Coffee fellowship time is from 8:30-10:00 AM in The Atrium, between the Youth Center and Music Suite 9:00 AM - Worship in Maresh Fellowship Hall 9:50 AM - Sunday School for all ages 11:00 AM - Worship in the Sanctuary
Coffee fellowship time is from 8:30-10:00 AM in the Atrium, between the Choir Suite and Youth Center 9:00 AM - Worship in Maresh Fellowship Hall 9:50 AM - Sunday School for all ages 11:00 AM - Worship in the Sanctuary
St. John’s University, Collegivelle, MN, 56231 2006
Sunday, June 28
By: Carol Hagler
Psalm 73 first caught my attention on a chilly November Saturday morning in 1989, as I studied the Sunday school lesson for the following day. Having found and read several other verses suggested for the lesson, I read Psalm 73:26.
26 My flesh and my heart may fail, But God is the strength of my heart. And my portion forever.
“What?” I thought, “This doesn’t ‘fit’ with the other verses I have just read.” Sure enough – my error—right verse; wrong chapter! Or was it? I had fumbled my way into the perfect verse for my circumstances on that morning. My physical body (my flesh) and my mental, emotional, spiritual state (my heart) seemed to be failing in a spectacular way. I had been diagnosed with breast cancer and on the following Wednesday was scheduled for a mastectomy. In one word, the psalmist reminded me of the path to hope, confidence, peace. He said, “but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” I clung to that verse repeating it over and over as I was rolled into the surgical suite on November 15. I have repeated it and found comfort in it in other crises that I have faced.
Much later I studied the rest of Psalm 73. Most often attributed to Asaph, a temple choir leader, Psalm 73 begins with a strong theological statement of God’s goodness. 1. Surely God is good to Israel, to those who are pure in heart.
However, Asaph soon experiences a crisis of faith – he “almost stumbles, nearly slips” (NKJ) as he observes the health, wealth and apathy toward God of the “wicked.” He speaks to me of my own experiences in times of personal problems and in times such as this when our country faces multiple cultural problems – COVID19, racial inequity, economic difficulties.
2– 3 But as for me, my feet had almost slipped; I had nearly lost my foothold. For I envied the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of thewicked.
His doubts and complaints are not without basis in reality, but he seems to be aware that his attitudes regarding these disparities do not reflect “his best self”.
4-12 They have no struggles; their bodies are healthy and strong. They are free from free from the burdens common to man; they are not plagued by human ills. Therefore pride is their necklace; they clothe themselves with violence. From their callous hearts comes iniquity; the evil conceits of their minds know no limits. They scoff, and speak with malice; in their arrogance they threaten oppression. Their mouths lay claim to heaven and their tongues take possession of the earth. Therefore their people turn to them and drink up waters of abundance. They say “How can God know? Does the Most High have knowledge?” This is what the wicked are like – always carefree, they increase in wealth.
Faced with this picture of the easy life of the wicked, Asaph questions the benefit of his own devotion to God’s principles in view of his earthy circumstances compared to those of the prosperous.
13-16 Surely in vain have I kept my heart pure; in vain have I washed my hands in innocence. All day long I have been plagued; I have been punished every morning. If I had said, ”I will speak thus,” I would have betrayed your children. When I tried to understand all this, it was oppressive to me
And then an epiphany!
17 till I entered the sanctuary of God; then I understood their final destiny.
Entering the temple sanctuary and feeling the presence of the Lord, Asaph realizes that “the wicked” are only one step away from earthly ruin and more importantly, eternal separation from God.
18-20 Surely you place them on slippery ground; you cast them down to ruin. How suddenly they are destroyed, completely swept away by terrors! As a dream when one awakes, so when you arise O Lord, you will despise them as fantasies.
Then, he confesses and grieves his envy and doubts.
21-22 When my heart was grieved and my spirit embittered, I was senseless and ignorant; I was a brute beast before you.
(I think we Baptists call that conviction…)
He restates his trust in God’s love and goodness – no matter his circumstances. He acknowledges God’s constant presence and guidance. He asserts that the grace and mercy of God is better than anything on earth and that he looks forward to what God has planned for him for eternity.
23-28 Yet I am always with you; you hold me by my right hand. You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will take me into glory. Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart, and my portion forever. Those who are far from you will perish; you destroy all who are unfaithful to you. But as for me, it is good to be near God. I have made the Sovereign Lord my refuge; I will tell of all your deeds.
I have come a long way from that November morning in 1989. There have been missteps and backslidings, but my heart still sings Asaph’s song of gratitude and praise.
“It is good to be near God.”
The Sovereign Lord is always a present refuge.
Thanks be to God.
