Green pastures

Oh how I love Good Shepherd Sunday!

When I was in seminary, I heard an awesome sermon by a classmate (whose name escapes me!) where he asked the question “Is it really only good news that the Lord has us lie down in green pastures? and leads us beside still waters? Are these always good things?” I’ve thought about that question so many times over the years.

Of course, the green pastures are full of delicious grass, but lying down in the pastures makes the flock much more vulnerable. If a predator came upon the sheep, the shepherd would not only need to try to get them to follow them quickly, but first they would need to rouse the sheep from a restful state. The same sort of question arises around the still water. On one level, the still water seems like a good choice for drinking – it can be scary for sheep (and humans!) to approach the edge of a fast-running stream or river and attempt to drink. If you fall in, the consequences could be dire. But still water can be stagnant, full of nasty bacteria and parasites. And guess who else likes still water – predators!


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So how else might we approach this pastoral psalm that is meant to be comforting?

On a nearly daily basis, I’m reminded that my perspective on any situation is limited by its very nature. There’s nothing wrong with me, and I’m not a bad person, but we all see things from our own perspectives. I find it especially important to remember this reality when I pray – what I think would be good for me, may not always be the right thing for me. So if I find myself in green pastures and beside still waters and these places turn out to be troubling situations, this psalm reminds us that the Lord is always with us.

My friends, I wonder if this psalm seeks to widen our perspective beyond the conditions of the terrain, or the presence of the enemies at the table, so that we can see the presence of the Lord. Green pastures, still waters, right pathways, valleys of the shadow of death, tables with enemies – in all of these places and through all time, the Lord is with us.

As you pray with this psalm this week, please treat yourself to Bobby McFerrin’s gorgeous rendition of Psalm 23. And may the sure knowledge of the Lord’s constant presence bring you deep peace.

Abundant blessings,


(this post was originally written as part of my interim work at St. Christopher’s Episcopal Church)