When I was a psychiatric chaplain one of my favorite groups to lead with patients was on assessing the shape we are in. I would put multiple colors of Model Magic on the table and ask people to choose a color based on their current feelings. Then I would ask them to create a shape that reflected how they were feeling. We would then take turns sharing the shapes and guessing the feelings they indicated. Then I would ask them to think about how they would like to feel and choose a new color and create a new shape. We would again take turns sharing the shapes and guessing the feelings. Then I would ask them what they each needed in order to get from the shape they were currently in to the shape they would like to be in. It was always a good group even when someone would create the shape of a donut because they felt hungry.

As I look at the texts for this week, it occurs to me to ask what shape are you in? I’m guessing most of us are far from the green pastures and still waters of Psalm 23 and the life of abundance of John 10. Many of us are overwhelmed in these strange days. Some are still learning new technology and find themselves in the strange position of teaching the use of said technology to our parishioners. Others are still debating the merits of synchronous vs. asynchronous worship. Some are recording their sermons ahead of time and others are preaching to Zoom groups or a camera for live streaming. Lots of us are tired out from Zoom meetings. How is it with your spirit as you approach these texts of promise and hope?

Admittedly, I plan to focus on Psalm 23 and the Gospel text. The others feel too difficult to manage in the current situation. Acts speaks of the believers being all together and growing in number. I usually love this text for the sense of community it describes. But, for now, it would be hard for people to hear since we cannot be together in person. And the text from 1 Peter could make it sound like the virus was sent by God to test us. I simply don’t have the energy to unravel this unhealthy theology. Our faith may indeed be tested by COVID-19 but God didn’t send it. We may suffer, but God is not the cause of our suffering.

This leaves me with Psalm 23 and the Gospel. I intend to focus on the promise of God’s presence. That even now, in this deep valley of death, God is leading us. We will one day reach those green pastures and still waters. Perhaps we have glimpses of this promise in each day. If we are able to gather for worship in any way, by any means, then our cups are overflowing. While life is not what it was a few months ago and will never return to what it was, God is still leading us, guiding us in goodness and mercy. We are God’s people and God will not leave us alone in the midst of suffering and grief.

Moreover, God wants us to have life and have it abundantly. I find myself wondering what abundant life looks like these days. Some would say it is having safe shelter, enough food, and enough tp. I suspect it is more than that. Perhaps it has more to do with trusting God to guide us through this crisis even as we feel the pangs of the church being remade… Perhaps it is in taking pleasure in the sounds of nature that we have missed in the noisier past… Perhaps it is simply offering gratitude for the breath of life… Where are you finding God’s abundance these days? It is okay to have moments of joy and gratitude in the midst of these days of fear and grief. God never promised that life would be an either/or kind of thing. Faith isn’t living always in just joy and gratitude. Faith is navigating in a both/and world – we are fearful and grateful, anxious and joyful, grieving and hopeful… We wander in unknown territory, groping for something that makes sense and we are led by God’s steadfast love to green pastures and still waters.

How is it with your spirit? What are you being led to preach this week? Join in the conversation so that we may share this journey together.

Photo: CC0image by Peter H

Rev. Dr. Rachael Keefe is an author and the pastor of Living Table United Church of Christ in Minneapolis, MN. You can find links to her blog, video series, and books at

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15 thoughts on “RCL: Green Pasture, Quiet waters, and Abundant Love

  1. I think I may work off of the Acts reading: they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts, 2:47 praising God and having the goodwill of all the people.

    and the Psalm: 23:5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.

    Of course the biggest enemy these days is the virus. Several of my reflections have been on finding God’s presence in the sacredness of our meals at home, since we cannot gather around a common table for Holy Communion. The readings this week may lead me into more reflection on finding God in the ordinary of every day: our meals, a walk along a flowing river. These are opportunities to ponder God’s presence with us in these times, when life is really very difficult.


  2. I am going way, way off lectionary this week. God has laid it on my heart to preach on Lamentations 1:1, “How lonely sits the city/that once was full of people.” Sermon title: “Together in the Lonely City.” On our struggles to get back together again as a church and what that is going to look like, at least in the early stages.


  3. Thank you all. This steers me toward a thankful sermon on how people are bringing meals to Hickory Log, and I can continue on into Acts, or get into “setting a table before me,” since so many people have set a meal before our men. Praying blessings for us all as we go through this week.


  4. I love this exercise, making a shape out of play-dough…and you made me hungry for a donut. Thanks for the spirit-lifting visual.


  5. I intentionally didn’t use Luke 24 last week so that I could use it this week, since this will be our first time to have communion “together” over Facebook Live. I’m a little surprised how excited I am about doing this.


  6. Someone wrote about Jesus as gate, and I’m intrigued by the suggestion that while humans use gates to separate, Jesus is the gate that opens, that allows connection. Even as the virus is a closed gate that keeps us apart, in Jesus we are spiritually together. Then a segue into a suggestion of ways to keep in touch in addition to what this family-style congregation has always done pretty well. I’m keeping sermons to half my usual length of ~1500 words, and they’re almost writing themselves. The writing process is turning out to be far less stressful than in normal times.


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