Lent 4: A New Look at the 23rd Psalm

The following was written by Naomi Wenger for the fourth Sunday of Lent 2020, March 22.

Introduction

My task in providing the meditation for this week was to connect activism and prayer in regards to the Climate Catastrophe. Now, it seems we are facing a more imminent threat to our “way of life” in the form of a microscopic virus that has infected more than 270,325 individuals world-wide, caused 11,277 deaths as of Friday afternoon.  Some countries do not have adequate reporting methods and many, including the U.S.A., do not have adequate testing in place. So, these numbers are likely on the low side (for up-to-date numbers, visit: https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/).  So, it seems like our situation is both more dire than we thought and more palpably real. We have been on a trajectory toward disaster for quite a number of years, the disaster has just changed clothes and arrived early as a very unwelcome guest.

How do we face disaster whether that be, pandemic, flood, hurricane, tornado, tsunami, earthquake, wildfire, violent storms, the extinction of species, the disappearance of clean water, the removal of mountain tops or the violation of traditional land treaties? No matter the cause, we people of faith have another standard that governs our thoughts and actions. We have another recourse when we are frightened. We have a different law, the law of love, that we follow. How do we live this out, now that we are put to the test?

I’d like to look again at a well-known portion of scripture, the Psalm appointed for this, the Fourth Sunday in Lent for 2020, Psalm 23. Each word or phrase of the Psalm is followed by a short meditation and a series of reflection questions. Some of them are challenges to do something. Some of them are invitations to prayer. Some of them may not touch you, but may touch someone else. You can take each one as a separate meditation and stop when you have taken in enough. Or you can read through all thirteen of the meditations, listening for what catches you today. I encourage you to read through the whole Psalm at least once-a-day over this coming week. Notice what catches your attention during each reading. How does what you noticed apply specifically to you? Is there an invitation for you to act on what you have noticed? Then, read the Psalm again as a prayer. 

Augustine of Hippo (354 – 430 CE/AD) wrote in his Expositions on the Psalms

There is a different kind of prayer without ceasing; it is longing. Whatever you may be doing, if you long for the day of everlasting rest do not cease praying. If you do not wish to cease praying, then do not cease your longing. Your persistent longing is your persistent voice. But when love grows cold, the heart grows silent. Burning love is the outcry of the heart! If you are filled with longing all the time, you will keep crying out, and if your love perseveres, your cry will be heard without fail.

Cry out! Cry out! Don’t let your love or your longing die.

Meditations on the 23rd Psalm

The LORD 

The LORD – This is the “Name” for the Israelite God, YHWH. Whenever the word “lord” appears in all capital letters in the Bible, it is this name, YHWH, that is being translated. The name is fraught with meaning. To name God LORD, is to be both specific and universal. It is a particular god, the Israelite god, that is being named. It is also THE god who is being named. The God who created Earth and its fullness and “owns” it as the psalmist says in the next Psalm, 24. “The earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it, the world, and those who live in it; for he has founded it on the seas, and established it on the rivers.” 

REFLECT for a moment what this means for the Psalmist and for you, the reader. Approach the words that follow in this Psalm with your attention fixed on this: God who has acted throughout human history and who precedes and will survive history, acts this way toward me. This is a BIG IDEA. 

Is my shepherd

Here is a phrase of relationship. The LORD (remember who that is) is my shepherd. We don’t have many shepherds among us. So, some of this imagery is lost to us. But, we can use our imaginations about shepherds enough to know that a shepherd cares for sheep. The sheep do not demand care from the shepherd. Nor do sheep often know what kind of care they need. Sheep wander. Sheep need guidance. At this moment in history, we can imagine more clearly what it feels like to be sheep and not the shepherd. We are told to wash our hands, not touch our faces, not gather in crowds, stay home, not visit our neighbors. We are told to wait until a new directive comes to do anything “normal.” We are more truly “sheep” now than we have ever been. 

