One of the great sadnesses of the Christmas season this year is the profound awareness of how far away our nation and world is from knowing peace or even believing it is possible that we humans can find a way to live in peace with each other. For me it is hard to wish Peace on Earth when I know my government is engaged in futile and useless wars and so many people have to die for our President's arrogant mistakes. When I feel this way, it is with immense relief that I'll find a message that helps restore my faith in the future.
Tonight, NPR had a segment on ATC talking to Rabbi Howard Kushner about the 23rd Psalm. The simplicity and beauty of that psalm and what it tells us was the message I needed to hear today to shake off the despondency I've been feeling thinking about our war-torn world and which was magnified by the sadness felt for the unfortunate people who have experienced the horrific tsunami.
The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want.
He maketh me to lie down in green pastures:
He leadeth me beside the still waters.
He restoreth my soul:
He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for His name' sake.
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.
Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies;
Thou annointest my head with oil; My cup runneth over.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the House of the Lord forever.
As Rabbi Kushner explained the psalm, when the psalmist finds himself in the valley of the shadow he finds out what God is for: God is not there to protect or to justify or to explain. God is there to strengthen and to comfort.
Rabbi Kushner believes this psalm speaks deeply to even those who are not religious because it says that ...
the human soul is capable of astonishing resilience. What the psalm says is don't be afraid of the future. Not because good people always get what they deserve, but because good people even when life deals them a lousy hand, good people are so often capable of coming up with the emotional and spiritual resources to deal with whatever they have to deal with.