A Call to Worship
Pentecost 8B [Ordinary 16B] or [Proper 11B] 2015
Psalm 23

Shepherding God, we gather to worship you as you lead us each and every day.
We give thanks that you guide us along both the easy and the difficult paths in life.

Strengthening God, we gather to worship you in all our frailties and in our strengths.
We give thanks that even in our struggles and weaknesses, that you empower us.

Hospitable God, we gather to worship you in company with those people who love
and support us; with those people who challenge us; and with those who oppose us.
We give thanks that we can feast at your table in your abiding presence, confident
that you love not only us, but also our “enemies”; and that you pour the oil of welcome
and blessing over each of us individually; because we are your own “beloved” children. Amen.

Psalm 23
A psalm of David.

1 The LORD is my shepherd;
I have all that I need.
2 He lets me rest in green meadows;
he leads me beside peaceful streams.
3 He renews my strength.
He guides me along right paths,
bringing honour to his name.

4 Even when I walk
through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid,
for you are close beside me.
Your rod and your staff protect and comfort me.

5 You prepare a feast for me
in the presence of my enemies.
You honour me by anointing my head with oil.
My cup overflows with blessings.

6 Surely your goodness and unfailing love
will pursue me all the days of my life,
and I will live in the house of the LORD forever.

Prayers of Trust and Petition
Pentecost 8B [Ordinary 16B] or [Proper 11B] 2015
Psalm 23

Nurturing God, we gather together to worship you because each day you lead
and guide us, whether the path is easy going or a struggle, you are there beside
or ahead of us to help us deal with the events of our daily living. We give thanks
that always we can trust your guiding and leading, and even when unexpected
challenges arise, you keep us on a sure and steady pathway. We also gather to
worship you in all our frailty and weaknesses, and we give thanks that you nurture
and sustain us; and in the empowering and enabling strength that you give to us,
we are able to continue in our faithful worship, witness and service in your name.

Comforting God, we know that in living and in our relationships, that there will be
times of pain and sorrow, as well as joy and celebration. Come very near to us—
especially in our times of hurt and grief. As a community of faith, we pray for those
people gathered with us in worship of you; for those people who are our neighbours—
whatever we mean by that word; and for the people we have not yet met – many of
whom are struggling with various needs or troubles; or who are rejoicing in God’s
goodness and mercy. Draw near to needy people with your comfort and strength.

Hospitable God, we gather to worship you in company with those people who love
and support us; and with those people who challenge us; and with those who oppose
us. We give thanks that God always pours the oil of welcome and blessing over each
of us individually; because we are God’s own “beloved” children; and that God always
welcomes anyone who comes to God seeking help, comfort, guidance or strength.
Help us to always trust in God’s promises and faithfulness whatever is the situation
challenging us; and to quietly rest in the blessed assurances that God has given to us. Amen.

A Personal Meditation
Pentecost 8B [Ordinary 16B] or [Proper 11B] 2015
Psalm 23

Based on Psalm 23, I have tried to imagine what it would be like to be a shepherd,
and why the psalmist thought that occupation could possibly be likened in any way to
God. Initially, the new shepherd would need to be trained. If breeding sheep was only
for a family “farm”, the apprentice shepherd would be taught by an older sibling; and
that usually meant the youngest child became the shepherd – boy or girl. They were
taught many skills including understanding the sheep’s need to be always be taken
to green grass and cool streams - as the shepherd’s job required their continual search
for grass and water to maintain the sheep’s strength. Another task was the seemingly
endless treatment of skin lesions and rescue operations from dangerous animals, or
hidden clefts in rocks where the sheep could become trapped. Those young shepherds
also learned about commitment to the task, loyalty and patience; tenderness, nurturing
care and healing skills; selflessness, a cautious attitude to unknown situations; and the
need for a reflective mind that helped them to fill in the hours of watching sheep wander;
and endlessly counting them to ensure that not one of those precious sheep was lost.

Creative pause: What was the most important skill for a “good shepherd”?

Was there a code of honour amongst shepherds, that they needed to always know the
“right paths”, even if that meant traversing the most difficult and dangerous pathways,
and especially into the “darkest valleys”; and did following those paths bring any honour
to that role? Successfully leading their flock through “peaceful streams” would be a bonus,
as the shepherd walked ahead testing the depths of the water with his staff or rod; but if
the stream was fast flowing, that presented many dangers. Did the memory of the loyalty
of their trainer give them a sense of their presence with them in difficult situations? Was
it those memories; or the trust they had in their rod and staff - tools carefully crafted from
strong branches, that gave them that confidence and comfort? How and why did those
special skills remind the psalmist of God? In what way does God provide the shepherd’s
needs so that the shepherd could sing: “The LORD is my shepherd; I have all that I need.”

Creative pause: In your opinion, why is God like a shepherd?

In the very lonely life of a shepherd - especially with a very young shepherd - unexpected
company could have a good or bad outcome! Rogue shepherds or travellers could bring
the latest news and share their supplies; or they could be dangerous enemies who could try
to steal their flock and kill them. “Preparing a feast” with or without enemies for the shepherd
would be an almost unheard treat for them and they would surely feel that their “cup flowed
over with blessings.”
Oil was regularly carried by the shepherd to cleanse the sheep’s ears,
eyes and feet; to prevent infection from thorns or abrasions. It was an absolute luxury for an
entire sheep’s head to be covered in oil, as they could not carry very much oil in their ram’s
horn container! From whom would that young shepherd learn or experienced “unfailing love”?
What would that young shepherd know about worshipping “in the Lord’s house”, especially
as he would be ritually “unclean”; or was the whole of creation for him “the house of the Lord”?

Creative pause: Which “house of the LORD” could you live in forever?

Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation,
copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007, 2013 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

*Revised Indexing Scheme from 'Consultation on Church Union' (COCU).

I acknowledge and give heartfelt thanks for the theological inspiration available from the writings of
Professor Walter Brueggemann; and through the resources from the internet and “The Text this Week” (Textweek).

If the Prayers and/or Meditations are used in shared worship, please provide this acknowledgement:
© 2015 Joan Stott – ‘The Timeless Psalms’ RCL Psalms Year B. Used with permission.


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