REFLECT on being a sheep. Now remember the Psalmist’s words, “The LORD is my shepherd.” What can you remember about your life that makes these words hard to live with? Do you want to be in control of your life? Do you take control first and ask God to bless the works of your hands afterwards. Do you ever get into a problem and ask God to fix it later? Sheep sometimes wander, but if they follow the direction of the Shepherd, then they are usually better off. Can you make a commitment to work on being a better sheep, even after the COVID-19 virus has run its course?

I shall not want 

What would it be like to be free of “want?” This is not a wish-dream of the Psalmist. It is a declaration. The Living Bible translates this first verse with a conditional, “Because the Lord is my shepherd, I have everything that I need.” But, I like the firm “I shall not want” of this translation. It is taking a stand of absolute trust in God.  This does not mean that I have no responsibility. Rather, it requires that I look harder at my complicity in creating systems of want on Earth. Every time I participate in systems of power where the powerful take from the powerless, I am flaunting God’s provision for me by taking away the provision for others. Declaring that, “I shall not want,” requires that I also give up my desire for control, security, and affection. These basic human needs are already provided for by the Shepherd. I do not need to grab for them. I can lay down my desire for them. They are already given.

REFLECT how many times each day you act out of neediness. This is a human trait. But, imagine how your life might be different, how the lives of each creature and Earth itself would be different if we acted out of a sense of Provision rather than a sense of want. Can you declare, even for a little while: “I shall not want?” This is not to say that you will always have what you desire. Only that you decide to live without constant reference to that desire, acknowledging that God has already provided for all you need. Can you believe that? Can you think of something you desire that you do not have? Ask God about it. Is it possible that your desire has been met and you do not recognize the provision or that you are unwilling to receive what has been provided?

We have overstepped our “wanting” boundaries as humans. The global climate catastrophe is certainly evidence of that practice. Read the following quote from the essay, “The Presence of Nature in the Natural World,” by Wendell Berry. How do you respond to his conclusion: “we must either care properly for all of [the world] or continue our lethal damage to all of it”? What is your responsibility? What is yours to do?

Once we acknowledge, once we permit our language to acknowledge, the immense miracle of the existence of this living world, in place of nothing, then we confront again that world and our existence in it, forever more mysterious than known. And then the air swarms with questions that are scientific, artistic, religious, and all of them insistently economic. Some of the questions are answerable, some are not. The summary questions are: What are our responsibilities? and What must we do? The connection of all questions to the human economy is finally not escapable. For our economy (how we live) cannot leave the world or any of its parts alone, as the ideal of the wilderness preserve seems to hope. We have only one choice: We must either care properly for all of it or continue our lethal damage to all of it.” 

(Wendell Berry, “The Presence of Nature in the Natural World: A Long Conversation,” A Small Porch, 92-93.)

He makes me lie down in green pastures 

Oh, how we like this line. Oh how we long for this to be true, especially in Lent, especially in early spring, when all is browny-gray. This would also have been true for the Psalmist who lived through seasons of dry and seasons of wet – green pastures were seasonal for the writer as well as for us. But, notice here, that the shepherd is not taking the sheep to graze, but to rest. It is almost as if we hear a voice saying, “See, here is all the provision you need. Now feast your whole being by resting in the midst of this provision.” Resting in God’s provision is not our natural way of dealing with a feast. If we see the abundance, we eat it, or hoard it. 

This week, we were in the garden digging out the big crabgrass clumps that have overwintered, clearing the land for planting in the weeks to come. Over the winter, their roots take firm hold and they are ready to make seeds and spread as soon as the air and soil warm. So, an early Spring job is to dig them out. While we were in the garden, Elisabeth had the idea to take the chickens to the garden to eat grubs, weed seeds and worms that we were unearthing with each clump of grass. So, we took the chickens on a field trip. They gorged on the feast. But, when they were full, they slowed down, sought refuge under the picnic table we had carried into the garden as a makeshift shelter, and waited to be taken to their home. The next day, they escaped the fence and found their own feast under the trees next to their enclosure. When they were satisfied, they were content to return to their home area to scratch in the dirt. Simple really. There were more worms, more seeds, more grubs, but they stopped and rested when they were full. 

