How many ways can we present the 23rd Psalm? Let’s sing it; let’s pray it; let’s read it; let’s recite it together. So many know this psalm and love it; it is a heart song for many of us. Lean into it. Ask the youth to rewrite it; ask the older adults to reinterpret it. Find different ways of living into this psalm. But why? Why do these six verses speak so profoundly to us and become something we want to hold on to? Partly because it is simple and easy to remember. But more significantly, it speaks to a longing deep within all of us: the desire to be at home. To be loved and protected and safe and filled; that’s what this psalm speaks of to us.
1 Peter presents the guardian of our souls as the one who brings us back together, who brings us home. We celebrate that guardian today, the one who walked through the world and showed us what a life of meaning and purpose looked like. We embrace that model and aspire to the attributes that the epistle outlines for us. That kindness and honesty and purity appeals to us and inspires us. We lift up this person in worship, not just to admire but to pledge to emulate. We honor who he was so that we can learn to be like him as he was. Our prayers are not only adoration but also confession and commitment.
How do we celebrate the guardian? Some of it is praise, of course. But some of it is description. And we describe the attributes of this guardian best through sightings of the work of the Christ among us. When have you experienced the guardian of your soul? That’s the story we need to share. When have you acted as the guardian of souls for others? That’s the story we need to share. We celebrate God in the abstract, but we more powerfully celebrate the God at work among us and through us. “We know it is true because it is in the Bible” is one way to present God to the congregation. And that is a powerful and effective way, let’s be clear. But “we know it is true because it is happening among us and in us” is also a powerful and effective way to present God to one another and the world.
Maybe this week is an opportunity to experience this guardian of the soul as we worship together. An invitation to gather at the Communion rail, for example, could allow folks to surround one another with support and prayers. We can sense that the community does care for us and for what is going on in our lives. There could be a time of anointing for healing or support. What signs can you give those who worship with you that there is a guardian who works through the community? What signs can you give those who worship with you online? How can you use the chat feature, if there is one, or the comment feature to receive and respond to those individuals and their concerns or joys?
Some of us have had a direct and even mystical experience of that guardian. But more of us have felt that guardian through the words and actions of the community that surrounds us. Can we give space for those experiences to be shared during worship as we gather this week?
Rev. Dr. Derek Weber, Director of Preaching Ministries, served churches in Indiana and Arkansas and the British Methodist Church. His PhD is from University of Edinburgh in preaching and media. He has taught preaching in seminary and conference settings for more than 20 years.