This week, as I have been visiting people, I have been taking a quick look at Psalm 23 with them. It is likely one of the most familiar and beloved chapters of the entire Bible. The other day, after an individual and I had walked through it together – with a little conversation interspersed amidst the reading of the verses – the individual said, “Pastor, I remember reading this psalm when I was in third grade, and how I fell in love with it then. But,” she went on to say, “our little conversation here has made me appreciate it at least ten times more. Thank you.”
I knew exactly what the person was talking about. It does not matter what one’s background is – whether we are new to the faith or life-long Christians with parochial school educations – there is always more to be discovered in God’s word. And, while personal study and church attendance are vital ingredients for one’s spiritual health, real growth, I find, comes through a third component. And that (think: “the power of three”) third leg of the stool is discussing God’s word with others.
Why is it then, that so many of us choose to sit on just a one or two-legged stool – that is, why is it that so many people never get around to making a habit of meeting with others for open reading and discussing God’s word?
The answers I receive related to this question are many. “I am good with just going to church.” (to which my reply is, “Yes, God made you good in your baptism … but you have the opportunity of having things so much better”) … “I am too busy” (“We all have the same amount of time, and how we use it comes down to a matter of priorities. If you wish to make this a priority in your life, I will team with you in finding a solution.”) … “I am afraid … or embarrassed …” (“Aren’t we all in one way or another! What can I do to help you work through these challenges?”). Of course, this is just a small sampling, but I think you get the idea.
Dialogues like this take me back to one of the first human conversations ever recorded. We find it in Genesis 3. The serpent “said to the woman, ‘Did God actually say, “You shall not eat of any tree in the garden?”’ … So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate … The man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. But the Lord God called to the man and said to him, ‘Where are you?’ And he said, ‘I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked, and I hid myself.’” (Genesis 3.1-10)
Fear, shame and isolation are the immediate effects of sin … and God’s immediate reaction to man’s sin is to come to man, and provide the solution. And, still today, God in Christ has not changed. He comes to us in our fear, shame and loneliness. He speaks lovingly to us. And he opens to us all the treasures of his kingdom.
Psalm 23 contains vivid reminders of this. Not only does he take care of all our physical needs, he also “restores my soul.” As I mourn over the death of loved ones and go through other dark times, “I will fear no evil, for you are with me.” When relationships break down and hostilities arise, he “prepares a table before me in the presence of my enemies” and “anoints my head with oil.” And, he follows the bottom line “surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life” with the best news of all – “I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”
Simple discoveries … that change our lives … the treasures of God’s word … opened in new ways as we read and discuss them together. Simple discoveries … that I would love to help become a regular part of your life this fall.