BEHOLD MY SERVANT Holy Week Meditations follow the Lectionary readings from the Servant Songs in the book of Isaiah. They are designed to be used the week of Palm Sunday through Easter. Download the pdf here:
A Caregiver’s Look at Psalm 23 continues here:
March 28, 2021 Palm Sunday
IMAGINE. Read Psalm 23 again. In preparation to enter Holy Week, use your imagination to hear Jesus reciting this Psalm as he enters the gates of Jerusalem or prays in the Garden of Gethsemane. What must these words from his Father mean to him? READ these lyrics from Marty Haugen’s version of Psalm 23, “Shepherd Me, O God:”
Shepherd me, O God,
beyond my wants, beyond my fears, from death into life.
God is my shepherd, so nothing shall I want,
I rest in the meadows of faithfulness and love,
I walk by the quiet waters of peace.
Gently you raise me and heal my weary soul,
you lead me by pathways of righteousness and truth,
my spirit shall sing the music of your name.
Though I should wander the valley of death,
I fear no evil, for you are at my side, your rod and your staff,
my comfort and my hope.
You have set me a banquet of love in the face of hatred,
crowning me with love beyond my pow’r to hold.
Surely your kindness and mercy follow me all the days of my life;
I will dwell in the house of my God for evermore.
Psalm 23, by Marty Haugen.The Miles Coverdale Shepherd Me, O God”
You Prepare a Table Before Me. Although it is common to think of this prepared table as a banquet table with a big feast, table is also a word for a mesa, or a large flat area with steep sides to the lower ground level. According to Phillip Keller in “A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23,” the shepherd must remove poisonous weeds from the tableland before the sheep graze on it, and make sure there is clean water. Haugen’s lyric: “You have set me a banquet of love in the face of hatred,” reflects God as the Shepherd preparing a safe place with living water and the richest of fare for our feast. Now the sheep have journeyed from the green pastures, still waters, down the path of righteousness, through the valley, and now are flourishing on the abundance of the tablelands.
Reflect. Take a moment to give thanks for the abundance of both God’s provision and presence in your life. What does it mean to you that God “prepares” this feast for you? How does Haugen’s interpretation: “You have set me a banquet of love in the face of hatred,” stand true for those facing racism or other prejudice or intolerance?
In the Presence of My Enemies. Jesus Christ enters Jerusalem hailed as the King of Jews. Even in the midst of the shouts of “Hosanna,” his enemies were gathering around, mocking, surrounding him like a pack of dogs. Yet, Jesus with determined obedience faces his enemies, knowing that he and the Father are One. In the oneness of Spirit, Jesus freely speaks out his fears and doubts: “Remove this cup from me…not my will but yours be done.” And, “My God my God, why have you abandoned me?”
During Holy Week, the intensity of emotion surrounding Jesus included hatred and jealousy in the hearts of his enemies. At the end of the week on Good Friday, Jesus will be “crowned” with the thorns of evil by his enemies. Yet by Easter Sunday, Jesus will be “crowned with love” as the grave could not hold back his resurrection in power and glory.
Reflect. Use your imagination to be present in this scene: On Maundy Thursday night, Jesus prepares a feast for his followers including his betrayer. Jesus breaks bread and offers wine, symbols of his broken body and blood poured out for our salvation. He said, “Do this in memory of me.” Jesus literally prepared a table for us in the presence of his enemies. All are invited to the prepared feast, the banquet of love that continues on even in the face of hatred. What might you do this week to crown another with love beyond your power to hold?
Crowing Me With Love Beyond My Power to Hold. Every day I take a long walk on the way to my mother’s house for a day of caregiving. It is my time to pray and cry and seek the strength needed for the day. Today a black lab named Ollie joined me. He often gets out of his back yard and runs happy and free. I can see his smile of freedom and wagging tail ready for adventure. What joy there is in freedom! “Freedom” is my prayer today for my loved one…to be free of these last days on earth, to be free of the fear of letting go and leaving loved ones, and most important, to be free of countless hours and days of suffering with a terminal illness. The ever present enemies are suffering, pain, and death. It is my joy to offer a crown of love and freedom beyond myself with my prayers, spirit, and serving humility. Oh dear God, Jesus, “Crown her with love beyond my power to hold.” “Let her spirit fly free!”
Praise. Shepherd Me, O God, Marty Haugen.