According to the church year, we’re still in the season of Easter. This 4th Sunday is known to churches around the world and in diverse denominations as Good Shepherd Sunday. We’ll be exploring the biblical theme of Jesus-as-shepherd, reading Psalm 23 (The Lord is my Shepherd…), and singing the beautiful hymn, My Shepherd Will Supply My Need. You might remember it was sung at the National prayer service after 9/11.
At first glance to the lyrics, you wonder how a hymn of confidence in God’s care will fall on the ears of someone going through a tough time–those times the bottom seems to drop out, the times that give rise to questions that don’t have satisfactory answers. Yet those going through the dark time find this hymn both a comfort and an anthem. An anthem? Yes, because in some small way it draws a line and says, “the evil can come only so far — and no farther. The evil stops here.” Sometimes it is when we are most stricken, that we are most able to recognize the value of holding on to something greater than ourselves.
Last December my brave and jovial brother in law succumbed to Lou Gehrig’s disease. To those who were around my brother in law, it seemed that his faith developed as the disease progressed, and when he could express himself he would say, “everything’s gonna be all right” and when writing got hard for him he would shorten it to ETGBAR.
I prayed daily that he would be healed but the course of the disease hastened onward; the average duration is 2-5 years from diagnosis to death; for my brother in law, it was about a year. The previous Christmas he had gone skiing with his family including his three teenaged sons, and he died a few days before the next Christmas.
Throughout last year the scripture that lodged in my mind was Psalm 23. The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want…. 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….surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.