Thursday, May 25, 2017

Does the Devil Exist? 2 Peter 5:6-11

Rev. George Miller
May 28, 2017
2 Peter 5:6-11

Wednesday was the Day of Demons.

Not for me, but for my cats.

It started with the Horrible Hoover, a menacing machine deemed to destroy all the dirt that dared to pass its path.

From the moment that demon whirred into life, Sterling hid from its horror, galloping past like it like a horse caught in a house-a-fire, hiding from its satanic suction.

The Day of Demons continued when the Sky Spirit opened up, raging down rain and ripping across the yard with roaring thunder.

From the moment that demon boomed into battle, Jesse ran for the kitchen, prying open the cabinet door so he could cave away until the rains ceased.

Then there was the Satanic Sneeze, in which an unstoppable “achoo!” from me sent both of the cats scattering away.

Of course, one creature’s demon is another creature’s escape from dust and dirt. One life form’s fear of loud noises is another’s song of celebration that the rains have finally fallen.

And then…there is the reality of what took place Monday in Manchester, as a suicide bomber caused numerous deaths, many of them young, many of them girls, who had simply, innocently gathered to enjoy a night of song and celebration.

It makes one wonder why there are acts of evil in the world; makes one wonder if the devil truly does exist.

Today’s scripture talks about the devil, giving it the attributes of a prowling lion, ravenous, looking for someone to devour.

Biblically speaking, the concept of the devil is fascinating. In the Old Testament satan is scantly referred to in just 4 books, portrayed as a courtroom adversary; a slick lawyer who is there on the opposing side.

The idea of demons entering into humans to do bad deeds does not appear until the New Testament and is more an influence of Greek mythology and pop-culture’s fascination with monsters and dragons.

It was centuries later, through the work of artists like Dante and Milton that hell and satan captured folk’s imagination. (The above 3 paragraphs are adapted from Lesson 10 of “Living the Questions” Bible Study. For further reading go to )

The devil appears throughout the New Testament, but scholars, theologians, and people of faith are asked to wonder if it is as an entity or an idea, a man or a metaphor.

Shirley Guthrie, in his classic book “Christian Doctrine” goes into great detail about the Doctrine of Providence and the Doctrine of Evil. (2nd edition, 1994, pp166-191)

It goes like this- if God’s desire is to give us every good thing, why are there things like cancer, dementia, orphaned children, suicide bombings, viruses and injustices of every kind?

Is it because God is loving and just but powerless, or is God powerful but not loving and just enough to do anything about it?

In our world, there are different levels of evil- what we can call “natural evil”, like earthquakes and illnesses, and “moral evil”, which comes from humans and institutions.

We deal with evil in different ways. We may ignore it, or say that bad things happen now for something good to happen later. Or we place blame- “you must have done something wrong.” Or we Monday-morning quarterback and say “if we had known we could’ve been prepared.”

Yet, humans are finite. We are not meant to live forever. Somehow, someway we are all going to die, be it by a bus, a bullfight, or a burst blood vessel.

Yet, we live in a world of free will, in which not just humans have free will, but it can be argued that so do animals, viruses, and weather-patterns.

Then there is what we experienced Monday in Manchester, which is evil that is more than sin, evil that is steeped in darkness, seeming to lurk about like a lion.

How does that kind of evil come about?

For some, that answer comes in the form of an entity called the devil. The reasoning is this-“evil cannot come from God, for what God wills and does is good.” (pg. 179)

So, evil must come from another source- satan, the anti-advocate who puts evil desires into our body, mind and soul, inciting us to go against God and challenge Christ.

2 Peter 2:4 and Jude 6 hint at the devil being a rebellious angel, but can’t explain how or why he came about.

But how can a creature of God rebel against God if all that God creates is good?

So what do we do with scripture like today and the faith of those who say the devil is a real entity?

Shirley Guthrie has 3 points (pp179-181)-

Christians don’t say that we “believe” in the devil. We confess our faith in only God the Father, Jesus Christ our Lord, and the Holy Spirit. We do not profess our faith in satan or hell.

