First Sunday of online worship, March 22, 2020 –The Lord Is My Shepherd
Written and Preached by Pastor Sally Ankerfelt
Minnehaha Communion Lutheran Church
Dear friends in Christ, grace to you and peace from God our Creator, Christ our Redeemer, and the Holy Spirit our Guide and Comforter. AMEN
How weird it is to not have anyone in the building….the three of us are here sharing this with you. Yet, it’s just so strange and awkward. If it’s weird where you are, think about the three of us. I’m not getting the usual nodding or a few droopy eyes or Lutheran amens, whatever those would be. The collective responses and the singing.
Here a church building is all about community and what we do together. At Minnehaha Communion, our mission is all about being together, “building relationships with Christ and each other by engaging community in hope, healing and wholeness.” And we are reimagining what togetherness means when are apart. There really is a feeling and an awareness that we are in this together.
But, that still doesn’t take away the isolation. You are going through this in your own way, with your own challenges, and I am going through it in my own way. This thought entered my mind as I prepared for today’s sermon.
Psalm 23, what we just read a few minutes ago, is probably the most well-known Psalm.
Did you notice the lack of togetherness in the Psalm, that lack of community? Psalm 23 does not read “The Lord is our shepherd, we shall not want.” There is no “we,” only, “I.” The only hint we get of community is the fact that a shepherd tends to more than one sheep, that sheep are to graze and live together. In that sense, there is an unspoken, “we are in this together” understanding.
Here, though, in this Psalm, we have permission to think about how life affects us personally. The Psalmist is talking about how he understands his own life, his own trials.
And what a powerful understanding and witness he has of what matters in his life – actually of who matters in his life.
God satisfies him, no matter what kind of want he has, no matter what situation he is in. God makes him rest. God takes him to still waters. God restores him. God helps him to stand for righteousness and justice in the face of complexity. God is with him, even in his isolation. Do you hear the witness of trusting in God’s presence?
Just like the Psalmist, even as we are together in this, you and I still have our own experience of this difficult time. You still have manage and deal with the implications of the social distancing, where to be for how long, who you are allowed to see or not see, where you can go.
Here’s my experience right now: How long will this church be silent and vacant?
These are unique challenges that our collective journey cannot erase.
Psalm 23 lets you know that God is with you in the way that only you need God to be. You or I actually may not experience God’s presence in the way the Psalmist does and that’s okay. But there sure is a perspective to consider, especially right now:
That you can find rest and renewal with the God, that you can face these hard times with courage, that you can walk a path of righteousness and generosity even now, that there is abundance for you in the presence of God.
Last week, our Minneapolis area synod held a virtual conference for all its pastors and leaders where they discussed how to be church during the COVID 19 social distancing. As I sat down to my computer to watch, our bishop appeared on the screen. You know, I don’t even remember exactly what she said, but it was something like “we’re with you in this and we’re here for you.” It kind of caught me off-guard. I was so busy leading that I didn’t know how isolated I felt. And I sat there and cried for a few minutes. I was not alone. There was someone tending to me.
When my bishop spoke, it was as if she had sat down beside me in my fear and in my unique situation. When God speaks to you through this Psalm, it is as if God pulls up a chair beside you and gives you what you need.
Yes, we are in this together, we are community. Yes, whether together or apart, we are not alone. But, you also have your own, personal journey, unique to you. Remember, dear beloved friends in Christ, that the Lord also is YOUR shepherd, leading you on YOUR journey so that you will know that you are not alone. AMEN