The Good Shepherd makes us “lie down” to remind us that everything we need has already been provided. Here it is. No need to hoard toilet paper. No need to hoard anything. 

REFLECT on what you have that you might share during this uncertain time. As the consumerist culture collapses around us, we are more aware of those who are most vulnerable. Check in with yourself: what could you offer to help someone in need?

We are also aware of cities seeing blue skies and clear waters for the first time in years. We are aware of clearer skies above us as flights are cancelled and we hear less noise of the passing planes. We are told of the slowing of pollution of air and water everywhere as we stay home and stop polluting. Perhaps, we are experiencing a resetting of our “need” gauge. We may be learning what things really matter to us and loosening our hold on things that we don’t really need. Make a list of what you like about the new pace of life. Make another list of what you miss and that you really need. Give thanks for the “green pasture” in which you are resting. 

He leads me beside still waters; he restores my soul.

We know all about still water here in Michigan. We live in the midst of still water, and moving water, and raining water, and snowing water, and swampy water. We live in a soggy part of Earth. For the Psalmist, to have still water—to cool the air and to quench thirst—was a luxury. To be led beside still waters still conjures up beautiful scenes for us. And it is the beauty of the still water that I want us all to long for. If we are to rest in the Shepherd’s provision of green pastures, we can also delight in the gentle walk along the lakeshore. Perhaps this walking time could be a meditation for us to know ourselves. St. Bonaventure wrote that a lack of self-knowledge leads to faulty knowledge of everything else. Both the restful green pastures and the walk beside the water lead to full restoration of the soul—that is, the core of our being – our “true self.” 

REFLECT on your grasp of your “true self.” Who do you think you are? Look in the mirror of the “still waters” to find yourself. If you feel anxious, fearful, or disturbed because of  the present virus crisis or the looming climate crises, ask God to meet you at the edge of the still water, in the beautiful place, and restore your soul.

He leads me in right paths for his name’s sake. 

The Shepherd is a good guide. I’m assuming the “right paths” are paths that lead to the sheepfold, to green pastures, or to quiet waters. These are paths that take the sheep somewhere good. What I want to focus on today, though, is the phrase, “for his name’s sake.” In the first meditation, we remembered that “the Name” of God is significant for the writer of the Psalm. For some Jews, to say the Name of God is blasphemy. Because it is such a holy name, for a human to utter it amounts to defilement. So God is referred to as “ha shem” or “the name” rather than as “God.” For the sake of this holy name and in light of the holiness that the name confers, there are no paths but “right” ones when God is the Shepherd—if we follow the Shepherd. This is a hard teaching because I can hear all of the “what if” questions like, what if the path should lead to death or a dead end or suffering or you-name-what else? Can this be a right path? Yes. 

In his essay, The End of Suffering, poet Scott Cairns (Issue 52, Image magazine) says: 

            “One of the great commonplaces among agnostics or atheists old and new is the perennial question: How does one believe in a loving God who allows the innocent to suffer? This is a very good question, if only because it reveals a premise … of individual autonomy. It reveals an ignorance about how intimately we are connected to one another, now and ever. If the innocent suffer, they do so because one of us, now or in the past, has set their pain in motion.

           ” If the innocent continue to suffer, they do so because we have yet to take responsibility for their pain, and we have yet to take responsibility for their relief.

            “Our failure to appreciate this degree of responsibility encourages—and therefore enables—our disinterest in those who suffer, allows us a continuing, dim-witted, vague condemnation of those in pain or poverty. In our hearts we know that something has caused their pain; our failure to see our own hands and hearts in the process keeps us shaking our heads as we stand by or, more often, as we turn away, feeling both helpless and—if we’re lucky—culpable.

           ” …Our lives are riddled with death. The good news, which, presumably you also already know, is that even this death is potentially infused with life. The kenotic emptying wrought by affliction avails an apprehension of the deep stillness in which we, at long last, may finally meet the Christ who bides there, waiting.”

REFLECT on the long quote above from Scott Cairns. Do you agree with his assessment that, “If the innocent suffer, they do so because one of us, now or in the past, has set their pain in motion.” Why or why not? 

