Today my Church celebrates the feast of “The Chair of Peter” which is all about shepherding and taking care of “the flock” that Jesus entrusted to Peter. The psalm used in the readings for this feast is the universally best known of all 150 psalms in the Scriptures. We call it (Psalm 23) the Shepherd Psalm. It is often used at funerals and in many moments of crisis or danger. Some of us can recite every word but even if we can only get as far as “the Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want” it brings comfort. There have recently been “contemporary translations” written, which for some are blasphemous but for some make the concepts more meaningful today. The one that comes to my mind is “The Lord is my timekeeper; I shall not rush.”
This morning I’m drawn to the verse that says, “Even though I walk in the dark valley I fear no evil; for you are at my side with your rod and your staff that give me courage.” That certainly is an ideal mindset, but I think of all that’s happening in the world today and I wonder if I could live up to it if I lived in Syria or the Ukraine or North Korea right now. But then I think of Peter who, even though Jesus chose him as a leader, was a bit of a coward when the going got tough. Remember the walking on water incident or his denial the night Jesus was arrested. He had boasted his willingness to follow Jesus wherever he went but certainly is a failure as a model of success. Fear, it seems, is a great equalizer.
Thinking about Peter gives me another kind of courage and comfort in the face of this psalm. I can repeat the words and really mean them and draw great peace from the promise. The greatest comfort of all, however, is knowing not that I am faithful to God, my Shepherd, but that God is faithful to me. In this knowledge, in this God’s company, I continue to walk my path.