Jewel from King David

Sunday Virtual Talk 3-22-2020 Jewel from King David, 23rd Psalm

Welcome to the script for the virtual service of Unity Christ Center, Farmington, MO, 63640 on March 22, 2020.  I’m Rev. Jan Mahannah, Unity Minister.

Intro:  The 23rd Psalm is a record of an individual’s, David’s experience with the presence of God. Most of us learned the Psalm in Sunday School, and it is probably the most quoted psalm of adults. Because David became King of the united tribes of Israel, I like to refer to the 23rd Psalm as “A Jewel From King David”, and like a “jewel” it has many facets applicable to us today.

You’ll remember that David was born into a family of shepherds. The 23rd Psalm is both the assurance of the comforting and protective presence of God, like a good Shepherd, and also a psalm of prosperity with the assurance that the provision of all our needs will be satisfied. David, like Jesus more than 600 years later, used common examples from his daily life to describe the comforting, protective, all-providing presence of God.

Scripture: 23rd Psalm “The Lord is my shepherd…I shall not want.  He makes me lie down in green pastures.  He leads me beside the still waters.  He restores my soul.  He leads me in paths of righteousness for His namesake.  Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil. Thy rod and thy staff comfort me.  Thou preparest a table before me, in the presence of my enemies.  Thou anointest my head with oil.  My cup runneth over.  Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.  Amen”

#1- The first facet of this jewel from Scripture: “The Lord is MY shepherd”…  The good shepherd was one that everyone in that pastoral environment could relate to.  Sheep were the riches of a shepherd’s family; without livestock a shepherd was out of a job and out of a livelihood, so the livestock was well loved and preciously guarded and cared for. 

God as a good shepherd to us is devoted to the care of us as his precious loved ones.  The Divine cares for all humanity.  We may not always feel cared for, but the universe has been devised in a way that we can be cared for by something greater than ourselves; a caring, loving God with the activity of the Holy Spirit as God’s emissary inspiring us, working through us, and active in all the complexities of our lives, enabling us to walk in Grace even in challenging times. 

At one point, Jesus said “It is the Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom”.  What is that kingdom?  It is a kingdom consciousness where all needs are met but in order to enjoy it, we must be consciously be willing to receive it. 

When we are willing to open our minds and hearts to a kingdom consciousness, Spirit can pour itself through us, satisfying every heart’s desire or apparent need, with the inspiration, innovation and creative energy to meet our momentary challenges.

#2 “I shall NOT want…When we focus on “wants”, we focus on the apparent lack of some thing.  There is a difference between our “wants” and our heart’s desires.

Thomas Merton, a 20th century monk and mystic said:  “A truly rich person has no needs.”  He was not talking about having a lot of money.  He was talking about being in a state of oneness with God’s abundance in which there is fulfillment and contentment.  This was David’s perspective and assurance – “With God as MY shepherd I shall NOT want because there is no unfulfilled need – ther IS resolution and fulfillment for each perceived lack.

#3 “He makes me lie down in green pastures.” During the heat of the day, the shepherd would MAKE the sheep lay down in verdant pastures.  It would be moist there and they would be nourished in their rest.

Is there anyone there experiencing “the heat of life”?  The normal human reaction in the “heat of life” – when you are too, too busy and the complexities of living, working, loving, being, seem overwhelming – the normal reaction is to take even more action, to work faster.  In the psalm, during the heat of the day or  during the heat of life, the sheep were MADE to relax.  Although God does not MAKE us do anything, for we have freewill, we are reminded to take time to relax and refocus.  It is wise when we do – when we step back from activity, even for a few moments, close our eyes and refocus on the positive, on the good, away from our fears. 

#4 “He leads me beside the still waters.  He restores my soul.” Sheep instinctively fear turbulent waters even as we fear turbulent times, emotional turmoil, fatigue and fear . When wet, the sheep’s wool would weigh them down and they could easily drown. So the shepherd would take rocks to form a quiet backwater from the stream so they could safely drink, be hydrated and restored. There is a message in this for us. When the Lord is our shepherd, there is an inner state of assurance and inner peace. And the way to experience that is in the still waters; as in the stillness. Then we walk forth in grace capable of meeting any challenge.

