Friday, January 18, 2013

A Knitter Looks at the 23rd Psalm

The title is better in its original setting, A Shepherd Looks at the 23rd Psalm, written by Phillip Keller and published some thirty-five years and two million copies or so ago.  Mr. Keller takes each verse of this psalm we all know best and talks about them through the eyes of an honest-to-goodness shepherd...what happens when sheep don't have green pastures or clean water, when they get lost, when they get hurt...

Knitters are quite interested in sheep, too, of course, and are grateful for the work of good shepherds.  Without them, you'd be getting sweaters knit from dental floss, or socks knit from crabgrass, or worse, no handknits at all.  

Quilters don't use wool as often as knitters do, but they, too, know something about patterns of pastures and pools and pathways.  And of course knitters and quilters alike are able to settle into a rhythm with their work, stitch after stitch, piece after piece, so that the verse after verse of saying a psalm fits right in.

At the Kanuga Knitting and Quilting Conference this year, we gathered in worship at the beginning and ending of each day.  Each service included a brief homily, which I humbly offer here...

Friday Morning
Psalm 23; Matthew 6:25-34

When my mom and I talked about what we were packing to bring to Kanuga, our lists were pretty similar: yarn, scissors, needles, a knitting bag, patterns, stitch markers, a little more yarn, crochet hook, row counter, extra yarn...a bigger knitting bag...

The list for quilters is even longer.  I know this because I traveled here with one, and while the three knitters in the car could squish our extra yarn and knitting bags into corners and under seats, sewing machines and irons don't squish.  Between the four of us, the car was filled to overflowing (although there was curiously enough room for the things we found at the fabric and yarn store we stopped at in Birmingham).  There were bags and boxes and crates and baskets and, oh, a suitcase or two (for the non-knitting or -quilting related things on our lists, you know, like clothes, toothbrushes, never know what you might need).

We had everything we wanted.  Except, we now know, for all the things we forgot.  No matter how detailed we make our lists, no matter how thoroughly we check them off, we always manage to leave something at home, always manage to lack something we might want or need.  A phone charger.  A favorite pair of socks.  A spool of thread in the right color.  The right size needle.  What did you forget?  What do you lack?

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want.  No psalm is better known or loved, or more often prayed, than this one.  It isn't, of course, about the things we want because we left them at home on the kitchen counter, or on the back step.  The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want.  We lack much more than the pillow or pattern we forgot.  We want so much more than we ever have, whether it is money or confidence or success or strength or happiness or authority or courage or compassion or comfort or patience or faith... What did you forget?  What do you want?  What do you lack?

The 23rd psalm is filled to overflowing with God's goodness and mercy, God's gracious provision, God's good shepherding of so very many sheep (which is to say, us) with so very many wants and needs.  But before we ever get to those green pastures or still waters, before we walk right pathways or wrong ones, before we sit at a feast with our cups running over, before our heads are anointed or our hearts are comforted or our souls are revived and restored...before the good shepherd tends to our needs and wants, at the very beginning of the 23rd psalm, the list of things with which we think we need to pack our lives (a list that, no matter how much of it we check off, never fill us up and always leaves something behind) is reduced to just one.  We need only one thing: the Lord, who is our shepherd, who gave us life, who gave us love, and who in the valley of the shadow of death gave us love and life all over again...

Someone here can lend you that pair of socks or scissors.  You can run into town for a toothbrush.  Between us all we're filled to overflowing with yarn and fabric, creativity and color, courage and compassion and goodness and mercy, and we can surely share what patience and happiness and faith we have.  But before we start too long a list of what we think we need or want or lack, let us not forget what the psalmist says we always already have - the Lord is our shepherd.  What more could we want?

In the words of Saint Julian, let us pray, "God, of your goodness, give me yourself, for you are enough for me, and I can ask for nothing less that is to your glory.  And if I ask for anything less, I shall still be in want, for only in you have I all."  Amen.

Artwork: Good Shepherd stained glass window - I used this image on the cover of our worship booklet, but now can't find the source...if you know where it lives, or who designed it, please let me know so that I can give proper credit; needle-felted "Good Shepherd," by Daria Lvovsky.

No comments: