Scripture: Psalm 23
The Great Pursuit
The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.
You make me lie down in green pastures,
You lead me beside still waters,
You restore my soul….
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
All the days of my life,
And I shall swell in the house of the Lord my whole life long.
There are passages of scripture that follow us all the days of our lives.  Psalm 23 is one of them. We don’t follow this Psalm, it follows us, we don’t turn to this Psalm, it turns to us, we don’t seek out this Psalm, it seeks us out. It pursues us with guidance, protection, presence, comfort.
This Psalm finds all people in all places at all times….
This Psalm finds us in life’s beginning, as children sitting in our Sunday school chairs memorizing verse after verse, “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.”
It finds us in adolescence, struggling with life’s great existential questions, “He restores my soul.”
If finds us as parents, walking that fine line between tough love and love that’s not tough enough… “He leads me in right paths for his name’s sake.”
It finds us at the side of a hospital bed of a loved one before surgery, together recalling our childhood memorization of it, “Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I fear no evil, for you are with me.”
It finds us in the ritual service to mark the passing of a loved one,
“And I shall dwell in the house of the Lord my whole life long.”
Psalm 23 finds all people in all places at all times.
It found Jesus while walking in the temple. It inspired him to proclaim to those challenging him: “You do not believe because you do not belong to my sheep. My sheep hear my voice. I know them and they follow me” (John 10:27).
It found the Puritans on the surface of the Atlantic sailing into an unknown future, toward whatever they would find on the other side.
It found slaves picking cotton in between rounds of “Nobody Knows the Trouble I’ve Seen.”
It found Jews on concentration camps and worshippers in African American churches throughout the country during the civil rights movement in between verses of “We Shall Overcome.”
The profound simplicity of this Psalm finds all people in all places at all times.
It finds us, here, today, picking up the pieces after explosions on the streets of our city and on the bodies of our neighbors.
How many, we wonder, did this Psalm seek out this past Monday, at ten to three in the afternoon in the midst of the chaos and the shock and the trauma and the terror?
How many marked and maimed, discovered these words naturally rise from within? Familiar and cathartic.
How many, after realizing what had happened, dropped to their knees, lost then found by these words:
“The Lord is my shepherd
I shall not want
he makes me to lie down in green
pastures, he leads me beside still waters…”
Because those are the words that found them in their moment of greatest need – those are the words that sought them out in the deepest recesses of their heart, in a place where human eyes cannot see
nor human ear hear
nor human mind comprehend.
How many of the good, brave, precious helpers/shepherds: the EMTs, the fireman, police officers, nurses and doctors were asked to recall and pray these words while holding the hand of a stranger or pushing a wheelchair or rolling a stretcher down Boylston Street?
Over the past six days, how many chaplains at MGH, Brigham, Beth Israel, Boston Medical Center, Mt. Auburn, were asked to open their travel bible and turn to the 23rd Psalm and begin to read?
Even those who are spiritual but not religious, even those, it finds them too.
It finds us here this morning. It brings us to a comfortable, familiar place. Psalm 23, you might say, is like coming home. Safely and securely. Coming home.
Safe and secure.
As the marathon bombing is one of many in a long line of random, violent acts over the past decade, our sense of safety and security is perhaps not what it once was. It can happen here. It has happened here, it has happened to our children and to our brothers and sisters and to our parents. To our neighbors and friends. It has happened here. Here where we are peaceful and free. As our Conference President heartbreakingly noted this past week, "Now we stand in solidarity with the people of New York City, Syria, Israel/Palestine, Oklahoma City, and tragically, so many other places."
Perhaps what is most unsettling is that we are being pursued by an eerily illusive enemy found among those with whom we learn and work and socialize. Evil lurks, freely and uncontained. We fear. Even after the death of Bin Laden and Tamerlan and Adam Lanza and Dzhokhar’s capture, we don’t know when or where or who is pursuing us...We fear.
But Psalm 23 reminds us of a different pursuit, of the True and Great Pursuit from which we can never escape. In a moment of scripture so well known, it is easy to gloss over the familiar words and images, but in that place where David writes, “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life,” – "follow" is not the Hebrew, the verb that David chooses to use actually means to pursue: “Surely goodness and mercy shall pursue me all the days of my life.”
God is active. God is with us. God is good.
Every other place in the Psalms where David uses this verb, pursue, he uses it in the context of the enemy pursuing and killing him. But here, David reverses this pursuit. It’s not the pursuit of the enemy’s evil; it’s the pursuit of God’s goodness and mercy.
When we get lost in another’s hate and are in danger of becoming haters,
when we are lost in fear and are in danger of becoming fearful,
God’s quality of goodness will pursue us, it will chase us;
God’s mercy will hunt us down.
The enemy’s pursuit of evil and violence that struck the finish line on Monday has launched God’s pursuit of goodness and mercy within the Boston community more fiercely than ever. We see it every where we look, we experience it everywhere we go this past week ~ in a culture of independence, in a society that is increasingly falling away from each other, when the importance of civic life is waning ~ God is bringing us together, God is bringing us home to one another. One Boston. Boston Strong.
I felt and knew this to be true as the news reported hundreds already in line at 6 a.m. on Thursday morning outside of the Cathedral of the Holy Cross in South Boston for the interfaith service. Thousands and thousands of people waiting to enter a church!
God is bringing us together, God is bringing us home to one another.
I felt and I knew this to be true yesterday when my voice was one among the thousands in the Fleet Center singing the Star Spangled Banner – the many voices that melted together to become one.
God is bringing us together, God is bringing us home to one another.
I felt and knew this to be true yesterday as pedestrians stopped to thank law enforcement officials on street corners for their service, as flags were carried into and proudly waved within the grand sports arena - flags: American and the City of Watertown - and as MIT banners were in full force.
It is in our darkest moments, in our greatest hour of need when we come home to one another and to God.
God’s goodness and mercy pursue us when we stand with one another despite our differences of race, ethnicity, gender, religion, politics.
God’s goodness and mercy pursue us when we stand with one another in our common humanity to celebrate the just laws of democracy and freedom.
God’s goodness and mercy pursue us when we tear down fences in order to run toward one another in a moment of crisis and chaos and trauma and terror.
God’s goodness and mercy pursue us when we welcome terrified strangers seeking shelter into the privacy of our home.
God's goodness and mercy pursue us all the days of our life so that when evil sneaks in, we are reminded of the seed of innate goodness that God planted in each one of us upon our coming into the world. We are reminded that the darkness never overcomes the light. We are reminded that we are - each and all - children of the good and loving and living God. Many, yet one.
~Rev. Leanne Walt
 Thank you to Dr. Michael Milton’s blog for inspiring my reflections on Psalm 23:
 “Providing Light for this journey through darkness is what churches do”, Rev. Dr. Jim Antal, April 18, 2013