31 Maple Street
Bristol, Connecticut USA
October 1, 2023
Rev. Kristen J. Kleiman
Imagine for a moment you were a sheep. As you baa and bleat along the path of life, imagine how wonderful it would feel to rest in green meadows, munching on green grass, gazing at the blue sky above. Imagine walking beside peaceful streams, being able to stop at your leisure and get a refreshing drink, secure in the knowledge that no danger surrounded you.
You don’t have to be a sheep for this to sound good to you. In our ‘non-stop, cram one more activity or chore in’ world, where retirees are just as busy as working people, the idea of being able to rest, to doze, to sleep deeply sounds really, really good. How peaceful and serene it would be to not have to constantly think about where we are going next or what we need for today or tomorrow.
There is a reason why the words of the 23rd psalm have resonated with people throughout thousands and thousands of years. The psalmist not only speaks to our deepest desires – the desire to be safe, the desire to be cared for – physically, emotionally, and spiritual; the psalmist also speaks about who God is.
God is our shepherd. God is the one who knows what we need and provides what we need. God feeds us; God nourishes us; God guides us; God comforts and protects us; God blesses us and renews our strength. Renews our strength when we feel completely depleted.
God can do what no vacation or spa day or good night’s sleep can do. Over and over again, God replenishes our spirits; God gives us what we need to sustain us for the living of these days, for the living of these days that sometime bring sunshine and sometimes bring rain, rain on top of rain, as we receive one piece of challenging news after another.
In these moments when we feel stretched too thin, in these moments when we don’t know how we will have enough – enough money, enough energy, enough time – to do what we are supposed to do or at least what we think we are supposed to do – in all of those moments, God is inviting us to rest in green meadows. God is leading us beside peaceful streams. God is close beside us, protecting us and comforting us.
It’s true. God is with us – in all of those trying, difficult, challenging moments. God is there blessing us.
However, when you are in the middle of the darkest valley, when you are grieving the death of a loved one, grieving the approaching death of a loved one, when you have received a medical diagnosis – cancer, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, ALS, when you have been laid off, down-sized, told by your closest one that they do not feel close to you anymore, that they don’t want to be with you anymore, when you are in the middle of the darkest valley, it is almost impossible to remember that God is with you, blessing you.
And still, it’s true. Whether we are aware of it or not, whether others are aware of God’s presence or not, God is with each one of us: feeding us, nourishing us, guiding, comforting and protecting us. God is blessing us, refreshing us, and renewing our strength.
Because you are God’s anointed one. You are God’s chosen one. You are God’s beloved. God will never abandon you.
Look at the birds of the air. Look at the lilies of the field. Look at the squirrels and lizards, mums and cacti. God cares for each one of them. God protects and provides for them, so why would you be any different? Why would God love you any less? The opposite is true. God values you more, loves you more.
God’s goodness and unfailing love pursue you every day of your life. God wants to be close to you, wants you to accept the invitation to rest, to be refreshed, to be renewed; however, God isn’t going to force you.
God’s unfailing love is a gift, a gift freely given to all of us, always right there, always close by, in the darkest valley, in the presence of enemies, God’s love, care, and protection are always surrounding us. God is continually seeking to refresh and renew us. We just need to listen.
When we are sick – a cold, the flu, COVID or something longer term and more chronic, we need to not rail against God in our frustration. We need to listen to this invitation to rest, to heal, to be refreshed and renewed.
When we are feeling completely out of sorts, disjointed, dispirited, totally out of rhythm with others and even our own self, we need to listen, listen to nature, listen to God’s song, listen to the harmony of the Spirit and be refreshed and renewed.
And when we are feeling stressed to the gills, when we don’t know how we will accomplish all of these to do’s, when we don’t know how we will be in all of these different places at one time, when we feel our joy slipping away in the busyness of it all, even then, we need to listen. Listen to God’s still speaking voice through our loved ones, through friends, children, and pets. Listen to God’s still speaking, always loving, voice and rest, play, slow down, and be refreshed and renewed.
There are lots of things we can try to restore our energy through this journey of life; however only God, only God can provide for all our needs, only God can renew our strength. Only God is our shepherd.