Pastor Shawn Hannon
Hope Lutheran Church Arcade, NY
Arguably the most famous psalm of all is Psalm 23. It earned its favor by its beautiful poetry comforting us at the time of death. From movies to the real thing, David’s words “the Lord is my Shepherd” and “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death…” are a hallmark of how the faithful remember their departed loved ones. But who says those words only ring true at funerals?
As I woke up on Thanksgiving last week and began listening for a word from God to help focus the holiday and my celebration, Psalm 23 kept sounding in my head. I’d try to dismiss it while focusing on one of the several hundreds of verses actually about thanksgiving. It was pointless. Psalm 23 took hold of my spirit and wouldn’t let go. So I prayed:
The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures; he leads me beside still waters; he restores my soul. He leads me in right paths for his name sake…
Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I fear no evil; for you are with me; your rod and your staff—they comfort me…
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord my whole life long.
Perhaps it is because of the way that the poem is laid out, but as I got to the end and sat reflecting on it three phrases kept ringing in my ear. I shall not want. I will not fear. My cup overflows. I began repeating them to myself. I shall not want. I will not fear. My cup overflows. I shall not want. I will not fear. My cup overflows… They brought me clarity and peace.
I’m telling you all of this because I know firsthand how easy it is to miss the mark when it comes to celebrating Thanksgiving and Christmas. There’s no judgement, but just look what we have done commercially with the days. We have taken days about our blessings and peace and spend most of our time and money looking for blessing and peace in all the wrong places.
I don’t know if it will help you, but it’s worth a try. Repeat after me:
I shall not want. The Lord is my shepherd. God, not the Black Friday ads in the newspaper, will lead me to exactly what I need. Green pastures and still waters restore my soul.
I will not fear. War, natural disasters, mass shootings, violence, sexual assault, and more threaten to devour. But even in the darkest valley, I will not fear because I am not alone. God is with me.
My cup overflows. God’s blessings in my life run over. My existence cannot contain or measure the goodness God has in store for me. How can I worry about what I think I need, when I still cannot comprehend all that God has provided?
This is the most wonderful time of the year. At least it can be. But how we celebrate it as followers of Jesus matters. The good news is God has already given us everything we need to celebrate another way. God’s given us everything we need in this life and the next, and God’s given us God’s Word to remind us. So when you find yourself slipping just remember to repeat after me:
I shall not want.
I will not fear.
My cup overflows.
For more inspiration and insights from Pastor Scott and Pastor Shawn’s past columns, please visit www.jamestowngazette.com and click on the Faith Matters page. The Jamestown Gazette is proud to present our county’s most creative and original writers for your enjoyment and enlightenment.