Meister Eckhart, the German mystic said:  “There is nothing so like God as stillness.”  That’s the key to experiencing God’s Presence.  When we are able to quiet our busy minds, a portal, an opening in consciousness is made so Spirit can pour into our lives.  When we do this “He restores my soul”… The very essence of us is refreshed and restored. 

#5 “He leads me in paths of righteousness for His namesake.” We first establish a relationship with God, the good Shepherd. Then divine guidance will be shown to us. As we are receptive to it, we will be guided in right ways. We will be blessed, but not only us. Whenever there is someone who experiences the quiet presence of God, that person is blessed in untold and mysterious ways…but the blessings continue out into the world, touching all those who are nearby. 

When you seek and follow Divine guidance to the best of your ability – which is a variable depending on how open and receptive you are to God’s love for you – your experience blesses yourself and others for His namesake. His namesake?God is Good and God’s Will for us is good outworking, so for his namesake means for the good of all that is Holy.

#6  “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil.” Our spiritual path does not eliminate all challenges or problems, but it gives us strength and assurance that allows us to move through our fears, even the fear of death.  King David did not stop in the valley of the shadow of death, but walked through it.  As one teacher of mine said: He did not wallow in the valley of the shadow of death but moved through it”. The message for us to remember is that a challenge does not come to stay, but to pass. Also, it may be the shadow of a possibility but not a reality. We move through a challenge by returning our focus to Divine inspiration instead of the problem and thus gain strength, knowledge and confidence. As a result, we live through it, overcoming our fear.

#7 “Your rod and your staff they comfort me.”  In those ancient days a rod was an ion-tipped club used to fend off wild animals from the sheep.  A rod represents the power to act. The staff was a stick with a hook on the top. It was used to prod the sheep and guide them in the right direction or to snatch them away from danger. The staff represents the guidance that comes when we give our attention to Spirit instead of to the problem.  The end result of this is comfort. They comfort me so the fear, the anxiety, the dread dissipates. 

The reason this happens is because we become aware of the presence of God.  There is a requirement from us.  There must be a desire for an awareness of God with us. If we are willing to make the time to do this, we are comforted and right direction follows.

#8 “Ýou prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies”. Here everything shifts for God is no longer the shepherd but the host.  In the Middle East in ancient days, if anyone were invited to dinner, they were safe – even if they were with their enemies.  For the duration of the meal, they were safe from harm.  God as host for us provides the very best for all of us, but we cannot harm one another while seated at God’s sumptuous feast. God’s good will is for us, but also for all. To enjoy it, we must set aside our contentions, and the good we desire for ourselves is the good we desire for others.

#9 “You anoint my head with oil”. Remember that at that time, David’s people cooked with oil, burned oil in their lamps for light, and anointed their kings with oil that they might be illumined. The Messiah actually means the anointed one.   When God anoints us with oil, our perception is changed from limitation to unlimited good for all.  We begin to see or sense the living presence of God or Good in all individuals and in all situations.  We would say in Unity that We behold the Christ in each other”, the divine presence in each of us, as our thinking is illumined.

#10 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever. An awareness of God’s presence brings this kind of life blessed by God’s grace and goodness. Sounds pretty good doesn’t it?

In this beloved 23rd Psalm David moves us from being the images of sheep – beloved, precious livestock – to being the sons and daughters of God with God as host.  living in the house of the Lord forever right here and now.  The kingdom is a kingdom consciousness  and it is up to us to be willing to awaken to it.  This is the jewel that King David blessed us with so many centuries ago and yet is still relevant today. 

Closing: Like David, may you and all your loved ones be willing to be blessed by an awareness of the comfort, providing, safe-keeping presence of God this week. Blessings, Rev. Jan

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