In other words, even if we think the devil is real, we don’t believe in the darkness; we believe in God’s power against the darkness.

Second, our focus on the devil should not become central to our faith and more important “than the reality of God.”

Scriptures tell again and again how Jesus has already opposed and defeated the demonic and that it’s forever limited by the resurrected Christ.

Third- pay attention to who Jesus refers to as satanic- it’s not the prostitutes, tax collectors, outcasts, or the aliens.

Jesus calls the overly-righteous religious leaders the sons of satan; he calls his close friends, Peter, satan.

This indicates that what is perhaps most dangerous are those who disguise themselves as better than others, or try to use their faith for their own power and prosperity.

Still, we are left to wonder- why do bad things happen, and how does evil exist?

To that, I cannot give you an answer that I could stand by 100% or stake my life upon.

Though I’ve experienced great evil, and have felt demonic presences in my life, I personally do not think that a supernatural being called the devil exists.

Here’s what I can say- evil is that which tries to separate us from the love of God, and evil is that which tries to make us think that our Shepherd is not good.

In the darkness of the devilish, there is always a light that burns.

It is the light we see so clearly when things appear to be going right, but when tragedy occurs we wonder if that light was real or just a mirage.

When that occurs, it helps for us to remember. To recall the stories we were told, the stories of how God’s desire is to give us every good thing.

To recall all that God has done in the past- the creation, the covenants, the land, the children, the parted waters, the bread from heaven, the journeys done in stages.

As Christians, we are challenged not to recoil in the horrors of the world, but to recall the wonders and ways in which God protected, liberated, and saved again and again and again.

We could dote on the devil or we could recall what God has done in the past.

See how Christ is in the present.

And hope for how the Holy Spirit will advocate, comfort, and cheer us on in the future.

Even when the utter godlessness of others threatens to rip the world apart, we can embrace the godliness that dwells within us.

That’s how the earliest Christians survived and thrived. Those who originally received this letter experienced the devil every day.

They dealt with Roman occupation. They dealt with religious persecution. They dealt with living in strange lands amongst strange customs.

They lived each day in the shadow and the threat of the cross.

But they did not place their belief in the devil, they placed their belief in God made known through Jesus Christ.

They remembered who Jesus was and how he lived. The remembered how he healed the sick and fed the sheep. They recalled how he defended the poor and called for compassion.

Yes, they recalled Jesus’ death, but they also recalled God’s power to raise him from the tomb.

They recalled that the Christ “who was the victim of evil is also the victor over evil.” (pg. 186)

That every Sunday is an Easter Sunday in which God has rescued us from the power of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom. (pg 186 and Col. 1:13)

How could events like Manchester take place? Why is there evil in the world? Does the devil exist?

We can certainly keep asking ourselves those questions. But I also hope we remind ourselves again and again

-that the Holy Spirit dwells amongst us, advocating for us, giving us comfort and cheering us on.

-that the Spirit of the Living Christ dwells within us, calling us to continue on our stages upon the way, doing what is pleasing to God.

-that the Spirit of the Still Speaking God continues to invite us to do justice, love kindness, walk with humility and recall how God’s desire is to give us every good thing.

No prince of darkness can be greater than the Prince of Peace. No spirit of evil can be more powerful than the Paraklete, and no entity can be mightier than the hand of God.

And no amount of hate is stronger than the love of our Creator.

For that, let us say “Amen and amen.”

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Counselor, Comforter, Cheer Captain- The Holy Spirit according to John 14:15-21

Rev. George Miller
May 21, 2017
John 14:15-21

Enter into the world of Scripture, and you will encounter unforgettable stories. Each book is a multilayered, immersive encounter with the Divine, transporting us into realms of adventure, mystery, and discovery.

As we come up to the end of our Read the Bible in a Year program, one thing that’s clear is how the Bible is so full of details, so many which are obscure, that anyone can miss them.

