The Lord’s my shepherd I

Katrina DowlingMusic2 Comments

Peter and lamb

Once a month at St Luke’s we have ‘Music Sunday School’,[1] in which the class is taken by a music educator and music-making is the way we engage with the text of the day. It ranges from experimental sound-making to instrumental music to karaoke! At the moment we are tapping into our musical heritage by exploring “The Lord’s my Shepherd” from the Scottish Psalter and singing it to CRIMOND.

Because it’s Ascension time, we note that the Shepherd-King is an important part of the Jewish and Christian faiths. In Sunday School, the kids were faced with a puzzle –do we know of anyone who is both a shepherd and a monarch? They were able to call to mind both Jesus and David. David was a shepherd-king and wrote the song we know as Psalm 23 using imagery that shows how sheep trust their protector. Jesus identified himself with the shepherd role, and at Ascension his kingship is affirmed.

Brian Tabb sums up the implications of Ascension for our living:

  1. Remember that Jesus is presently reigning as king and remains active and engaged in our world and our lives.
  2. Therefore live boldly, confidently, and strategically as servants of the exalted king of heaven. Know that your labors in the Lord Jesus are not in vain (1 Corinthians 15:58).
  3. Sufferers, take heart that Jesus is not indifferent to your struggle. He has endured great suffering and is thus the most merciful and sympathetic counselor and mediator. Take your cares to your ascended Lord who hears your prayers and can respond with all heaven’s authority.
  4. Finally hope in a glorious future. The ascended Lord will return as judge and king. He will abolish injustice, end suffering, and destroy death and set up his kingdom of truth, righteousness and love. Best of all, we will be with our king forever.[2]

If you look at Tabb’s points above in the context of Psalm 23, you can see a very strong sympathy between God’s nature revealed as shepherd and God’s nature revealed as king.

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures;
he leads me beside still waters;
he restores my soul.
He leads me in right paths
for his name’s sake.

Even though I walk through the darkest valley,
I 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 shall follow me
all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord
my whole life long.

As we sang through the psalm and opened out the imagery verse by verse, the children discovered these insights as well. They learned of the rod and staff used for protecting and guiding, and were stirred by the thought of the shepherd “bonking lions on the head.” But at the same time they realised that if the psalmist is comforted by the presence of the rod and staff, it reveals that this shepherd is not the kind to use his staff for smacking the sheep! And when we came to the final verse, considering how the line “surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life” speaks to us, one response was “what it means to me is that even if I’d been naughty, the shepherd would never say, ‘That’s it – now you’re out with the lions and bears.’”

The images in this post are kindly shared by photographer Carlene Hardt.[3] In a later post I’ll also have the privilege of sharing a poem by Peter, the shepherd in the photos! But I’ll make you wait until July, when our next ‘Music Sunday School’ session will see a return to Psalm 23 and the children will be invited to compose their own shepherd songs in response to the poetry they’ve encountered so far.

Peter and lamb

[1] Music Sunday School is on the fourth Sunday of the month during school term times.

[2] Brian Tabb, “More Than an Afterthought: Six Reasons Jesus’s Ascension Matters,” desiringGod.org, April 13, 2013, http://www.desiringgod.org/articles/more-than-an-afterthought-six-reasons-jesus-s-ascension-matters.

[3] Thanks to Carlene, to Peter and to Elaine Hardt of encouragingu.blogspot.com.au for their generous correspondence.

2 Comments on “The Lord’s my shepherd I”

  1. A lovely and insightful commentary. Thank you for Brian Tabb’s summary of the implications of the Ascension for our living today. The reminders are particularly pertinent.

    1. Yes! I think I need to print his summary out and carry it around for a while. It will be very helpful to absorb into the memory.

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