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Lent Readings

Readings Begin February 18

Daily Lent Readings
 

"He is risen, indeed!" Lent has passed but that doesn't mean the daily readings have to go away. Some of you might be discovering this page for the first time. Others who participated during Lent might find it helpful to revisit a particular reading. For these reasons, we will leave this page up for a while.
 
We pray that you experience the wonder of interacting with our Savior in a personal, transformative way!
 
All the readings are also available via podcast on Apple or Spotify. Click here for more information.
 
"A New Light Shining" painting by Youngsung Kim from Havenlight
 
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Day 12

DAY 12  THURSDAY
The Good Shepherd
 
Imagine standing with Jesus, right next to him, in prayer to his Father. Read this passage of praise aloud. As you do so, consider that you are praying along with Jesus, your two voices becoming one as you bless God.  
 
Bless the LORD, O my soul,
   and all that is within me,
   bless his holy name!
Bless the LORD, O my soul,
   and forget not all his benefits,
who forgives all your iniquity
   who heals all your diseases, 
who redeems your life from the pit,
   who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy,
who satisfies you with good
   so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s. (Psalm 103:1-5)
 
Psalm 23 
 
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.
He leads me in paths of righteousness
   for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
   I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
   your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me
   in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
   my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
   all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD 
   forever.
 
What Is This Psalm About?   
 
As the youngest son of Jesse, David tended sheep near Bethlehem. He spent many hours alone on the hillsides with much time to think, pray and sing. Surprising to all, the LORD directed Samuel the prophet to anoint David as the next king. God declared, “You shall be shepherd of my people Israel” (2 Samuel 5:2). When he was at his best as a ruler, David understood himself to be a servant of the High King of heaven. He was an undershepherd to the LORD who alone could lead and care for his people.
 
Sometime in his maturity, David wrote this most beloved of psalms. His song reflects a deep intimacy with the LORD. Most strikingly and mysteriously, David’s psalm opens readers to that same intimacy. Across languages, cultures and centuries, the Twenty-Third Psalm draws people close to God. It has seen people through battlefields and childbirth, through bereavement and hostilities. People ask for this poem as they near death and find it a reassuring gateway to the life eternal. Psalm 23 takes us to the heart of a shepherding, hosting God.
What Might This Psalm Have Meant to Jesus?
 
Endued with such spiritual sensitivity to his Father, Jesus no doubt loved this psalm. I am sure that these words, inspired by the Holy Spirit to bless so many millions of us, particularly delighted our brother Jesus. We have no record of his quoting Psalm 23 directly, but we can easily see how David’s greatest song informed Jesus’ profound grasp of his role and sacrificial mission and the comfort, provision and protection the Father bestows on him. 
THE SHEPHERD
John records Jesus’ saying, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me” (John 4:34). Easily then, I can hear Jesus pray, “My Father is my shepherd.” He knows who guides and cares for him. At the same time, Jesus the descendant of David the Shepherd King receives from his Father the mantle of Israel’s shepherd. So he tells us, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. . . . I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me” (John 10:11, 14). Tenderly he cares for his flock. 
 
THROUGH THE VALLEY OF THE SHADOW
In Week Four, we will look at several key psalms that would have sustained Jesus in his passion, but today we just note the potency of verse 4. These two sentences uphold Jesus through many threatening conflicts with demons, Romans, and religious authorities. This verse serves as a preview to Jesus of the suffering ahead and offers the way through the suffering even as it predicts it.  
 
We can see the connection with “For you are with me” when, on the night of his arrest, Jesus declares, “Yet, I am not alone, for the Father is with me” (John 16:32). This is the basis of his assurance to his disciples, “Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid” (John 14:27). The Father was ever with Jesus. Jesus is Emmanuel, which means God with us, so he will promise us at his ascension, “I am with you always” (Matthew 28:20). In any valley of darkness, we are companioned.
 
ANOINTED WITH OIL
Oil soothed and cleansed, refreshed and scented. A gracious host provided oil for the hair and beard as it was a sign of a glad and generous welcome. The week of his crucifixion, Mary of Bethany anoints Jesus’ head with costly nard (John 12:1-8). Jesus receives the gift as a preparation for his burial which will occur within a week. Did he, while she massaged in the fragrant ointment, pray in thanks to his Father, “You anoint my head with oil”?
 
MY CUP RUNS OVER
Jesus’ life overflows with the Father’s love, with the echo of the voice at his baptism: “This is my beloved Son.” Remarkably, we are invited into this divine fellowship. At his bountiful table, our hosting God gives us nothing less than himself as our portion. “The LORD is my chosen portion and my cup,” proclaims David in Psalm 16:5. The blood that Jesus sheds in sacrifice overflows in atoning power. There is more love in God than sin in us. When Jesus is what fills our cup, even when we are amid enemies and failings, bountiful love overflows our lives. So could this line in some way have been the inspiration for Jesus’ presentation of the Eucharist? 
 
GOODNESS AND MERCY FOLLOW ME
The Hebrew verb used here means “to pursue or chase.” This is an extraordinary image of the Almighty LORD running down his beloved with steadfast, loyal love. Is this not what the coming of Jesus demonstrates above all? God sends his Son to seek and to save the lost. He searches for us to rescue us. In his humility, Jesus lays aside his glory so that he may approach us as one of us. The eternal speaks to mortals gently so as not to frighten us away. This idea of God in his goodness and mercy running after us may well be the inspiration for Jesus’ most famous parable, that of the prodigal son. At first sight of his long-lost son, the father throws dignity to the wind, hitches up his robes and runs to welcome home the disgraced (Luke 15:20).
Praying with Jesus 
 
Jesus, I know you drew deep from Psalm 23.
You experienced the Father’s daily shepherding,
Leading you through the perils of ministry,
Refreshing you in Scripture and prayer,
Anointing you freshly with his Spirit,
Walking with you through the dark valleys,
Filling your cup with joy in his love,
Sustaining you in the presence of enemies,
Receiving you into his eternal House
So you can prepare a place for us.
 
Jesus, shepherd me this way every moment!
And open my eyes to those of your beloved flock
Whom you have called me to care for and tend. 
 
 

 

Posted in: Lent