In the late ’90s I heard a story about a Christian minister who agreed to officiate a funeral for a gay man. It had been hard in that time and place to find someone to do it. He later told about that gathering of friends and loved ones as they said goodbye to the person who was so dear to them.
Following custom, the minister included the words of the 23rd Psalm:
The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want
He makes me lie down in green pastures
He leads me beside the still waters
He restores my soul
He leads me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake
Even if I walk in 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 will follow me all the days of my life
And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever
The minister was moved to tears and to shame because of the response of the loved ones to his reading of that psalm. They said things like, “we’ve missed hearing those words” and “that is our psalm too.”
It was as if someone (maybe we?) had been withholding this psalm from them — withholding the goodness of God, keeping it to ourselves.
Decades have passed now and many have changed their attitudes and views of sexual preference and identity, though we know there is still much pain and work to be done.
Though I’m risking diminishing the particular pain of our friends who feel isolated because of their sexuality, I want to ask how it is that humans ever feel free to keep “goodness and mercy” as the property of only a few?
In a world so beleaguered by prejudice and the stronghold of privilege that only the powerful possess, I wonder
Where is this place where the fearful, the sad, and the oppressed
Can lie down by still waters
And rest in the green grass of comfort?
Where is the table where enemies have become friends?
Who is keeping God locked up and to themselves?
You are welcome to come to DiscipleChurch on Sunday at 8:30 am in Leonard Chapel to think more about these things.