Slow reading: In the vale of death’s shadow

Yesterday there were two funerals as two beloved young people, both killed in the same car crash, were farewelled in this region. I could pile on words of comfort and assurance. I could remind you that those who grieve are blessed; I could assure you that nothing can separate us from God’s love; I could recall the peace which surpasses all understanding, and which so many of us experience precisely at these moments of extreme need. But this week, I don’t think we need more words, just the balm of an old favourite. So let us rest in Psalm 23, and let the good shepherd minister to us all.

1. PREPARE: Make yourself comfortable. Uncross your legs; relax your body; uncomplicate your heart. Ask God to help you surrender to whatever it is that God wants to do in you or say to you today. Breathe slowly and deeply in, then out.

2. READ: Read the following passage aloud at least three times through, slowly. Listen carefully. Notice anything which captures your attention.

God is my shepherd; I shall not want.
God makes me lie down in grass meadows,
and leads me by still waters.
God renews my life-breath
and guides me on pathways of justice
for the sake of God’s name.
Even though I walk in the vale of death’s shadow,
I fear no harm;
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff—they comfort me.
You set a table before me
in the presence of my foes;
you anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
Surely your goodness and mercy shall follow me
all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of God
my whole life long. (Psalm 23)

3. REFLECT: Allow the passage, a phrase or a single word or image speak to you. What catches your attention? What emotions do you feel? What questions are bubbling up? Reflect in silence.

4. RELATE: Where are the grassy meadows in which God is inviting you to rest? What signs and symbols assure you of God’s comfort? Where do you glimpse God’s goodness and mercy today?

5. RESPOND: Arising out of your reflection, pray. Tell God about anything which is emerging. If you feel called to action, ask God to show you/us the next step.

6. REST: Rest now in the Word, who loves you. As you prepare to leave this space, if any word, phrase or image persists, let it guide you through the day. Or, if nothing in particular arises, remember this:

  • God leads me beside still waters; God renews my life-breath.

Go gently, friends.
Alison

Emailed to Sanctuary 8 September 2021 © Sanctuary, 2021. Photo by joseph d’mello on Unsplash. Photo taken at the Gundal Dam, India.

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