Yesterday’s verse took us to the challenging heart of the 23rd Psalm. When we are drawn by Christ into the mission of God, we will experience loss. Perhaps the first loss will be the loss of the beliefs, the faith, the ideology, that has made sense of the world for us and helped us feel comfortable and safe. It could also be the loss of habits, strategies, ways of interacting with others and being in the world, which also kept us safe, but which were also, ultimately sinful, not in concert with God’s will and way for those who follow and obey God. There is no use denying the challenging nature of discipleship as Psalm 23 describes it. When we follow God in Christ on the path of justice, sacrifice will be a part of the journey. To ignore this and avoid this, ultimately is the choice NOT to follow Christ at all. Faith becomes a technique of comfort, but it is not faithfulness to God.
Having said that, the verse we considered on Sunday closes with a return to the graciousness that began the Psalm, ‘The Lord is my shepherd... he leads me to green pastures and restful waters...he restores my soul.’ The psalm begins with such abundant graciousness because the path of righteousness/justice that is faith and belief in Christ, will, when followed faithfully, fully and passionately, lead to the experience of loss. ‘I fear no evil...your rod and staff...comfort me,’ is a reminder of the gracious and loving activity of God in the world. Those who accept the cost of faithfulness and obedience, even though they experience loss, will also experience God’s loving care, God’s abundant creativity, will be restored.
‘Fear no evil,’ does not mean that we will never experience trial or trauma. It promises that trial and trauma will not destroy us. ‘The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness did not overcome it...’ we read about Christ, the living word, in John 1:5. Psalm 23:4 promises the same for us when we allow the light of Christ to be reflected through us. When evil comes our way, all that we need to survive it, to meet it with dignity, courage and steadfastness, all that is required so as not to be overcome, to be defeated, to be forced into apathy or defeat, will be given to us by God. And, what is lost in that encounter, will be restored.
‘Fear no evil’ also serves to remind us that when we accept and face with trust and courage, the death of our faith, our beliefs, our desires, our assumptions, that the result will not be the horror that we feel it will be. If we face, walk into, lean expectantly, humbly, longingly into that loss, it will not leave us with less, but instead, lead us to more. More, not in terms of power, authority or strength, but more in terms of courage, peace, faith, and relationship to God and to others, especially the poor and oppressed other.