“The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want.” These ancient words have accompanied the weary traveler of faith throughout the ages. They are words of prayerful trust that date back to the rule of King David over the people of Israel. These words would have been heard in Hebrew in the beloved city of Jerusalem, the city of peace, and on the hills where shepherds tended their flocks. Growing up in south Texas, I heard them in the language of my community of faith, El Señor es mi pastor, nada me faltará. I said them as prayer when my beloved parents passed into eternal life. I have recited Psalm 23 in many funerals and memorial services. It is a psalm that transcends cultures, boundaries, and epochs in salvation history. It is claimed by all peoples who place their trust in a loving God who sojourns with us in our earthly pilgrimage.
“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.” These words evoke scenes of tranquility and peaceful restoration from the burdens of life. By praying them we claim the assurance that the Eternal One is the path that leads to fullness of being. We can place ourselves in that pasture where the Lord is the Shepherd who guides our every footstep. We hear his voice above the still waters that quench our thirst. En verdes pastos me hace descansar. Junto a tranquilas aguas me conduce; me infunde nuevas fuerzas. Me guía por sendas de justicia por amor a su nombre. In whatever language you hear these words, the Sheperd is the same one who guides the destiny of nations in rightful living and equitable justice. His guidance and wisdom are impartial to the vicissitudes of time.
“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.” In the Rio Grande Valley of south Texas, I heard these words, Aun si voy por valles tenebrosos, no temo peligro alguno porque tu estás a mi lado; tu vara de pastor me reconforta. My community of faith was comforted by these ancient words that were made present to us during times of trial and tempest. We tasted these words in our mouths for they fed the faith of our family when they sojourned in a foreign land.
“You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.” The banquet table is prepared as a triumph of faith over adversity. We are anointed with oil that seals us for all of eternity. “Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life,” y en la casa del Señor habitaré para siempre. The prayer is complete for I know that “I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” Amen.
The Rev. Dr. Javier (Jay) Alanís
Associate Professor of Theology, Culture and Mission
Lutheran Seminary Program in the Southwest