16th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B
Psalm 23:1-3, 3, 4, 5, 6 (1)
July 22, 2018
God has always cared for his people. He had appointed people as kings and priests to be shepherds over his people but many of them misled and scattered his flock. Through the prophet Jeremiah, God assures his people that he “will appoint shepherds for them who will shepherd them” and that he “will raise up a righteous shoot to David.”
This will ultimately be fulfilled in Jesus who is the Good Shepherd, but he won’t come for another 600 years. Will God leave his people on their own till then? Of course not. He will shepherd his people himself.
What is the role of a shepherd?
In one simple sentence, it is watch over their flock. This includes keeping them safe from attacks. It means making sure they have food to eat and water to drink. It means guiding them “in right paths.”
The 23rd psalm is a favorite psalm to many. It speaks of how God will give us repose, guide us in right paths, always walking at our side, and with the Lord as our shepherd, our cup will overflow.
Our response to our psalm today really sums it up. “The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.”
How do we look at this verse today? What comes to mind when you hear, “there is nothing I shall want”?
How many of you immediately think of something you want but don’t have? Do you feel like your cup is overflowing?
What types of things are you thinking of? Are you focused on material things?
If you don’t have enough food, a place to live, money to pay rent, or a car to get to where you need to go, these might be what comes to mind. Know that God is with you. He fed the people with quail and manna in the desert. He cares for you.
For those who have their basic needs met, the phrase, “nothing I shall want” might lead one to think about having more. How about a new phone, a better car, a bigger home? Is that what you think this psalm is referring to?
Certainly, we can want these things. There is nothing wrong with these things as “things” but how important are they to you? Are they what is most important to you?
While acknowledging the genuine need for basic food, clothing, health care, and shelter, I want to talk about a different perspective on “there is nothing I shall want.”
Think back to what you first thought of today when you heard this phrase. Did you think of something you truly need or some material thing you desire but don’t really need?
Now, let me say that I don’t believe that this phrase, “there is nothing I shall want” means in any way that we will get everything we want.
Instead, I think it should lead us to think about what it is that we want. Is it necessary for a good Christian life? Or do we want it just because it is the newest thing? Perhaps we see someone else with it and want one for ourselves. When does this become “envy”, one of the seven deadly sins?
Instead of trying to get everything we want, how about letting go of our desire for the things that we don’t really need.
When Jesus sent out the Twelve, he told them to take no food, sack, or money. He called them to trust that God would provide through the people they would serve.
When I was a teenager, we had a few farm animals, mostly chickens, ducks, and a few cows. For a short period, we had a couple of pigs to raise for the meat.
Now, when you go to the store and buy bacon, it generally has a lot of fat. That’s because the farmers let the pigs eat as much as they want to gain weight as they sell the pig by the pound. But does the bacon have to have that much fat?
I know for a fact that the answer is no. When we raised pigs, we didn’t let them eat as much as they wanted. We feed them more than enough but not to the point of gluttony. It didn’t hurt the bacon. In fact, it was the best bacon I ever had.
Think about what you want. Think about what you really need. What do you ask of the Lord as your shepherd so that you can say, “there is nothing I shall want.”