Guided by the Light
The 23rd Psalm is best known as a text used during funeral services. But did you know that it wasn’t included in the Book of Prayers for funeral services until the early 1900’s? Instead of defaulting this text to a metaphor, today we are going to listen to David’s words as they would have been heard originally; connecting to the common life of shepherds in early Israel.
In our Gospel lesson from John, we have a text that speaks about an ‘awakening’ to the light of Christ; that those who were blind can see. There is a connection between Psalm 23 and John’s text of Jesus and the blind man. Today we are going to visit both passages (like two different scenes in a movie), going back and forth, and hear the texts through the perspectives of the sheep from Psalm 23 and the blind man from the Gospel of John.
Scene 1 takes place in the mountainous, rocky, and dry region of Palestine. The shepherds guide their flocks up and down paths of the rough terrain toward the valleys of lush grass and running water. There were dangers on the way…steep slippery slopes, wild animals, limited travel times, and straying sheep. There were no roads for vehicle travel, no lights other than a possible torch, and no guns for protection. The experience was necessary for nurturing sheep.
In Scene 2, the blind man sits daily at one of the gates into Jerusalem. He has seen nothing but darkness since birth. People look upon him as an outcast…it was assumed in those days handicaps were the result of sinful parents. He could not earn his own keep. He was unable to perform most jobs because they required manual labor. Who will hire a man that requires another man to direct his every move? Hiring two people for the need of one is not efficient. What good is he to society if he can’t work and earn a living? There he sits in the same spot day after day. He can’t help that he is blind, yet he feels the stares, hears the whispers, and even worst, recognizes that most people ignore him as if he doesn’t exist.
The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want. The shepherd has purchased me and made me one of his flock. He cares about me and wants me to flourish. In this flock of other sheep, many that I do not know, I try to find my way. I am skittish and fearful of others, untrusting. Some look different and others are bullies, using their power to grab more for themselves and limiting my access. How will I get enough? How will I survive? Hmmm, that Shepherd keeps watching me. He seems to care more about me than these other sheep do.
Sitting alongside the road, I hear a crowd coming. I hope that a few compassionate strangers will drop a coin in my cup. Or maybe the same couple that stops by for a few minutes every week to ask how I’m doing will soon be here. I lift up my cup…they are walking past, deep in conversation. Can’t they see me here? Are they blind too? Suddenly a clink…that sounds like a nickel. Maybe I can afford a loaf of bread today. Wait, what are they talking about? Are they talking about me? Someone is asking a man what my parents did wrong to have a blind son. Who is this man they are calling Jesus?
In the middle of all these sheep, how is it possible to still feel alone? At times it feels suffocating, surrounded by all these other sheep that are only interested in getting enough for themselves. There goes that one ewe again…same thing every day. She is always straying and checking out the other side of the fence. Maybe I’ll go over there and check it out too. Uh oh, the Shepherd just placed his staff against my side. He must not want me going over there. And now he’s going over there to bring that ewe back. She always seems to be doing her own thing. But the shepherd keeps going after her. He must really care about her too.
Who is this Jesus guy I’ve heard about? He said my parents didn’t do anything wrong to cause me to be blind and he just said he is the light of the world! What does that mean? HEY! Why are you putting mud on my eyes? Do I know where the pool of Siloam is? Yes of course, it is just around the corner. Go there and wash the mud from my eyes? Ok. Excuse me, sir, I didn’t mean to step on you. This man named Jesus put mud on my eyes and told me to go wash it off at the pool. Will you please save my spot? Thank you, I’ll be right back.
This shepherd is making me feel loved and accepted. Some of these sheep are running and pushing to be first in line for everything. But the Shepherd is making sure that we are all taken care of. Even though sometimes I’m last, I’m still getting enough. Why run to be first, taking chances of getting run over by the stampede or bullied by the bigger sheep, if he makes sure we all have enough? I’m content and he seems to have the best in mind for me. I trust him.
The water is cool. I still can’t understand why he put mud on my eyes and told me to come to this pool to wash. But I trust him for some reason. HEY! What is going on!? What is this brightness? WHOA! I can’t believe it! I can SEE! Where is he? I must thank him!
There he is! He has come to me again. The others don’t seem to care. They are more interested in themselves. Can’t they see how much he cares? It’s almost as if they are blind even though they can see. He doesn’t want to see anyone suffer. He provides us enough. No matter what direction I go, or how little I see, He is the light that brings life out of darkness. It is HE who comes to me. Amen.