My very favorite version of Psalm 23 by Bobby McFerrin.
I probably posted this before. Well, here it is again!
John 9:1-41; Psalm 23
Life is difficult. And sometimes it’s even worse than that. Sometimes life is broken.
At this very moment, in this very place, a significant number in our congregation are grieving. If you have lost a loved one in the past two years, it would be totally normal for you to be still grieving pretty intensely, to have some tender places and some sad moments. If you are not one of those, you could reach out from where you are sitting right now and touch someone who is broken from the loss of a loved one.
If not that kind of broken, sitting among us today are other kinds of broken: Health is broken; finances are broken; relationships are broken;
I’m not speaking generally about what could happen among us. This is what is happening right now among us, to you and to me, to us.
One day, as Jesus walked along, he saw a man blind from birth. Broken eyes. Broken life. Never had seen the color of his mother’s eyes. Never had seen a sunset or a lightning storm. He couldn’t even see who was walking by him. Really broken man with blindness.
What do you see when you see broken? The disciples looked at the blind man and saw someone to talk about, someone to solve. They saw broken and wanted to find out who was to blame.
“Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”
In their question “Who sinned to make this happen?” is the unspoken put-down: “This blind man must’ve done something awful to have deserved this. Or was it his parents? Poor thing, bless his heart.”
They call them disciples because they have a lot to learn from Jesus. Don’t we all?
We see broken and we sometimes try to figure it out — who is at fault — who sinned — who made this happen?
Or, we see broken and try to solve for the unknown, like broken life is an algebra equation.
Or, we see broken and secretly — or not so secretly — thank God that, even though I am broken in some way, even though we are broken in many ways — there is always someone worse off, poor things.
When Jesus sees broken,
Jesus doesn’t assess the situation for fault or solutions;
Jesus is not the one who makes this situation into a Sunday School lesson or a sermon;
Jesus doesn’t look down on the person.
What Jesus did was to actually touch the man who was blind. Jesus used his very own warm spit, got his hands really dirty with actual dirt, and made mud to put on the man’s eyes.
Jesus wants the blind to see, whether it’s a man who was blind from birth — or disciples who now are able to see that, in God’s eyes, broken is another word for someone who can be touched with good news.
We see broken, we feel broken, we are broken, and when we want to be touched by good news, we oh-so-often turn to those familiar words of comfort, “The Lord is my shepherd …” This is a beautiful picture of God in the beloved Psalm 23 — an appealing, approachable God who takes good care of us. When we are broken, looking for comfort, we place ourselves in the hands of this kind shepherd who is the very God of the universe, meeting us with dirty feet and a shepherd’s crook.
There is comfort in these words when we are broken — and there is more than comfort.
For in the story of “The Lord is my shepherd” the God of the Universe will not add to the pain we have by putting us further down. The broken come to the “The Lord [who is] my shepherd,” and there are no questions asked; there is no trying to figure out who is at fault — who sinned — who made this happen? Good Shepherd sees “broken” as just another word for someone who is ready to be touched by good news. “The Lord is my Shepherd” … I am not found wanting … I do not fall short … I will be picked up by the Shepherd, not put down.
Because the Shepherd is good? Yes, surely. And the Shepherd is not a blind shepherd. Seeing you, in whatever state brings you to the shepherd, you are welcome, picked up, brought along, and given the best things that the Shepherd has to give — no matter who you are, what you have done, or what has been done to you.
We love the 23rd Psalm. Because, when the going gets really rough, we turn to the Good Shepherd It’s one time when it’s OK — even better than OK — to see ourselves as incredibly valued. “You anoint my head with oil” we say, without blushing or blinking. You know what that means? Just as surely as young shepherd David was chosen to be king, we each are God’s first round #1 choice to be God’s chosen ONE. We claim that worthiness when it looks like, to all the world and to our own eyes, that we are most broken.
We even SEE for a moment the incredible little lamb that God sees: For our lives to matter, it’s not about figuring out life’s broken places; it’s not about being better so we can keep bad things from happening to good people; it’s not even about painstakingly picking up the broken pieces of life and working, working, working, to put them back together again.
During the time that we are saying the 23rd Psalm, we are each a child of the King, we are princes and princesses, the only child. We get rest in green pastures, peace beside still waters. We have a name and a purpose. The place at the table is assured and prepared. Our path is one with the Good Shepherd, the Lord of the Universe. During the time we are repeating the 23rd Psalm, we are not defined by our brokenness, by what has happened, by who sinned or who didn’t sin, or by popular opinion or by unpopular opinion. While we are in the 23rd Psalm, we see ourselves through the eyes of Jesus and we like what we see, or we wouldn’t turn to those words — to that picture — when something breaks.
Having been seen like that — Having been loved like that — Having been picked up and chosen like that — the challenge then becomes to be like Jesus, that is, to really see people — and ourselves. To see — to notice — with the eyes of Jesus. For you see, the way of Jesus is supposed to be our way too. Jesus SAW beyond the diagnosis to the person — and then Jesus was not afraid to put himself out there — to get dirty and use spit if need be — and touch a life, to give of himself, to pick someone up. Indeed, Jesus made less of himself — even to the Cross — to lift up others.
There are a lot of broken lives in here that need to be held up and handled with care. We are a people who can do that for each other. Let’s take seriously this place as “sanctuary” from the put-downs and the harsh “for your own good” false remedies that only add to the pain.
And — out there — there is a world full of broken lives — whole countries of people’s broken lives — Japan. Sudan. Afghanistan. We can give to One Great Hour of Sharing offering. We can work for justice and peace. We might even take a mission trip again one of these days.
There’s a world full of broken lives — far away and very very close by —
Let’s not merely have sympathy for those poor people. Let us not look upon the visibly broken as not blessed, poor things, bless their hearts, while we wonder at how blessed we are. To see what God sees, broken is another word for someone who can be touched with good news.
Let’s reach out and do some healing touching.
Let’s give away the gift of Life that Jesus gives.