If you had to–what would you say are the two most-widely-memorized passages of Scripture? Reading Psalm 23 this week, in preparation for a funeral, I was struck at the similar themes in the psalm and in the Lord’s Prayer…
The Lord’s Prayer asks us to repeat that we hope for God’s will to be done here on earth as it is in heaven, to affirm in faith that God will lead us away from temptation, and to declare that the kingdom–all creation–belongs to God (to, in a way, assert that God is everywhere, as he is witness to everything, all the time, in the universe–the buck stops with him).
Psalm 23 tells us that God is our constant companion–our leader as we pass by verdant fields and flowing water, the one standing next to us in the valley, the one sitting nearby when we face enemies.
If *I* had to choose, I’d say these are the two that “everyone” knows. If you’ve spent any time around a church, or even in a literature course, you’ve seen these two passages. They’re the ones that–if anything!–fictional characters are quoting, they’re the ones that–again, if you’ve heard anything!–you’ve heard these two.
So, if these are the two most-easily-found scraps that provide us with clues to God’s identity, and we see in them that God says he will always be near us, he will be our all-time companion, what do we see to corroborate this in Scripture?
Abraham – leaves all he’s ever known, he’s alone in a strange land with his wife—in his travels he’s afraid more than once that he’ll be killed, but he trusts God and God continues to be present and God blesses Abraham’s family.
David – youngest, smallest son, the stinky shepherd, but he trusts God and God is present with him and blesses him.
Jesus – is God’s ultimate presence with us. God himself came to live with humanity, because of his love for us.
Marriage is meant to be a symbol of Jesus’ presence with us, his church. We vow to be present, to be a companion, to one particular person for our entire lives. We can’t make it easier, or take over someone else’s life, but we promise to be next to them in facing both sorrow and joy.
Children also teach us about God’s presence. We get a glimpse of the love God has for us in the love we feel for our children, we see how dependent we are on God when we experience the dependence our children have on us.
We cannot protect our children from all sadness and all harm, but we do our best to be present with them, to walk alongside them as they—and we—endure whatever suffering befalls them.
We are God’s children, and through Jesus Christ, his own son who he gave up for our sake, God himself is present to us, today, and forever. Amen.
(inspired by reflections on a recent funeral)