My Shepherd Will Supply My Need

My Shepherd Will Supply My Need

Liturgy Lesson: May 2, 2021
Call to Worship: Ps. 107:1-3, 8-9; Ps. 34:1-3, 8
Prayer of Invocation
Hymn of Adoration: O God Beyond All Praising (#660)
Prayer of Confession
Hymn of Supplication: Jesus Thou Joy of Loving Hearts (#646)
Assurance of Pardon: Jn. 6:47-51; 1 Peter 2:24
Hymn of Assurance: Wonderful, Merciful Savior
Reading of the Word: Luke 24:28-34 (Road to Emmaus, part 2)
Sermon: Rev. Eric Irwin
Tithes and Offerings
The Lord’s Supper: My Shepherd Will Supply My Need; Glorious Things of Thee are Spoken (#345)

Disclaimer: The following contains an excessive amount of wordplay. Like most Dad jokes, some of this material is recycled (from an original post in 2019). This week was as unusually busy week for me, and so I’m justifying this cheesy rerun episode by simply saying that God loves puns. You know how I know that? The Bible says “All creation groans.” For those of you who choose to endure the following bon mot barrage, I pray that the Spirit would intercede for you with “groans” that words cannot express. OK, here we go.

My wife makes the most amazing homemade bread. I loaf it so munch. Here’s a toast to her! This may sound crumby, but her bread is so much butter than all the others. It’s so good that, no matter how little dough I bring home, we always feel like the upper crust. Most people buy all their bread, but she goes against the grain and meets that knead for us. Wheat be spending so much more, or at yeast our budget would rise, if her culinary efforts did not baguette such abundance. How many days do we go without bread? Naan! OK, I know this has gone a rye, so I bake your pardon!

Bread is on the menu for this week’s sermon. Pastor Eric is unpacking the scripture passage when Jesus sat down at the table with his Emmaus Rd. clueless companions and broke bread. It was at that moment that “their eyes were opened, and they recognized him” (Lk. 24:30-31). When word got out about this Bread of Life back in Jerusalem, I’m sure there was a homeschool mom saying, “I want that recipe!”

Well, good news. We have the recipe. It is offered up every Sunday at our weekly feast. Not just at the table (though most profoundly and substantially there), but throughout the entire worship service. Christ is nourishing us with his seed of His Word, which I pray will be in-grained in your hearts as you sing to Him and to each other (Col. 3:16). May the sweet aroma of His Spirit fill the sanctuary and may we “taste and see that the Lord is Good” (Ps. 34:8).
Our sanctuary was acoustically built for singing. It was not designed to be a lecture hall, where brains on sticks receive correction and instruction. Such a place has no need for singing. Alternatively, it is not intended to be a concert hall, where an audience gathers for aesthetic pleasure and entertainment. Such a place makes singing a spectator sport. Rather, our sanctuary was built to be a sort of banquet hall, where the covenant people gather to celebrate the weekly feast that prefigures the marriage supper of the Lamb (Rev. 19:6-9). That is reason for singing!

A substantial feast with such an awesome Guest of Honor requires more than just any ol’ baked goods. Our hostess is not Little Debbie. Thankfully, the church has been served by highly skilled lyrical-musical chefs who look for the right combination of ingredients to cook with. Here’s what a standard basic hymn recipe looks like. Just the essentials:

Scripture (flour)
The joy of the Lord (oil of gladness)
Holy Spirit (living water)
The resurrection of Jesus (yeast)
Faith (salt)
Praise (sugar)

Mix together, and then store in a heart that is warmed by the love of God. It is important to note that without the yeast, all you are left with is a useless clump of play dough!

This recipe has been passed down through generations and can be used to bake up any sort of praise for any meal. For breakfast you can have Gaither buns, Fanny’s French Toast, or my favorite “Biscuits and Getty.” For lunch you can make Wesley’s whole wheat, praise-chorus pretzels, or Taize tortillas. For dinner I recommend a simple Psalm pita with humble hummus. If you want to go old school you can make Chant ciabatta, Byzantine bagels, or the more complicated polyphonic pumpernickel. More simple and basic classics include the Methodist muffins or the always excellent Watts scones. When done well, any of these will inspire a hearty “Challahlujah”!