Is there some event you have been part of that requires your confession just now? If so, spend some time in prayer, knowing that God already knows what you bring and already loves you in the midst of your “owning up.”

If you have a good argument to counter Mr. Cairns’, you may want to write it out so that your thought on the matter is clear. Discuss it with someone you trust. Being clear on the goodness (rightness) of God is important. Don’t leave it for someone else to decide for you.

Even though I walk through the darkest valley

The dark valley is something we are encountering now. All of us. Even if we have not recently lost a loved one or we don’t feel particularly threatened by a distant and unintelligible virus, even if we don’t feel especially endangered by the global climate crisis or don’t think it will be “all that bad in the end.” A Dark Valley is anything that, through fearing it, shapes our life. We spend energy avoiding it. 

REFLECT on your Dark Valley. Give it a name. Fears, once named, lose their power over us. Hold it out to God. Imagine that you are physically holding your Dark Valley and reach your hands out toward God, wherever you imagine that to be, asking God to be there with you. 

Now, is there something you are invited to do to either help someone else in their Dark Valley or to alleviate your Dark Valley? Could you make a phone call or write a letter (electronic or paper) that might help you or someone else today? Is there another way you can throw a lifeline to someone in a Dark Valley?

I fear no evil for you are with me 

Notice here that the Psalmist does not say, “there is no evil, because you are with me.” Rather, the assertion is that the writer chooses not to fear. Evil there is, evil there will be. In the Presence of God, I choose not to fear.

REFLECT on this choice of the Psalmist. How easy is it for you to choose the same stance—no fear. What are the “evils” that beset you? If you are in a safe place, you might call them out. Call them out of the shadows, out of hiding. You know they are there. Make them appear. Then tell them that God is with you, and you are not afraid. Even if you do not feel this kind of courage, saying the truth will increase your heart-fulness (courage). 

Your rod and your staff—they comfort me. 

I’ve heard other meditations on the shepherd’s rod and staff. Some folks like to distinguish between them and the different jobs they perform for the shepherd—protection and guidance. But I don’t really know, how a rod and staff functioned for a shepherd. I only glean here that they are a comfort to the Psalmist. Like your security blanket, your favorite coffee mug, or your worn-out slippers, the comfort the Psalmist is looking for is close to home. The rod and staff belong to the LORD. And, the comfort they provide is personal. In the first meditation, we remembered that the whole Earth is the LORD’s and all that is in it. Whatever the rod and staff do, they are part of this whole Earth which is God’s possession. That is comfort, indeed. We are, together with the “rod and staff” in God’s world and under God’s care. This great “wholeness” is being put to the test, just now. Can you find comfort in the wholeness and holiness of God?

REFLECT on the following statement made by Sr. Ilia Delio in her essay, “Hope in the Time of Crisis:”

[Our new consciousness] is no longer about the human person in need of salvation; now it is about being part of a dynamic whole where deep interconnectedness marks our lives. Since the actions of one affects the many, so too the salvation of one is the salvation of the many. We are either saved together or not at all.” 

(https://omegacenter.info/hope-in-a-time-of-crisis/?mc_cid=9ec7e6a9bf&mc_eid=3811312ab2  Accessed 3/18/2020)

How would you respond to Sr. Ilia? Do you find comfort in her words, “We are either saved together or not at all?” In these days when we are apart from one another and yet sharing the same experience, do you find the commonality of bearing with this pandemic heartening or dis-heartening? How do your actions affect others? How do the actions of others affect you? You may want to talk to God about this interaction. Or, you may be moved to action on behalf of the whole. What will you do?

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies 

This is a beautiful picture of hospitality, with God acting as host. The host sets the table and provisions it. But, consider, that the radical hospitality of God has also invited your enemies. What will you do? The enemies, whoever they may be, are witnesses, and possibly co-partakers of this feast. If you sit at table with your enemies, they become your neighbors. Is it possible that the Psalmist is inviting us to make peace with those with whom we differ? “If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all” (Romans 12:18). 