Our scriptures may be 2-3,000 years old and yet they continue to surprise us, to speak to us, and to say “Hey, have you thought about God this way???”

Our Bible is composed of stories that were passed down generation to generation, modified by each teller to appeal to their current audience.

For example, the Gospels were written 40-60 years after Jesus walked the earth. They are composed of stories of what Jesus said, what he did, how he lived and what he taught. Stories filled with humanity, with the holy, and yes, even with humor.

Each Gospel writer took those stories and found their own unique way to convey an experience of the Incarnate God.

With an economy of language, they presented details and information that spoke volumes beyond what a simple word could mean.

Because each writer was living in a specific time and a specific place, they presented the Jesus-Experience in a way that folk could understand.

Mark was earthy. Matthew was churchy. Luke was cosmopol-ity. John was brainy.

Each writer takes what they know of Jesus and shares what speaks to them, what they think matters to their readers, and presents different shades of Jesus that contains hints of how the author speaks.

Thus, the Jesus in Mark talks more like a local who is attending a state college, while the Jesus in John talks more like a legacy who’s attending Yale.

Mark was writing for people during a time of war in which survival was paramount. John was writing post-war to friends who were being kicked out of their places of worship because they dared to go against the status quo.

So when John has Jesus speak, he does so in a way so his comrades in faith can comprehend.

For example- John 14. We are in the middle of a farewell discourse that Jesus is having with his disciples during a dark, dark time.

The hour of his arrest has come near; Jesus knows that soon he will no longer be physically there with his friends.

He has already told them that in their Holy Parent’s house there are many “monai”. Now, he is expressing to them that they will not be left alone, they will not be orphaned, or helpless.

This is Jesus so assured, so strong as a leader that he is confident that his ministry will live on even when he is gone.

This is Jesus delegating authority and empowering his partners to move forward, finding ways to do justice, love kindness, and to walk humbly with the Lord.

Jesus does this is by making them a promise, a promise that the Holy Spirit will be with them. He calls the Holy Spirit the Advocate, which is Greek is the word “Paraklete”.

Now I know you’re wondering “Did pastor just say parakeet?”

“No, no- I think he said ‘a pair of cleats.’”

“Paraklete? Isn’t that the name of your cousin’s new baby?”

You heard correctly. Paraklete is a fancy-schmancy way of saying “Holy Spirit”.

Now keep in mind- Jesus was a Jew who spoke in Hebrew or Aramaic, but the Gospel is written in Greek, and we’re experiencing it in English.

Paraklete is a Greek word for the Holy Spirit that only appears in John’s gospel, and it is a word that points to John’s education and peer group.

Say Holy Spirit to different people and you’ll get many definitions and ways to describe what the Holy Spirit does.

For John, Paraklete is a legal word, meaning Advocate or Counselor, and not the kind you have in junior high or the kind who asks you to talk about your mother, but the kind you would have in a court of law.

John uses the word Paraklete to describe the Holy Spirit as someone who comes into your life to speak out and to act on your behalf, stepping up to the judge’s bench to plead your cause.

Another definition of Paraklete is Comforter. Not the kind you have covering your bed, but a person who comes in during times of sorrow and helps you to cope. Think of a home health aide, or a hospice worker, or someone from the Red Cross called in after a disaster.

You can hear how this attention to detail allows the words of Jesus to speak to people who are being kicked out of their synagogue, who are being challenged by local authorities, and have to choose between their faith or their family.

A third definition of Paraklete is one I really like- to put courage into soldiers who are depressed and despondent; to empower desperate people to be…brave.

Wow- this image and immersion into the word allows a whole other way to see the Holy Spirit other than an intuition or inspiration.

This definition means that Jesus is saying to his followers- “Listen, when things get tough, when things seem hopeless, when it appears there is no way out, call upon the Holy Spirit and you will find the courage to go on, and you will find a way to be brave.”

Counselor. Comforter. Cheer captain.

All these ways in which we can view and experience the Holy Spirit; all the ways Jesus is saying to his disciples that he will still be present in their lives.

