Monday, March 23rd, 2020

We invite you to join us for the following online offerings this week. We now have two new weekly (no-preparation needed) Bible studies. Check our website under the ChurchAway page for more information (t his is where we will post the links to the online gatherings on the day of the study). Thank you for your flexibility!

  • Morning Prayer on Sundays at 10:00 a.m.
  • Evening Prayer on Monday through Friday evenings at 6:00 p.m.
  • Spiritual Focus of the Day coordinated by Keli
  • An e-mail devotion sent every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday focusing on Scripture, readings, story-sharing, and prayer. Below, you will find our first devotional and a subscribe button to receive future devotions. These will also be posted on our Facebook page.
  • Psalms Study with Charlie on Wednesdays at 5:00 p.m.
  • Wednesday, March 25th/ Scripture for this week: Psalm 23
  • Optional: Read Charlie's helpful Overview of the Psalms **Note: any mention of the word curriculum used in this document refers to a curriculum that Charlie developed to help preachers/leaders understand the Psalms and use them more in prayer and preaching.
  • Lectionary-Based Gospel Study with Rainey on Thursdays at 11:00 a.m.
  • Thursday, March 26th/ Scripture for this week: John 11:1-45
Spiritual Focus of the Day
by Keli Shipley Cooper

Today is the 23rd of March and our "Spiritual Focus of the Day" is based on the  23rd Psalm.  Some of you may have heard Charlie read this psalm during Morning Prayer yesterday. Psalm 23 is part of the Revised Common Lectionary or readings for the fourth Sunday in Lent.

23 has always been an odd number to me. I know it's actually an "odd" number, as well as a prime number; but, I've always had some sort of aversion to it. Maybe it's because it's the reverse of my favorite number "32." Maybe it's because of the two movies I watched that focused on 23 (looking at you, "The Number 23" and "A Beautiful Mind"). Even Psalm 23 makes me a little uncomfortable. 
 
If you have heard Psalm 23 before, do you remember when?
 
It is the most popular psalm and is often read in times of grief, stress, and uncertainty. I have heard it tearfully read at funerals and from hospital beds. I typically associate it with the tension between fear and courage.

We cling to the familiar words of the King James Version, trying to say confidently "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." These are certainly times of trouble. And these words are difficult for me to say now.

The Book of Psalms provides us with divine wisdom through poetry and songs. This is a time when we seek this wisdom in the midst of stress, grief, and uncertainty; but, we also seek hope, comfort, and courage.
 
Take a moment to read through the  NRSV version.  
 
1 The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.

2 He makes me lie down in green pastures;
he leads me beside still waters;

3 he restores my soul.
He leads me in right paths
for his name's sake.

4 Even though I walk through the darkest valley,
    I fear no evil;
for you are with me;
    your rod and your staff-
    they comfort me.

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

6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
    all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord
    my whole life long.

Anything in particular stand out to you?
Perhaps one word? A phrase? Something that brings comfort? Discomfort?

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At the St. Paul's Women's Retreat, many of us were introduced to the  Japanese translation  of Psalm 23. Read through this version and notice the differences between this translation and the NRSV translation.
 
The Lord is my Pace-setter, I shall not rush, 
He makes me stop and rest for quiet intervals.
 
He provides me with images of stillness, which restore my serenity.
He leads me in ways of efficiency through calmness of mind, 
And His guidance is peace.
 
Even though I have a great many things to accomplish each day, 
I will not fret for His presence is here. 
His timelessness, His all importance will keep me in balance.
 
He prepares refreshment and renewal in the midst of my activity. 
By anointing my mind with His oils of tranquility; 
My cup of joyous energy overflows.
 
Surely harmony and effectiveness shall be the fruits of my hours. 
For I shall walk in the pace of my Lord and dwell in His house forever.

------

When I don't have words to express how I feel, I turn to the words of others, especially Scripture. I read these words, even when I struggle embodying or believing pieces of them.

I invite you to explore different translations of Scripture today. With this familiar psalm, perhaps you will find a unique translation that speaks to you. Learn how to read translations of Scripture in a parallel view  here , if you're interested, or simply read the two versions above. 
 
We invite you to pray... 

Good and gracious God, we thank you for being our shepherd. Though we may be fearful, please help us remember that you are with us. Be with us in our questions and in our doubt. Be with us in the glimpses of joy and peace. And may we always remember that we are not alone. Amen. 
My name is  Keli Shipley Cooper  and I am the Minister for Faith Formation at St. Paul's. I look forward to sharing stories, readings, Scripture, and practices with you all in the coming weeks. In this time of physical distancing, we still join together through prayer and technology as we continue to be the church from at least six feet apart. 

We are glad that you are here.
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