REFLECT You are invited to share a table with your enemies. Will you come? What would this look like for you? Who are your enemies? Government officials? The ubiquitous “them?” Your family? Friends who have betrayed you? Will you eat with them?  Talk this over with God. Make a plan to get to know one of your “enemies” better by reading what they read, having an open conversation with them or simply listening, without judgment, to what they say.

You anoint my head with oil 

Head anointing was part of Ancient Near Eastern culture. In a hot, dry climate, skin and hair grow leathery and brittle. So, anointing oil is part of a regular regimen of care. In fact, when Jews were fasting, they sometimes avoided this practice in order to look bedraggled. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus instructs his followers, “When you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face” (Matthew 6:17). In other words, look normal, don’t draw attention to your fasting. Regular oiling of hair and skin were intimate acts, like washing up in your own bathroom.

Another Psalmist wrote:

            How very good and pleasant it is 

                        when kindred live together in unity! 

            It is like the precious oil on the head, 

                        running down upon the beard, 

            on the beard of Aaron, 

                        running down over the collar of his robes. (Psalm 133:1-2)

In this instance, the anointing is special. It is likened to the anointing of a priest for holy duties. 

We may not think of anointing as either ordinary or special but perhaps a bit annoying. But, received as a sign of either regular intimate care or being set apart for holy service, having an anointing by God is something to anticipate. 

REFLECT on what might constitute anointing for you? Would you be able to receive God’s intimate care? How about the anointing of being set aside for holy service? What might that service be for you? What would such an anointing look like for that service?

My cup overflows 

In Psalm 16:5 we read: “The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup; you hold my lot.” Here God is the fullness of the cup. An overflowing cup is not merely enough. It is abundance. One of the signs of a depraved culture is one which operates on the principle of scarcity. We might think, I need to get more stuff because I never have enough. Or we might think, there’s always room for more. Our economy is built on the idea of constant growth. As such, the only way capitalism works is to continually grab for more. It is this overreach that has left Earth in its current state. As we have seen over the last few days, as we have stopped living life at the speed of “more” we have reduced world-wide pollution levels. It is no accident that all of us will benefit from all of us using fewer resources. I do want to recognize that the underprivileged still suffer more than those of us who are privileged. But, surely we can see the benefit in slowing down our overuse of scarce resources. 

Martin Luther King said:  “Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be. This is the interrelated structure of reality.” In these days, can we begin to see how what we all have is “enough” without grabbing for more? 

REFLECT It is easy to see this scarcity model as “somebody else’s problem.” Examine your own life for areas where you act out of a sense of scarcity rather than abundance. What did you feel the need to “stock up” on for this pandemic? Is that a sign of your fear of not having enough? How deeply does that root run in you? Think of what you might do to counter that tendency in your life. What can you give away? How can you share what you have with another? Do you have tools that sit in your shop most of the time? Are there kitchen gadgets that you use only occasionally. Do you have a skill that someone else could benefit from? Are you willing to teach a skill to others? How else might you use sharing to counter the scarcity habit of our culture? Pray for insight. This habit runs deep and may take a bit of searching in your inner life to find its roots.

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, 

I like to think of “goodness and mercy” as twin sisters. They are the twins that, in God’s mercy, get up before I rise and stay awake after I go to bed. They are my conscience; they steer me toward good works and gracious acts. They help me think of kind words to say when my heart is burdened. They hold my hands when I want to strike out at the imbecility of life as it is. I cannot live without these sisters who whisper Truth to me in the midst of the lies that come to me all day long.

REFLECT picture goodness and mercy. Who or what are they in your life? What would an act of goodness entail? How about an act of mercy? Can you do either of those this week? Write about your interactions with goodness and mercy. Pray for constancy to stay with them even as they faithfully follow you.

I shall dwell in the house of the LORD my whole life long.

Here we are at the very last phrase of Psalm 23. Jesus reminded us that the kindom of God is not coming in a way you can see it but, “the kindom of God is within you” (Luke 17:20-21). Here, the Psalmist puts it the other way around, he desires to dwell in God’s house for life. 

