It seems like an especially good time to sing the 23rd Psalm. Come to think of it, I wonder when is a bad time to sing it? I wonder why it’s mostly in bad times when many of us hear it or remember it. I guess it’s because of the fourth and fifth verses right in the middle — “darkest valley” and “enemies” — that it’s seldom read at weddings or baptisms. But look at all of the other language before and after. The dark valleys are enfolded and held in abundant restoration, comfort, and goodness.
Interim Program Manager, Children and Families
- Readings and Worship Bulletin
- Children and Families Resources
- Adult Lectionary Reflection
- Practicing Abundance
- An Easteride Invitation
Some time together at Family Coffee Hour.
Following the service, join us for an Eastertide Family Coffee Hour. We will meet online from our respective “upper rooms.” RSVP to Kathryn Carroll before 11am on Sunday and she will send you a link to join. Come as you are, from wherever you are. All are welcome! You can expect:
- Show & Tell: Rainbows in Windows — Rainbows and hearts are appearing all over the world in people’s windows to express hope, love, and compassion from the inside out. Create a rainbow for your window and show us when we meet!
- DIY Coffee Hour Refreshments: Try this savory breakfast bundt! Or, if you missed it, here’s a recipe for simple cinnamon baked doughnuts.
- Conversation Idea: What is something that you don’t miss as much as you thought you would? Tell us or show us what you have in abundance.
- A Sing-along: Learn the Good Shepherd song with Dr. Kathy Bozzuti-Jones.
During the week, families can share a Lectio Divina with this simplified Psalm 23. This can serve as your family’s mealtime prayer, or something that children who are strong readers can do on their own.
A photo of a Good Shepherdess from Kyrgyzstan, by Dr. Kathy Bozzuti-Jones.
Bob Scott, Director, Faith Formation and Education
Do you have a favorite scripture verse? Mine appears in this Sunday’s gospel. Jesus says, “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly” (John 10:10b). What a mission statement! Clear, inviting, easily remembered. Also inclusive — “they” refers to everybody who recognizes his call to love, compassion, and joy. In the original Greek, the word translated “abundance” is perissos. It connotes what is not only plentiful but also “beyond expectations.”
Members of the Broad Way Bible study inspired me this week when they shared how they understand abundance. Many spoke about the difference between wants and needs and affirmed that their experience at the moment is that their needs are being satisfied. They expressed gratitude and talked about practical ways they can in turn help others. I know for a fact that these folks aren’t rich. What humbled me was the way they know how to say “enough.” They also observed that “abundance” has a spiritual level, where it’s not about stuff at all (and certainly not about “God wants you to have a big car,” an all-too-common perversion of Jesus’ promise of abundance). It’s about inner peace.
Embracing the positive didn’t prevent them from looking soberly at the negative. When people are experiencing keen lack, whether momentarily or systemically, you can’t simply say “feel abundance.” This passage and the one that follows are steeped in imagery of sheep and shepherds. We looked at one of the core scriptural texts on the topic. The prophet Ezekiel brings the Lord’s censure on the “shepherds” (leaders) who feed themselves and neglect the sheep: “You have not strengthened the weak…healed the sick…bound up the injured…” (Ezekiel 34:4; compare with Matthew 25:31–46).
We acknowledged that modern capitalism would look chillingly familiar to Jesus and the Prophets. The stats on how our system drives a large and growing wedge between haves and have-nots are glaringly familiar. One of the members observed that “the scriptures are full of disaster capitalism,” citing how the ancient story of Joseph begins with “the Pharaoh’s anxiety dream about a famine” and leads to his “figuring out how to make a buck from the situation.”
Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Viet Thanh Nguyen’s recent NY Times editorial lays the social-spiritual connection bare. “The biological virus afflicting individuals is also a social virus. Its symptoms — inequality, callousness, selfishness and a profit motive that undervalues human life and overvalues commodities — were for too long masked by the hearty good cheer of American exceptionalism, the ruddiness of someone a few steps away from a heart attack.” He suggests that if anything good comes of this period, it could be our recognition of this reality.
As this period ends and whatever is to follow emerges, will we hear the voice of the good shepherd and respond to his call to care for one another? I have to confess that what I expect to see is society crawling its way back to its pre-existing condition. What I hope and pray for is that we can collectively look for what’s perissos — beyond expectations.
