Here are some items from church this morning:
A. Psalm 23:1 says “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.” When the pastor was a child, that puzzled him because he thought it was saying “The Lord is my shepherd and I shall not want him.” But a Sunday school teacher helpfully informed him that it means “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not be IN want.”
B. Why would we not be in want? Is it because God provides all of our needs? Or is it because we are content with God and our inheritance in Christ and thus find ourselves content with what we have, no matter how much or how little? The latter seemed to be the theme coming out in the service and in Sunday school. I have a problem with the idea of contentment, if contentment is understood as not wanting more than one currently has. If I were homeless, of course I would want a home. As the teacher said, nobody has a goal to be homeless, even though he or she may have made decisions that led to homelessness. But Christians already have been given so much in Christ, so they need not be greedy and materialistic. The teacher quoted a statement by Victor Frankl, a Jewish psychologist who lost family in the Holocaust: I may lose everything, but no one can take away my faith.
C. God leads us to rest and green pastures, spiritually-speaking, and we can return to those anytime. The shepherd had to prepare the way for his sheep to enjoy those green pastures. He would irrigate the field, clear the bushes, and protect his sheep from predators. The sheep enjoyed the pastures due to the work of the shepherd. Similarly, it is through the work of Christ that Christians can enjoy spiritual green pastures.
D. Because God fills our cup to the brim, that can spill out onto others. A bus driver shared a story about people knowing where our church is because the church opens its facilities to the community, for example, by hosting AP tests. We want to pay down our debt so we can serve the community in other ways.
E. God will equip believers to do God’s will. If one wonders what God’s will is, see what God has equipped you to do. Jesus instructed his disciples to take no provisions for their missionary journeys so they can rely on God (Mark 6:8ff). There appears to be a contradiction about whether Jesus permits them to take their staffs (see Matthew 10:10; Mark 6:8; Luke 9:3). Someone read from his study Bible that these may refer to different kinds of staffs: a club for self-protection, a shepherd’s staff, and a walking stick.
F. God gives grace, but grace is a means. One goal of grace is eternal life, but it is also to strengthen people in the here and now for life, work, and service. God provides abundant grace, but people need to make us of it by availing themselves of opportunities to receive it (i.e., word and sacrament).
G. It is tempting to be self-sufficient, but, when we look to God as our shepherd, that deepens our relationship with him.