Sunday, October 09, 2011

Psalm 23 - “Bear Pack”

17th Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 23) (Year A)
Sunday, October 9, 2011

• What is a bear pack?
• Explain
• (Use rope and backpack, have some pretend to be a tree)

• Why do you put up a bear pack?
• Keep your food safe
• Have you seen the bears?
• No, but you know they’re out there
• (Person sits down)

• Psalm 23, that very, very familiar psalm, talks about the Lord as our shepherd
• What does a shepherd do?
• Protects and guides the sheep
• I imagine that if the shepherd could, he’d put all of the sheep up in a tree like a giant bear pack protecting them from wild animals
• So I hear that a shepherd protects and guides the sheep, lifts them out of trouble, that’s why I thought of the bear pack—lifting something valuable out of trouble
• Which means we’re something valuable to the Lord, we’re something that needs His protection and guidance, we’re something that needs to be lifted up
• We’re the sheep.
• We’re the bear pack.

• Psalm 23 tells us these great, comforting things that God has done for us
• Psalm’s comfort comes because we know the opposites
• We know there are bears out there
• We know there are things that threaten us

• Take a look at the psalm with me, the first verses about the Lord being our shepherd
• What does opposites does the psalm assume?

• The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want.
2 He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
3 he restores my soul.
He guides me in paths of righteousness
for his name’s sake.
4 Even though I walk
through the valley of the shadow of death, SPELLS OUT THE PROBLEM HERE
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.

• You are the bear pack being pulled up to safety by God
• Pulled out of want, dry lands, threatening waters, bear attacks
• Pulled out of a broken soul, sinful paths, death, separation from God
• Pulled out of danger, lifted up by what Jesus did on the cross, by what Jesus did by rising from the dead
• Through the forgiveness of Jesus, you aren’t in danger of being sent to hell
• Through the power of Jesus, the evil one can’t overcome you
• Through Jesus, you are protected from the bears in your life.

• This is a spiritual place, a spiritual journey when you’re pulled up into the tree by God
• This isn’t a psalm that promises endless paychecks and beautiful houses and an ideal life
• That’s not what the first verse means
• “I shall not be in want”—it means that the Lord will provide for our needs, provide for us each day, but perhaps not in the ways we expect or imagine
• and not first and foremost in material ways.
• First and foremost the Lord will provide for us spiritually.

• We are not in want spiritually with Jesus
• There’s not something still needed to be supplied
• He died—paid for our sins completely
• He rose again—conquered death
• He sent His Spirit—filled out hearts in faith
• The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not be in want.

• One author put it this way:
• When we ask "What do I lack?" it’s more in the sense of "What really matters that I do not have?" What, at the hour of death, would I dare not lack? (James Limburg,
• With Jesus. . .we’ve been given the confidence that we lack nothing at the hour of death

• Ah, but that stands in the face of our laments, our anxieties, our fears, our questions
• We stand and wonder aloud why God allows us all of these bears to gather around us
• Why is there want and dry fields and threatening waters?
• Why is there soul-death, paths of sin, death, and separation from God?

• Another author says that Psalm 23 is kind of like a creed, something where we state our belief in God
• It talks back to the lament
• It doesn’t let the lament have the final say (Frederick J. Gaiser, Word & World)

• So again imagine that you are a bear pack, that life is like being a bear pack.
• What kinds of things are you going to need to talk back to? The bear that’s climbing the tree and swinging out trying to get you.
• What are you going to tell those bears in your life?
• I shall not want.
• Green pastures.
• Still waters.
• Paths of righteousness.
• God is with me.

• What’s the challenge, though, in talking back to the bear? What’s the challenge in talking back to the lament?
• You’re hanging out there; feels lonely; looks scary.

• But what’s it mean that the Lord is your shepherd?
• He’s providing everything you need even when the bears come sniffing around.
• Jesus has pulled you up to safety—forever.