As part of our recent Lent in a Box event, Church Anew commissioned a daily Lenten devotional around the sermon series offered for Lent: Shepherd Me O God. As part of our blog during this season, we are delighted to share it with you. The themes revolve around spiritual practices that emerge from studying the 23rd Psalm. May you find a meaningful and holy Lenten season.
The Lord is My Shepherd.
We begin the Lenten season with dust. We recognize we are dust and to dust we shall return. Covered in ashes we humble ourselves before a holy God who knows us by name. Nothing is hidden, no branches to wrap around ourselves. We’re just left to sit in the truth of who we are… human. Our great Shepherd doesn’t leave us or abandon us there. Instead Christ promises to bring about something beautiful and holy from all the good intentions and broken promises. In all of God’s divine royalty, through humility and great love our Shepherd leads us beside still waters and green pastures.
Let these promises reside in more than just our hope. Bury it into our bones and flesh. May we embody and rise in God’s love day in and day out, in the extravagant and mundane even if we don’t feel it, even when we can’t see it.
Holy Shepherd, you see the depth of who we are and refuse to turn away. In our great sorrow and grief you raise us up and remind us of what is true. We are dust and to dust we all return. As we live and breathe, pour into us the strength of your Spirit and the tenacity of your grace. Give us visions of your goodness to come. In your name Jesus, Amen.
I shall not want.
If we had to, could we actually name what we need? Would it disguise itself in the shadows of sleep or safety? Do we even know the difference between want and need? So often we crave the illusion of fulfillment and find ourselves feeling gutted and empty. We give all we have to the wind hoping the wind will love us back or recognize how hard we try. In the meantime, Jesus waits. Will you let me feed you? Will you let me breathe into you the very life you seek? When we are lost in our want, we are like children holding a knife with the blade side in our palm. God doesn’t rush up to us and rip the knife out of our hand. Instead, Jesus sits beside us and gently asks, “Beloved, you are holding something dangerous. Will you let me hold it for you?”
Giver of life, in a world where we confuse want and need constantly, Lord be our guide. Let us no longer gorge ourselves with things that keep us malnourished and weary. Help us distinguish between what we want and what we need. All we have ever needed is you. Draw us close, draw us near to that which breathes life into us. In your name Jesus, Amen.
He makes me lie down in green pastures.
After God created humans, the very first thing their Creator instructed them to do was to rest – to honor the Sabbath and keep it holy. How many Sabbaths have we skipped? How many vacation days go to waste? A wise friend once told me, “Baby, get off the cross we need the wood.”
We are not Jesus. We are called to be in community. One of us alone could never bring about green pastures for all. Instead, God invites us to lie down in them together. Trusting this is where we are fed. Where we are healed. Where we are made whole. If you are convinced it has to be you always, you have been fed a lie. It’s Jesus who feeds, who makes us all lie down in green pastures. Trust the shepherd. Not the want in your belly. Rest in this God who pours into you and resurrects you.
Holy God, my body collapses at the promise of your green pastures. My need overtakes my wants and I rest in you. I feel the richness of your goodness, the brightness of your wholeness, the warmth of your healing. May I dwell in your holy echo my whole life long. In your name Jesus, Amen.
He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul.
The waters of chaos call to us in the big and the small things, inviting us to move, work, and fight until we have nothing left. These waves know they don’t have to be big, they just have to be constant, never giving you a moment to breathe or catch your breath.
Jesus invites us to calm waters that restore us and make us new. In the beginning, God hovered over the waters of chaos and brought order, creating life and bringing about good things. In these still waters, we are marked with the cross of Christ and sealed with the Holy Spirit forever. In a world that fights to name us and claim our identity, we can rest in the identity that can never be taken from us.… Beloved child of God.
Generous Creator, I hear your invitation to still waters. Do not let me get distracted or overwhelmed by the waves of chaos beckoning me. You call me to be restored, to be made new. I trust I was created to be more than a thing that produces results. I was created to know joy, rest, and restoration. Calm me in your waters with your peace that surpasses all understanding. In your name Jesus, Amen.
He leads me.
God meets us where we are and invites us into the way of love and resurrection. Oftentimes we hear, “God has a plan for your life.” I wonder if it is not so much about a particular plan we ought to execute in a specific way. What if it is more about God’s hope to create something beautiful together. In collaboration we curate holy spaces. We sit before the blank canvas of life as God delights and wonders what we will create together. It doesn’t matter if you use markers or paint, clay or crayons. It’s an invitation where beautiful holy things can grow and in the growing and becoming we see, encounter, and dance with our Triune God. We can trust there is grace for our fumbling steps, and liberation from our perfectionism and pressure.
Giver of Life, sometimes I worry and doubt how well I am performing and walking on this path you’ve called me to. Liberate me from judging myself and help me trust what you say about me more than what I say, or others say about me. Let me flourish in the rich soil of your goodness. Deepen these roots far and wide so every fruit it bears reflects the depth of your mercy and holiness of your name. In your name Jesus we pray, Amen.
In right paths.
It’s easy to create from our pride in a way that doesn’t manifest God’s goodness. At times our names and egos inflate, making us unaware that we are dancing alone, unable to see the steps of others to adapt or change with the world around us.
When this happens, we begin to grow out of our own soil, rather than the soil of community. In the places where we feel stuck and alone, lead us back Lord. You search tirelessly for the one lost sheep. During this Lenten season, open our eyes to see where we are creating from a source other than you. Lead us back to places we are humbled and made new.
Good Shepherd, thank you for always searching me out. Forgive me for the ways I continue to get distracted, prideful, or unaware. May everything we do, touch, create bring about wholeness and healing for ourselves and our entire community. In your name Jesus we pray, Amen.
For his name’s sake.
“For his namesake” means Christ has vowed his name to each of us. Before the name of Jesus every family in heaven and on earth takes its name (Eph. 3:14-15). In the way Christ leads us, we are covered and clothed in Christs’ righteousness. We can pray in the powerful name of Jesus and do far more than we could ever think or imagine. The Spirit intercedes for us.
During this Lenten season may you dwell and be strengthened in your inmost being through the mighty name of Jesus and notice your connection to God’s creation and the very source of love, life, and liberation.
Mighty Deliverer, we are ushered and adopted into your family by the grace of your love. Thank you for seeing me in all that I am, and still delivering me from myself and all that wishes to destroy me. You hold me close and hold me tight. I can never be plucked from your hand. For all this and more I give thanks to you. In your name Jesus, Amen.
Reverend Jenny Sung is an ordained #FreeRangePastor with the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America. She has been preaching, writing, and curating spaces worldwide for healing through brave love and community art. Rev. Sung’s passion for art comes from her many years as a professional modern dancer, founder, and co-director of One Dance Company in the Twin Cities. Follow Pastor Jenny on Facebook, Twitter, TikTok, and Instagram by clicking her Linktree.
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