Notice this- there’s something all these words have in common.

These are not roles that involve magic wands or do all the work for you.

These are not job descriptions that solve the problem for you, like a mechanic, or clean up after up you, like a maid.

The Paraklete, as used by John, inspires, empowers, and advocates, which means that there are still things we have to do.

There is still responsibility we have to take. There is still ownership of our issues.

There is still the need, on our behalf of action and wisdom.

This Holy Spirit will empower them, encourage them, and inspire them.

The Holy Spirit will plead their case for them, comfort them so they can cope, and fill them with courage when they are very, very afraid.

I think about our modern times, who we are, and how we live.

If John was writing today, what words could be used to describe the Holy Spirit?

Maybe the word “App.” Like the Holy Spirit is an application we can access to assist us in a task or to get information.

Or maybe “Home Repair Guide.” Like the Holy Spirit is a manual on how to face and fix things without doing all the work for you.

This week I am inspired to think of “Social Worker.” Like the Holy Spirit can be instrumental in bringing two individuals together so they can become a family.

What other ways or words would you use to describe the Holy Spirit?

If Jesus or John were talking with you today, what would inspire you, console you, and empower you so that you could step into tomorrow and brave whatever the world may bring?

The world of Scripture is full of unforgettable stories, featuring immersive encounters with the Divine, encouraging us to dive into discovery.

Our Bible is so full of details, that although our scriptures are thousands of years old, they continue to surprise, to speak, to say “Hey, have you thought about faith this way???”

With an economy of language, our Bible delights in details that speak far beyond what our own words and experiences can.

And because we live in a specific time and place, we experience the Holy One speaking in a way that each of us can comprehend.

Let us continue to listen, let us continue to learn, and let us continue to allow the light of Christ into our lives.

Amen and amen.

(Interestingly enough, the 1st and ending parts of the message were inspired by Susan Veness’ Introduction to The Hidden Magic Of World Disney World- 2nd Edition (2015; Adams Media, Avon, MA).

While trying to grease the creativity gears, searching for what to say about scripture, I picked up Veness’ book as a time-filler, pleased to discover that her description of Disney’s success/attention to details is in alignment with my feelings about scripture.

The Paraklete works in many, many ways!!!)

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Exploring What God's Home Contains; John 14:1-8

Rev. George Miller
May 14, 2017
John 14:1-8

Though we are in the 5th week of Easter, today’s reading takes us right back to before the cross, during a very dark, dark hour for Jesus and his disciples. It is beyond car problems, beyond employment issues, and beyond burn notices.

This is Jesus about to be betrayed, about to be brought before Pilate, and before this takes place, he asks his disciples…to believe.

In this dark, dark hour Jesus asks the disciples to believe what they cannot prove in a laboratory, or a court of law.

Jesus asks them to bravely, faithfully hold onto their trust in God.

In other words, he is asking them to believe in the words of the 23rd Psalm-

“The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside still waters; he restores my soul.”

Thus John 14 transcends space, transcends time and becomes a scripture for all people-

For anyone who knows what it is like to tread upon dried grass, to thrash about in dangerous waters, to be in dark valleys, or to be surrounded by damaging enemies.

Jesus says “Believe” and “In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places.”

With this statement, we wonder- what is Jesus talking about? And because this is an English translation of a Greek writing based upon the words of a Hebrew man, we cannot be 100% certain that what we just heard with our ears is what was actually meant.

For example, did Jesus say “house” or did he saw “home”?

House tends to be more of a physical location. If he meant house, is he referring, as some would think, to a place we go after we die, when all is said and done, and breathe is no more?


But what good is belief, what good is comfort post-death, if the struggle, the pain, the stress is in the now?

When someone is confronted with suffering do they really want to hear “Hush, hush- years later when you die, things will be ok.”?

Or in their current suffering, do they want to know there is a way to rise above; a way to pass through, a way to survive, and a way thrive?

So…maybe Jesus is talking about a house, where you go. Or, maybe he is talking about a home.

