preaching study blog: psalm 23, pt 1

I’d like to try preaching preparation in community via this blog. I welcome comments, ideas, interaction, etc. I appreciate when folks post their sermons online for me to read, and I may do that when I’ve finished this one, but I’d like first to turn it around and ask for help on this end of the proclamation.

This Sunday, May 7, I’m preaching on Psalm 23. I haven’t preached from the Psalms much. The only one I can think of is Psalm 51. That’s a special situation due to it’s narrative context (David’s sin) in 2 Samuel 11-12. So, I’m branching out a little. I tend to preach the narrative of Scripture and the particular passage I’m working from. In the NT letters, this can be more of a challenge than the Gospels and Acts or the OT histories, but I can usually find the plot line at the place where Paul, Peter, John, etc’s lives and writings intersect with the people to whom they are writing.

The narrative context of many of the psalms, however, can be difficult to place. This can tempt one toward an interpretation and application without reference to the psalm’s place in the bible or the people of Israel. But there’s something to paying attention to the psalm’s place among the people of God today too.

Psalm 23 is a favorite of many. We say it at funerals and most folks, especially older ones, can and do repeat it from memory as I say it. It’s a psalm we should be memorizing today the way older generations did. I memorized this psalm for the first time a year ago during a prayer class I was teaching here at my church. Since then it has become a staple for my prayer life. I think that we could spend a lifetime learning to pray with the 23rd psalm and the Lord’s Prayer as our guides. So, that’s two contemporary contexts: (1) funeral liturgy, and (2) personal prayer.

Here’s the NRSV text for Psalm 23.

Brief thoughts, and I’ll share more thoughts throughout the week:
1. Images and metaphors include: Shepherd, Guide, Host, Hospitality
2. The Lord is referred to in 3rd person (“he”) in verses 1-3, then in 1st person in verses 4-5. Verse 6 does not address the Lord particularly, but refers to “the house of the Lord.”
3. A possible outline for the psalm might be: “He” – vv1-3, “You” – vv4-5, Conclusion – v6. But I wonder if it’s better to read v3b (“He leads me…”) as beginning that section with vv4-5, since it seems to lead into the part about walking through the dark valley, etc.

Observations? Discussion? Ideas? More to come…

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