Thursday, February 28, 2013

The Valley of the Shadow of Death

We are currently in a series on Psalm 23 at church, and this coming Sunday I am giving the communion reflection. I typically try to tie my reflection to both the text for the message and the explicit gospel message of the table. The phrase in the psalm we are focusing on this week is from v. 4, "Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me." (KJV) (Side note: typically I am not a fan of the KJV for various reasons, but the poetry is captured so well in the old language) 

Here are some of my thoughts on what I would like to say:

One of the things I love most about Scripture is its honest portrayal of life. The Bible does not present lofty theological ideas that our disconnected from the reality of life. It does not present people who are superhuman. The Bible is God's story of his love for and redemption of fallen, broken, messy, yet beautiful people. The Bible presents life as it is - full of amazing triumph and horrific failure, bad news and good news, love and hate, beauty and messiness. We see this portrayal very clearly in Psalm 23. Life is filled with "green pastures" and "quiet waters," but we must also go through the "valley of the shadow of death." Maybe you have just been through, or are currently in, or may soon face a moment where you feel as though you are in the darkest valley. You have long forgotten the perspective of the peaks behind you and you can't see the ascent out of the valley ahead. And the temptation in these moments is to begin to question the character of God. Does he truly love me? Is he real? Is he truly present in this really dark place?

When we find ourselves in this dark place, questioning God's love and presence in our lives, there is one sure place we can look to regain perspective. When we wonder if God could truly understand the depths of our pain, the darkness of our situation, we must look up to the cross of Christ. This is the place where we see that God truly does understand our pain and he is willing to go with us to the darkest places. He enters into our pain, our brokenness and messiness...and promises us hope, peace, and redemption. He is redeeming the fallen broken world and working all things together for his good and holy purposes. 

We can know that Christ will lead and guide and comfort us even through the valley of the shadow of death and he proved it by enduring the suffering of the cross for our sake. He proved his willingness to be present with us in the messiness of life when we left heaven and came to earth. That is costly grace and that is what we remember, proclaim, and celebrate as we come to the table this morning to receive the grace of God through his broken body and shed blood.