A home is less a physical place, and more of an emotional experience. Home hints at heart; feeling.

Yes, we may live in a house; but it doesn’t mean we live in a home.

All of us have a place in which we feel home, even if it’s not a house.

A beach, a river, a garden; a golf course, a garage, a place in the woods.

Home can be your Momma’s bosom, or Auntie’s embrace, or Granny’s kitchen.

Home can be Dad’s tussling of your hair, Uncle’s dominos table, or Grandpa’s rickety old fishing boat.

So maybe what Jesus is doing is his metaphysical, mystical, emotional mumbo jumbo he does so well.

Is Jesus talking about our Heavenly Parent’s House or our Heavenly Parent’s Home?

And what exactly do many dwelling places mean?

In Greek, the word used is “monai.” And monai has many meanings.

When the King James Bible was written, they used the word “mansions”, which makes sense. If you’re writing for a king, you would use a huge, opulent word that expresses abundance and majesty.

Mansions do that. But how do many mansions fit inside a house; and does a mansion sound like a home?

Monai can also mean “room.” Think of it like living in a campus dorm in which all your friends sleep, study, socialize, and eat supper in the same place. Or being on a cruise ship in which all you need is right there.

Monai can mean “dwelling place” or “to abide in”. In this context, things become more relational. To dwell or abide are akin to saying that the person lives within you.

Like how your Mom or Dad may have died, but you feel like you are carrying them within your heart.

Now, before your eyes gloss over or your brain shuts down, monai can also mean “Room for all.”

Now that is deep. It is progressive. It is very, very UCC.

“In my Parent’s home, there is room for all.”

How does this notion touch you? How does it make you feel?

This possible translation indicates a God who is so big, so limitless; a God who is truly boundary breaking.

Would this cause you to believe and to bravely, faithfully hold onto your trust in God?

This is not God as a product, this is not God as magic maker, but God as welcoming, embracing, having a heart that houses all people, no matter who, where, or what.

Finally, the last meaning of monai is “stages upon the way.” Big difference from mansions or rooms.

“In my Father’s house there are many stages along the way.”

Think of that- stages, steps, levels.

Like how you can go to the same elementary school as your sister, but you’re in a different grade; or the same college as your brother, but you’re in a different year.

Stages don’t imply that one is better or one is worse; steps don’t indicate superior or supreme.

Stages simply mean that one is where they are at; one is where they are supposed to be.

The Bible is full of references to stages. The Old Testament tells us that in the wilderness the Israelites journeyed by stages, and each stage brought them a new act of redemption.

The Book of Acts tells us how the earliest Christians spent day by day together in worship, and day by day adding to their numbers. (Acts 2:46-47).

Day by day, step by step, stage by stage.

At this stage of my life, I like this interpretation of John 14:2; that in God there are many stages along the way.

It sounds like freedom. Its sounds like mercy. It sounds like…grace.

It sounds like we can let go of the notion that one person is holier than another; or one knows more about the Bible than another; or that one is more enlightened and redeemed than another.

It means that in our faith, we are exactly where we are meant to be.

It sounds like Jesus is saying “Even in the darkest of moments there are many ways to experience the Light of God.”

It sounds like Jesus is saying “Our Parent is so amazing that whatever we do out of faith can’t be wrong, even if we are unsure about the way.”

In conclusion, today’s reading is both complex and so simple.

I cannot tell you exactly what Jesus said or exactly what Jesus meant.

House and home are so different, and yet so much the same.

Mansions, dwelling places, room for all- what speaks to you? What gives you comfort? What gives you strength?

What allows you to believe so there’s comfort in the darkest valleys, the waters feel a bit calmer, and the grasses seem a bit greener?

Are stages along the way a source of joy? Is step by step, no matter how fast or how slow, an Ok way to go?

If you are dwelling in the Lord, and the Lord is dwelling within you, is that enough for whatever you may be going through?

