(Sunday is “Good Shepherd Sunday” and I am sending you two E and E posts in preparation. Here is the first. Another coming tomorrow.)

Believe it or not, this is one of the images you find when you google “Psalm 23.” The cultural sentimentality and cutesiness have clearly infiltrated this classic Jewish poem ascribed to David. The white skin of Jesus (historically very questionable), the hairdo, the tv evangelist smile…. And of course, the darling little lamb — nursery rhyme worthy, to be sure.  Yes, it’s pretty appalling but by no means the only example of cultural appropriation of this important part of the Bible. 

Yet Psalm 23 continues to offer its comforts and challenges. In Sunday’s Gospel, Jesus inserts himself into the Psalm, claiming the identity of the Good Shepherd. I expect our Jewish brothers and sisters are not exactly okay with this.

I was surprised to learn how many public figures have used this psalm in a song (Jayz, Bono, a jazz version by Duke Ellington with Mahalia Jackson — link below). References also are in numerous movies including “Titanic,” and one that I will excerpt for you tomorrow — a segment where the psalm is the basis for challenging God.

Every time I preach on this text, I discover something new and either exciting or challenging. Or both.

See you tomorrow. Meanwhile….. check the link, (5) Duke Ellington, Mahalia Jackson – Black, Brown and Beige, Pt. 6 (23rd Psalm) – YouTube.


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