The “house of the LORD” was where folks came to meet with God. Astonishingly, God had Moses set up the tabernacle (and the Temple or “house of God” was a copy of that tent) so that ordinary people could worship God. The gods of the neighbors could only be approached by priests. But, the design of the house of God even included a court for foreigners. Everyone was welcome to come to God’s house. Yes, there was a holy place that only priests could enter and then only once a year. But most of the house was open for ordinary people. So, this conclusion of the Psalm is perhaps a big “Duh!” Except for the word “dwell.” This is the same idea that is used in John 15, “Abide in me,” says Jesus, “and I will abide in you.” That’s lifelong dwelling!

REFLECT  How often do you feel like you are abiding in Christ? In the same way we share Earth with all created things, we can share in the life of Christ. During this unusual time of pandemic, we may have been given a glimpse of what it feels like to be part of the whole of Creation. Our hearts go out to the thousands who are suffering both the Coronavirus and the social dislocation that is required to minimize the effect of the virus. We feel solidarity with the Italians singing from their balconies. We sense the loneliness of folks who no longer have the same daily contact with family, friends or co-workers. We get what it feels like to be connected. That’s the same feeling as dwelling in God’s house for life. 

We are being stretched by our involvement in both a global disease and the global climate crisis. I hope that these reflections on the 23rd Psalm have given us something to focus on, and lean into for the challenging days ahead. May you find your deepest connection in Christ, your broadest connection in the communion of Created beings and your dearest connection with the Shepherd who gives you rest, leads, restores and comforts you, challenges you to become more interconnected with all that is, and who welcomes you (and your enemies) to a table of abundance and joy.

“Blessed are those who hunger for earth’s oneness

for they will be satisfied”

Naomi Wenger, 3/22/2020

Today’s Scripture Readings

Old Testament

1 Samuel 16:1–13

16 The Lord said to Samuel, “How long will you grieve over Saul? I have rejected him from being king over Israel. Fill your horn with oil and set out; I will send you to Jesse the Bethlehemite, for I have provided for myself a king among his sons.” Samuel said, “How can I go? If Saul hears of it, he will kill me.” And the Lord said, “Take a heifer with you, and say, ‘I have come to sacrifice to the Lord.’ Invite Jesse to the sacrifice, and I will show you what you shall do; and you shall anoint for me the one whom I name to you.” Samuel did what the Lord commanded, and came to Bethlehem. The elders of the city came to meet him trembling, and said, “Do you come peaceably?” He said, “Peaceably; I have come to sacrifice to the Lord; sanctify yourselves and come with me to the sacrifice.” And he sanctified Jesse and his sons and invited them to the sacrifice. 

When they came, he looked on Eliab and thought, “Surely the Lord’s anointed is now before the Lord.” But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for the Lord does not see as mortals see; they look on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” Then Jesse called Abinadab, and made him pass before Samuel. He said, “Neither has the Lord chosen this one.” Then Jesse made Shammah pass by. And he said, “Neither has the Lord chosen this one.” 10 Jesse made seven of his sons pass before Samuel, and Samuel said to Jesse, “The Lord has not chosen any of these.” 11 Samuel said to Jesse, “Are all your sons here?” And he said, “There remains yet the youngest, but he is keeping the sheep.” And Samuel said to Jesse, “Send and bring him; for we will not sit down until he comes here.” 12 He sent and brought him in. Now he was ruddy, and had beautiful eyes, and was handsome. The Lord said, “Rise and anoint him; for this is the one.” 13 Then Samuel took the horn of oil, and anointed him in the presence of his brothers; and the spirit of the Lord came mightily upon David from that day forward. Samuel then set out and went to Ramah. 

Psalm

Psalm 23

A Psalm of David. 

1The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. 

2He makes me lie down in green pastures; 

he leads me beside still waters;

3he restores my soul.

He leads me in right paths

for his name’s sake. 

4Even though I walk through the darkest valley,

I fear no evil; 

for you are with me; 

your rod and your staff— 

they comfort me. 