Amen and amen.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

What are Right Paths? Psalm 23; May 7, 2017

Rev. George Miller
May 7, 2017
Psalm 23

I recently came back from my vacation to Grand Rapids. It was an experience in which I felt guided; shepherded if you will.

Drove to the Orlando Airport Economy Parking Lot in which I found the most perfect spot under a huge oak tree.

Landed safely in Grand Rapids in which the grass was green, lush, with fields full of dandelions and tulips.

Saw old friends over sandwiches, celebrated a birthday at the Moose Lodge with live music, and caught up with a former organist while sitting for hours alongside the Grand River.

Walked into a business establishment just by chance and was greeted with a long forgotten face who gave a huge hug and said “You just made my entire day!”

Coming home I felt particularly shepherded. My flight was to leave at 3:30 pm, with a connecting flight out of Detroit at 6:30, meaning I would not be back in Sebring until 11 pm.

I arrived at the airport at 1; had lunch, made my way to the gate. There were storms that day, and you could feel the nervous energy in the terminal.

I went to my gate prepared to wait for the next 2 hours. Turns out they were boarding for a 1:30 flight to Detroit.

Nice and polite, I went up the ticket counter and said “Excuse me, I have a question…”

“You’d like to get on this flight, is that correct?”


“Give me your ticket,” the woman said.

“Are you sure?” I asked.

“Yes.” She explained that because of the storms they were trying to get everyone out and I was freeing my seat for someone else later on.

Beep-bop-boop!, I was given a boarding pass, got on the plane, landed in Detroit an hour later.

I felt the inclination to try my luck again, made my way to the next gate. Turns out they have a flight to Orlando leaving in 10 minutes; for $75 extra I can get on.

Beep-bop-boop!, I am on that flight which left Detroit at 3:15; 15 minutes before my original flight out of Grand Rapids.

By 6 pm I am safely in Orlando, relaxed as can be. Get to my car in the Economy Parking Lot…and see that I had left the window on the driver’s side down the entire time!

But I stayed calm. Checked the trunk- nothing missing. Checked my CDs- all of them were there. Checked where I keep my emergency money- nothing was touched.

And even though it had rained in Orlando, my car was dry, thanks to the protective covering of that mighty oak. And since the window was rolled down, the car smelt as fresh as can be.

I made it to my Cozy Cottage by 8:45 pm, decompressing on the couch by 10, and asleep in my own bed by midnight.

I did not want; I was not worried. I was comfortable and filled with the sense of goodness and mercy.

I felt shepherded…

Today’s scripture is a sacred text; one that everyone knows, and no doubt feels some ownership over.

It is a song about the journey, and we are all on a journey, a journey that we try our best to navigate.

There are those here today who are navigating what it means to be towards the end of one’s life.

Those who are navigating what it means to be retired. Those who are navigating what it is like to work. Those who are navigating what it is like to be in school and balancing so many things.

All of us are on a journey and many of us can say “This is not where I ever thought I’d be 10 years ago” or “I have no way to imagine where I will be 10 years from now.”

Knowing that life is a journey, we find solace in the 23rd Psalm, as it states that the Lord is our Shepherd, even if we have not grown up in a pastoral setting.

Though this scripture is familiar, it still finds ways to surprise and talk to us.

For example, the way it is structured. In the first 3 verses, God is referred to indirectly. God is talked about: God shepherds, God leads, God restores.

Then in verse 4 God is directly addressed- You are with me, you prepare, you anoint.

It’s a subtle shift, but it brings us back to what we discussed March 19 in regards to Exodus 17 and how the people tried to turn God into an object.

In other words, verses 1-3 refer to God like a performance based product; verses 4-6 refer to God as a person.

Verses 1-3 refer to God as utilitarian; verses 4-6 refer to God as “You.”

In other words, we experience a personal relationship with God in which relation, care, goodness, living alongside one another, and mercy are key.

It’s not so much “Hey- this is what you can do for me,” but more “Wow God! We are in this together, side by side, and I really like being in your presence.”

And because we have this personal relationship with God, because we experience God more as relational than an object that performs upon our beckoning, we grow, we deepen, we expand.