Excluding No One
This adaptation of Psalm 23 from the Jesuits in Ireland suggests that “want” or “lack” comes from exclusion — and that our “collective wisdom” is also a gift of the Good Shepherd:
The Lord is our shepherd, we exclude no one.
He helps us to relax,
he leads parents to silent prayer,
he reenergizes our families.
He guides us with collective wisdom
in his own name.
Even though we encounter
a severe crisis of faith,
we will fear no evil,
for you are with our woundedness;
your warm blanket,
comforts our children.
You prepare us well
in the face of life’s stresses.
You bless each partner;
in abundant grace.
Your goodness and love will follow us
all the days of our lives,
and we will glorify Jesus
Do you know how hard it is to find a guided meditation on enoughness online?
Dr. Kathy Bozzuti-Jones, Associate Director, Faith Formation and Education
Being homebound all these weeks has me noticing that I can make do with many fewer of my precious creature-comforts than I had ever realized before. While it’s certainly true that I miss the company of friends, the rhythms of work, and the freedom to move about in spring, I seem to be just fine without eating out, going to the movies, getting my hair cut, and the like. Psalm 23 seems to reinforce this insight, reminding me of the true satisfaction that comes from opening to the abundant life in God, which is already ours.
To open to God as shepherd is to accept that we do not know the way in these times. We need God, we need each other, we need time to breathe, to remember, time to rest and to be gentle with ourselves. When we are open to God, our wants fall into their right place. We remember that we are sufficient, we have what we need, and that there is truly “nothing that I shall want.”
God invites us to lie down in green pastures. Sure, these days are not what we imagined; but we can find rest for our souls, we can find light and hope, and we can dream of a world of justice and compassion. What would happen if we allow God to lead us to water, to green pastures, and to places of quiet where we feel satisfied and safe? God invites us to this place and it comes to us as easily and simply as taking a breath.
Still, popular media depictions of abundant living tend to feature advice on how to manifest glamourous dreams and attract financial wealth through acquisition, collecting, consumerism, etc. Competing with the vision of the love and mercy of the Good Shepherd, the world around us can speak to us in authoritative ways, offering compelling messages of scarcity, inadequacy, and the endless pursuit of comforts as a cure-all for our deeper longings, for love and connection.
So, I set out to locate a guided meditation to help me remain centered in my own experience of enoughness. Do you know how hard it is to find a guided meditation on “enoughness” online?! No matter what search words I enter —“meditation on having all you need,” “meditation on living more simply,” “meditation on recognizing your abundance,” “on minimizing consumption,” “on being content with what you have,” “on mindfulness of enough” — what comes up?
Attracting and manifesting financial wealth meditations come up by the dozens. Once in a while, an “I am enough” meditation comes up. But it seems that I will have to do the prayerful work of writing a meditation that grounds me in my own deep experience of the abiding care of God. Because I tend to wander off, at times.
What I have in mind is an enoughness practice, to help me respond with calm to this present moment with God — instead of opening the door of my heart to every last (real and invented) worry of what lack the future may bring. My enoughness meditation will likely include practicing attitudes of trust and gratitude and facing outward in concern for others. But, I suspect, it will be mostly about sitting with God with the awareness that my life is in God’s hands. And resting there. Maybe it will simply take the form of a conscious return to my next breath with God…and in God. “Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life and I will dwell in the house of the Lord, my whole life long.”
- “Up-Hill” by Christina Rossetti — a poem for coping with COVID-19
- A quote from Brené Brown: “The opposite of scarcity is not abundance; the opposite of scarcity is simply enough” (Rising Strong).
Actual “green pastures and still waters” aren’t usually found in people’s apartments. And though we might feel like we’re walking through the “darkest valley” right now, God’s presence and abundance in both places is good news. We invite you to share your good news with us. Before Pentecost, we will collate people’s entries to share church-wide in a digital Good News Family Scrapbook. Feel free to enter more than one!
- For dinner table conversation: What’s your “valley” or low point? What does your “green pasture” or abundant life look like?
- For individual reflection: In the face of worry of future lack, where have you felt enoughness, or the awareness that your life is in God’s good hands?
- Pay attention to the world around you in an Easter way: Where are you finding signs of God’s living presence today?
- Share the good news of Christ in your life with:
- A photo you take (with or without a caption)
- A poem or prayer you like or write
- A link to a hopeful or joyful article
- A short story or essay
- What can you share? Send your good news, in any format, to ChristianFormation@trinitywallstreet.org. We would love to hear it!