Psalm 23 (the one that begins, “The Lord is my shepherd…”) is one I often use at funerals, but it’s a good‘un for many occasions. The writer is David. He’s no ordinary man. The youngest of several brothers, he was initially overlooked when Samuel visited the family, guided by God, to find and anoint a new King over Israel to replace Saul who had once looked so promising but was now most certainly failing to deliver. David had been out looking after the flocks of sheep that made his one of the prominent families of the region. Unlike his elder brothers, and unlike Saul when he was chosen, David does not look like kingly material. However, the story goes on: David is anointed. He eventually succeeds to the throne. His rule is successful, finally neutralising the constant Philistine threat, and establishing an, albeit brief, golden age for the nation of Israel. But, just as with Saul, the rot eventually sets in: David is distracted and his rule begins to suffer; Discontented family members find a frustrated populace will listen to them; And, more than once, David is forced to flee and regroup his supporters, as one son or another briefly usurps his throne. Tradition has it that, during one of these mini-exiles, David is sheltering in a cave in the wilderness. He look back on his childhood when his greatest concerns were the safety of his father’s sheep, and nothing more, and he writes this Psalm: “The Lord is myshepherd…”
I would suggest that, unless you are a very young reader (or possibly a far older one who has learnt more wisdom than most), life gradually gets more complex and therefore troublesome the older we get. The simple black and white of childhood becomes muddied by the many shades of gray that complicate life’s decisions. Of course, there are many who seem determined to keep to the simplicity of right and wrong in the face of the nuances of life. Delusional thinking is always attractive.
At Theological College we studied Ethics. One of our tutors was an absolute pain in the backside. He would present us with a scenario and require us to discuss the rights and wrongs, the merits, of the situation, and include in our discussion what our Christian faith had to say on the matter. Debates were always heated as strongly held convictions and understandings of faith clashed. But, as we began to move towards consensus, proud of our ability to rationalise and carefully consider, he would throw in another piece of information about the scenario – something that subtly changed how we might view the situation and the people involved in it – and off we would go again. He repeated this, until our two hours was up. The lesson was; life is complex – to each and every complex situation there is an answer that is short, simple, and easily found, and it is invariably wrong.
Most of our nation is moving away from lockdown and into something that seems a little more normal. Most of the world is not yet at this point, and what the future may bring for us and for them is far from certain. There are moves to examine our Governments response to the coronavirus, and where a better path may have been taken. And, there are also the difficult decisions to be made as to how we move forward, building a better Britain for all, and as we also seek to pay the enormous bill that has been rung up in this time. Let us resist the temptation of easy answers, they rarely serve well. And, let us pray for political and business leaders as they work our new ways of being Britain, a better Britain for all.
My best wishes to you and yours