5You prepare a table before me 

in the presence of my enemies; 

you anoint my head with oil; 

my cup overflows. 

6Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me 

all the days of my life, 

and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord 

my whole life long.

New Testament

Ephesians 5:8–14

For once you were darkness, but now in the Lord you are light. Live as children of light— for the fruit of the light is found in all that is good and right and true. 10 Try to find out what is pleasing to the Lord. 11 Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. 12 For it is shameful even to mention what such people do secretly; 13 but everything exposed by the light becomes visible, 14 for everything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says, 

“Sleeper, awake! 

Rise from the dead, 

and Christ will shine on you.” 

Gospel

John 9:1–41

9 As he walked along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned; he was born blind so that God’s works might be revealed in him. We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” When he had said this, he spat on the ground and made mud with the saliva and spread the mud on the man’s eyes, saying to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which means Sent). Then he went and washed and came back able to see. The neighbors and those who had seen him before as a beggar began to ask, “Is this not the man who used to sit and beg?” Some were saying, “It is he.” Others were saying, “No, but it is someone like him.” He kept saying, “I am the man.” 10 But they kept asking him, “Then how were your eyes opened?” 11 He answered, “The man called Jesus made mud, spread it on my eyes, and said to me, ‘Go to Siloam and wash.’ Then I went and washed and received my sight.” 12 They said to him, “Where is he?” He said, “I do not know.” 

13 They brought to the Pharisees the man who had formerly been blind. 14 Now it was a sabbath day when Jesus made the mud and opened his eyes. 15 Then the Pharisees also began to ask him how he had received his sight. He said to them, “He put mud on my eyes. Then I washed, and now I see.” 16 Some of the Pharisees said, “This man is not from God, for he does not observe the sabbath.” But others said, “How can a man who is a sinner perform such signs?” And they were divided. 17 So they said again to the blind man, “What do you say about him? It was your eyes he opened.” He said, “He is a prophet.” 

18 The Jews did not believe that he had been blind and had received his sight until they called the parents of the man who had received his sight 19 and asked them, “Is this your son, who you say was born blind? How then does he now see?” 20 His parents answered, “We know that this is our son, and that he was born blind; 21 but we do not know how it is that now he sees, nor do we know who opened his eyes. Ask him; he is of age. He will speak for himself.” 22 His parents said this because they were afraid of the Jews; for the Jews had already agreed that anyone who confessed Jesus to be the Messiah would be put out of the synagogue. 23 Therefore his parents said, “He is of age; ask him.” 

24 So for the second time they called the man who had been blind, and they said to him, “Give glory to God! We know that this man is a sinner.” 25 He answered, “I do not know whether he is a sinner. One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see.” 26 They said to him, “What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?” 27 He answered them, “I have told you already, and you would not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you also want to become his disciples?” 28 Then they reviled him, saying, “You are his disciple, but we are disciples of Moses. 29 We know that God has spoken to Moses, but as for this man, we do not know where he comes from.” 30 The man answered, “Here is an astonishing thing! You do not know where he comes from, and yet he opened my eyes. 31 We know that God does not listen to sinners, but he does listen to one who worships him and obeys his will. 32 Never since the world began has it been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a person born blind. 33 If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.” 34 They answered him, “You were born entirely in sins, and are you trying to teach us?” And they drove him out. 

35 Jesus heard that they had driven him out, and when he found him, he said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” 36 He answered, “And who is he, sir? Tell me, so that I may believe in him.” 37 Jesus said to him, “You have seen him, and the one speaking with you is he.” 38 He said, “Lord, I believe.” And he worshiped him. 39 Jesus said, “I came into this world for judgment so that those who do not see may see, and those who do see may become blind.” 40 Some of the Pharisees near him heard this and said to him, “Surely we are not blind, are we?” 41 Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would not have sin. But now that you say, ‘We see,’ your sin remains. 

Published by Devon Miller

We are an Anabaptist community that welcomes all people to join us in the work of local, national, and international peace and justice.

One thought on “Lent 4: A New Look at the 23rd Psalm

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