We welcome the opportunity to be led in paths of righteousness. But what are right paths?

Are they times in which we follow our instincts and happen to be in the right place at the right time so we can get the best parking spot and hop on an earlier flight?

Perhaps. I think that being open to the Holy Spirit and following our internal instincts is important and something that needs to be better taught.

Is right paths always being nice to people and always putting others first even if it means you may be left in want?

Sometimes??? Sometimes not???

Are righteous paths set-in-stone paths that exist until the end of time and are absolutes for everyone no matter who you are or where you are on life’s journey?

What are right paths? Because the longer I live the more I think there are numerous right paths.

For those graduating from high school, what’s the right path- going to college or going to trade school, going into the military or immediately getting a job?

Knowing that 27 is the 3rd deadliest road in the nation, do the right paths demand that the speed limit is lowered or that slower drivers get the heck out of my way and stay out of the left lane?

For Christians is the right path one that is paved primarily on notions of moral sin or paved with acts of justice?

And who defines what justice is?

Psalm 23 sure does make paths of righteousness sound so good. But what are these righteous paths? And how does a right path get us to the best destination?

Because let’s be honest- the Bible doesn’t make it that easy.

In one book we have scripture telling people to never marry a non-believer, then we have the entire book of Ruth that tells how a non-believer became the grandmother of King David and the ancestor of Jesus Christ.

Scripture tells us to keep the Sabbath holy and to do no work, then we are told that Jesus did what he wanted 7 days a week, healing people every day even when religious leaders challenged him for it.

The Gospels tell us of the magnificent ministry women like Mary Magdalene, and Phoebe did, but then the contested letters of Paul tell women to be quiet in church and have no authority over men.

How do we know what is right? How do we know we are on the right path? How do we know that where we are walking is where God wants us to be?

And I don’t really know how to answer that question. I don’t know if there actually is a way to say “This is how you know.”

I think it’s almost more about the way…you feel. That you can just tell. You can sense. You can inhale, exhale…and it is there.

I think that this walk with God, this journey with the Good Shepherd is more about that personal relationship we build together, together meaning between us and our God.

I think because we are all individuals, we all have an individual relationship with God in which the right paths can sometimes be the same as others, but they can also be different from our neighbors and others that we know.

I do think we can find a sliver of an answer in verse 1: “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.”

Remember what we talked about 2 weeks ago, when Christ appears to the disciples and says “Peace be with you.” (John 20)

We shared that another way to say “Peace be with you” is “May God give you every good thing.”

Thus “I shall not want” and “May God give you every good thing” almost mean the same thing; spiritual cousins if you will.

“The Lord is my shepherd; God has given me every good thing.”

When you stop and think about it, what is every good thing?

Not much, really.

A place to call your own. Daily bread. Comfort in dark valleys. Rest. Relationships.

A true relationship with our Creator in which we can walk side by side, finding comfort, experiencing mercy.

Those are good things. If you have them, there is not much need for want

In conclusion, there is so much to love about the 23rd Psalm. I like this notion of verses 4-6 speaking to God in a one-to-one, you and I tone.

It feels real. It feels right. It feels personal, and healthy.

It moves us from seeing God as far away and distant, to seeing God as upfront and personal, like a parent in the kitchen, or a travel companion.

It moves us from treating God as an object who is only worth something if something is being done, to God being the one we can turn to when we feel the most alone, the most scared, and the most vulnerable.

It’s about not hiding ourselves or concealing who we are, but being brave before God to show our scabs and our wounds, our cuts and our abrasions, what we hunger after, what we thirst for, what we need protection from, and our desire to rest in green pastures.

It is a song of trust that does not deny there will be dark places. It is a song of eternity that does not deny that we all have enemies.

It is a song of relationality that says what we have with God is real, what we have with God is right, what we have with God is good for our soul.

Psalm 23 is a song that reminds us once again that with God we are worthy of having every good thing, and so is everyone else. Amen and amen.