A contemporary rendering of some of the thoughts of Asaph were introduced to the choir a couple of months ago by Randy Edwards. The composer, Robert Sterling, also finds solace and hope (and a bit of attitude adjustment) in God’s sanctuary.
Listen to the message of his song, “Church.” May we all be able “to go to church” soon.
St. John’s University, Collegivelle, MN, 56231 2006
Monday, June 8
By Willard Teel
A Psalm of David – Psalm 23
1. The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
2. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside still waters.
3. He refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake.
4. Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me: your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
5. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.
6. Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.
Aren’t these six verses beautiful? I suspect, most of us have had them memorized from our earliest years. And, like most things, the more we read them, study them, pray the words……..the more we understand them and see them with new eyes and heart.
While there is study about whether David wrote all the psalms, some of the psalms, or if they were written as a tribute to him, we will work with the consensus that David wrote the 23rd Psalm. Because as Dr. Lawrence Wilson states, “King David…grew up and worked as a shepherd, so he knew a lot about sheep and shepherding. He loved the metaphor of seeing God, or the Lord, as a shepherd.”
One of my earliest memories of childhood include regular church attendance. My mother would dress me in a handsome little suit that was similar to Dad’s, and I would go to the flowerbed and pick a small delicate flower for my lapel. At that time, Jimmy Allen was fresh out of the seminary and was our pastor. The church was very committed to evangelism, therefore, one of the first Bible verses all the children learned was John 3:16. It wasn’t a hard task to see that God loved all the little children and wanted us to be part of His family, because we were his children and He loved us. The next verses we memorized was Psalm 23. This memorization required more work and a lot more understanding – understanding which continues to this day. Somewhat later, I was taught “Do Not Fear”.
Don’t these three verses fit so nicely with each other?
First is to believe in the words of John 3:16. “For God so loved the world that He gave his one and only son, that whoever believe in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.”
Second is to know how God proactively cares for us. How much He loves each of us as beautifully written in Psalms. We will come back to this.
Lastly, when we falter, when we grieve, when we stumble, when we fear (and we will); we will be well served to recall the admonition “Do Not Fear”, and begin again.
Psalm 23 is likely one of the most beautiful chapters in the Bible, and has been used in liturgical and classical settings from Bach to Bernstein to Schubert. And, its verses have been sung by such artists as Duke Ellington, Pink Floyd, the Grateful Dead, U2, Coolio, Cissy Houston, Lucinda Williams, and Kanye West. In these six verses are words and phrases that appeal to so many.
When one reads the first three verses we are struck by how firm and positive David proclaims God’s activities are on behalf of us. Read these verses with emphasis on the verbs:
The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
He makes me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside still waters.
He refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for His name’s sake.
As Dr. Wilson explains, God is like the shepherd of the field who provides everything for His sheep and will guide us, if we are faithful, along our life path. These are such positive and forceful statements.
I will admit that I’ve had difficulty when I’ve walked through a dark valley. When I was in my senior year at Baylor, my parents came to see me. This was an unplanned visit and they arrived as a surprise. The news was not good for they came to explain they were getting divorced. While not unanticipated, it still arrived like a lead brick. After they departed, I began to enter my own dark valley. Two weeks later they were back. The news this time was that my beloved grandfather had passed. Another blow and I was deeper in a darker valley. I watched as my home church in Dallas failed, as I saw it, to respond to either of my parents or myself with these two losses. This third blow pushed me away from the church for a few years. Overtime, I began to consider that in 1972 these people whom I loved just didn’t know how to respond to these circumstances. Do we love her, do we love him, do we love both, or do we be silent and do nothing to console the loss of a marriage or a death in the family? Silence was the chosen answer. After many months, I began to realize that I needed God. God never left me, but I left God. I needed God as my Shepherd and needed still waters. My soul needed refreshing and I needed a better path. With God, I left that dark valley with renewed love guided by God’s rod and staff and received comfort.
In verse 5, it says that God is active again for He prepared a table and symbolically anointed me in the presence of my enemies. Aren’t we often our own worst enemies? Aren’t we like Paul in Roman 7:15, not doing what we should be doing; instead doing what we shouldn’t?
I don’t know about you, but I do like knowing that “goodness and love” will follow me and that I will live with God forever. Oh, there have been more valleys for isn’t that life, but the journey through them has been easier. I hope it will be so for you, too.
A Time of Reflection and Prayer
What valleys have you walked through and how did you find your way out of them? Are you in a valley during these days of Covid-19?
Do you fully realize how much God loves you and, if not, what needs to be accomplished to change your life’s path?
Music for our Souls
I would like to leave you with five interpretations of Psalm 23. Select one or all five links to hear these verses. Perhaps, you might enjoy scrolling to the top and read again our verse selection for today, or simply close your eyes in prayer and let the music be your prayer.