Ok, let’s dig in! Here’s a tasty item on this week’s supper menu. It is a thick artisan loaf, a particularly gourmet hymn made for the bon vivant among us. It’s a favorite of mine.

My Shepherd Will Supply My Need
Text: Isaac Watts (1719)
Tune: RESIGNATION, Southern Harmony, 1835

Psalm 23 is a transcendent and iconic bit of poetry that inspired one of Isaac Watts’ most powerful paraphrases. First published in his 1719 collection The Psalms of David, Watts’ hymn exchanges the original Psalm text for rhymed couplets that seek to illuminate the spirit of the original. Consider the opening stanza:

My Shepherd will supply my need, Jehovah is his name.
In pastures fresh he makes me feed, beside the living stream
He brings my wandering spirit back when I forsake his ways,
And leads me for his mercy’s sake in paths of truth and grace.

Psalm paraphrases were very controversial in the 18th century. Why submit the word of God to poetic whimsy? Is not the original, by its very spirit-inspired nature, superior? Would God be pleased or annoyed with his children borrowing and reshaping his words? Good questions.

What we do know is that the Psalms are intended to be sung, and song is beholden to meter and melody, not to mention a native understanding of language. When we consider that the Psalms were not originally written in English (in fact, Psalms 9, 10, 25, 34, 37, 111, 112, and 145 are originally acrostic poems in Hebrew), then we understand that some elements of the language’s internal rhythm and syllabic flow would be lost in translation. The gift and genius of Watts’ accessible versifications was to find an English-language accommodation in meter and rhyme that could house the meaning, metaphor, and imagery of each original Psalm. This opens up the possibility of pairing these new vernacular texts with some beautiful and memorable tunes, and Watts’ version of Psalm 23 benefited greatly from that possibility.

Watts’ sublime text is coupled with one of the most beautiful American folk tunes ever created. Strong, yet serene, it has phrases that arch hopefully and then settle down to rest. Its long phrases make it a bit more challenging for the untrained singer, but the internal rhythm (eighth-notes that precede each barline) give the melody a forward flow and space to breathe. It is in AABA form, so there is enough repetition for even the smallest child to hum along. And, it is the comforting nature of this melody that enhances that sense of childlike belonging that we find at the end of Psalm 23. With his interpretation of the last line of the Psalm, “and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever,” Watts gives a new understanding to the original: “No more a stranger or a guest, but like a child at home.” Here we have a powerful image of dwelling—a child, at home in the arms of the Shepherd, safe and secure in a protective place of love and comfort.

Watts’ paraphrase of the Psalm has overtones of the story of the Prodigal Son found in Luke 15. Do you remember what happened when the prodigal returned home? His Father ran to meet him, embraced him, and then held a feast. “Let us eat and celebrate,” the Father said. Brothers and Sisters, we are all God’s adopted children. He has gathered us in from the north and the south, from the east and west, and brought us all home by His grace. As we come into his house on Sunday, the table is spread. It is through the broken bread of Christ’s body that we encounter the glory of the Father.

And the most delicious truth of all is that this feast is a foretaste of the marriage supper of the Lamb, the eternal banquet where one day all God’s children will “hunger no more, neither thirst any more; neither shall the sun light on them, nor any heat. For the Lamb which is in the midst of the throne shall feed them, and shall lead them unto living fountains of waters: and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes.”

When I walk through the shades of death His presence is my stay,
One word of His supporting grace drives all my fears away;
His hand in sight of all my foes doth still my table spread,
My cup with blessings overflows, His oil anoints my head.

The sure provisions of my God attend me all my days;
Oh, may Thy house be my abode and all my work be praise;
There would I find a settled rest, while others go and come;
No more a stranger nor a guest, but like a child at home.

Choral arrangement
COVIDtide version
A capella folk version (similar to original Southern Harmony)