.
2 He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.
3 He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
4 Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.
5 Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.
6Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever.
(King James Version)

A few take-aways from Psalm 23…
In the original Hebrew of Psalm 23, there are exactly 26 words before “Thou art with me”, and exactly 26 words after “Thou art with me”. It might have been by chance, but the idea in my head is that the poet was trying to convey the idea, very boldly, that God is with us in the very center of our lives, amidst all that aspires, and the focal point of the universe. It means, that even when the world is crazy, that we are not alone down here.

The whole message here, and the Good News is that God is with us – “Emmanuel”. God might not necessarily shelter us from difficulty, or trouble or the corona virus, and God does not magically manipulate things to suit us, but “WITH” is unassailable, unchangeable and really the only thing that matters.

As things may feel so out of control right now; as we are fearful; as we feel isolated and lonely; as we wonder where God is and why, I pray that you will find peace in this – God is WITH us, right in the middle of our lives and this mess. He is present, and leads us, comforts us and feeds us; most of all, God dwells with us and we can dwell with God, not just one day, but right now.

This is the comfort I find right here…

I also wanted to take this opportunity to share some of the wonderful resources that have been coming across my inbox as we are all looking for ways to stay connected, even when we are apart; to be spiritually fed, even when we are not together for worship.

People are reaching out, supporting each other, in ways I have never experienced, even though I know the Presbyterian Church (USA) is a very connected church.

This is an excerpt for a message from the Stated Clerk of the General Assembly of the PC (USA), Rev. Nelson Herbert and the Executive Director of the PC(USA) Mission Agency, Rev. Diane Moffett:

Dear Siblings in Christ,

These are truly trying times for all of us as we face a rapidly spreading virus, panic buying that has left grocery shelves nearly empty and supplies in great demand. We have seen the worst in people and the best. Yet, through it all, we take hope in Christ and the promise to never leave us.

We are holding each of you in prayer. Like the rest of the country, our Presbyterian communities are physically separated, but we are still deeply connected through our common humanity, spirituality and strong faith in God.

Finally, the past week has been full of high anxiety and mounting fears. We have heard from government leaders and health experts, now let us turn to the Scriptures to find out where biblical people found faith, hope and courage in the face of pestilence. Over 100 times the Bible tells us, “Don’t be afraid.” In Psalm 27:1, David tells us why: The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?

Yours in Christ, Rev. Dr. J. Herbert Nelson, II Stated Clerk of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) Rev. Dr. Diane Moffett President, Executive Director Presbyterian Mission Agency

Know and be at peace in the Church being present, caring and praying for you and all of us.

Also, someone sent me this poem, and I wanted to share this…
A Poem by Fr. Richard Hendrick, OFM

Lock down
Yes there is fear.
Yes there is isolation.
Yes there is panic buying.
Yes there is sickness.
Yes there is even death.
They say that in Wuhan (China) after so many years of noise
You can hear the birds again.
They say that after just a few weeks of quiet
The sky is no longer thick with fumes
But blue and grey and clear.
They say that in the streets of Assisi (Italy)
People are singing to each other
across the empty squares,
keeping their windows open
so that those who are alone
may hear the sounds of family around them.
They say that a hotel in the West of Ireland
Is offering free meals and delivery to the housebound.
Today a young woman I know
is busy spreading fliers with her number
through the neighborhood
So that the elders may have someone to call on.
Today Churches, Synagogues, Mosques and Temples
are preparing to welcome
and shelter the homeless, the sick, the weary
All over the world people are slowing down and reflecting
All over the world people are looking at their neighbors in a new way
All over the world people are waking up to a new reality
To how big we really are.
To how little control we really have.
To what really matters.
To Love.
So we pray and we remember that
Yes there is fear.
But there does not have to be hate.
Yes there is isolation.
But there does not have to be loneliness.
Yes there is panic buying.
But there does not have to be meanness.
Yes there is sickness.
But there does not have to be disease of the soul
Yes there is even death.
But there can always be a rebirth of love.
Wake to the choices you make as to how to live now.
Today, breathe.
Listen, behind the factory noises of your panic
The birds are singing again
The sky is clearing,
Spring is coming,
And we are always encompassed by Love.
Open the windows of your soul
And though you may not be able
to touch across the empty square,
– Fr. Richard Hendrick, OFM
March 13th 2020

Please know, you are, each and every one, constantly in my thoughts, in my heart and in my prayers. As hard as this is, falling right in the holy time of Lent and Easter, I am convinced that this is giving us new ways and opportunities to truly be the church, and maybe will teach us new ways to be present for each other.

I am only a phone call away – grocery delivery, a visit, a prayer or some comfort over the phone. I am there for you. Please reach out if you need anything.

In some way, shape or form you will hear from me on Sunday, get a message and we will be together in Spirit.

May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the community of the Holy Spirit be with all of you!!