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     Sunday sermons | Passionate worship

    This sermon was preached by Pastor Keith Cardwell at Swift Presbyterian Church.

    March 4, 2018 | Third Sunday of Lent

    He Restores My Soul
    • Psalm 23:2–3 • Isaiah 49:8–10

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     D O YOU REMEMBER the episode of “I Love Lucy” when Lucy and Ethel got the job at the chocolate factory wrapping candy. Let’s watch a few minutes of that.

    The candy came down the conveyor belt slowly. It was easy. Then the belt moved faster and faster and they got behind and couldn’t keep up. They start to stuff the candy in their mouths, then their shirts, then their baking hats because they’ve been warned if any candy gets by them, they will be fired.

    Often in our world, our lives are like a conveyor belt, set at a too-fast speed:

    ■ Children in sports at two different fields at the same time.

    ■ Demanding jobs with crazy hours or long commutes.

    ■ Doctor’s appointments that mean time spent driving and waiting.

    ■ Family care — a parent or child.

    ■ Hurry here, rush there.

    ■ Grocery shopping. Sometimes we wish that, like Jesus, we, too, could conjure a feast out of a few fish and a fistful of bread.

     † † † 

    PSALM 23 IS a song of trust. There are other songs of trust in the psalms. They have two things in common: a perceived calamity of some kind and trust that the calamity or disaster shall pass and all will be well. Often it is the very crisis that instigates the psalmist to cry out in trust as opposed to crying out in despondency or dejection.

    The psalm begins with a faithful and hopeful claim, “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.” “Want” is the same verb found in Nehemiah 9:21, “Forty years you sustained them in the wilderness so that they lacked nothing.”

    God took care of the people then as they wandered through the desert.

    Life isn’t always easy. Those forty years might have seen a lot of grumbling and complaining, but they also saw manna fall from heaven. They saw the birth of a new generation. Eventually they arrived at the Promised Land.

    God cared for the wandering people — and they lacked nothing. This God will lead you to the Promised Land, providing you green pastures (food), still waters (drink), and a straight path (protection).

     † † † 

    WHAT WE LACK is time. Overbooked. Running late. Always on the go. The shepherd “makes me lie down in green pastures.” We can stop running. He leads me besides to still waters.” We can rest. The Hebrew means “resting place.” The sense of rest that comes from utter trust.

    Beside the still waters the shepherd “restores my soul.” The root word for restore means to turn, even to repent. The sentence could read, “he turns my soul.” Here God is returning our soul to him. This is more than a spiritual statement. It addresses our physical nature, all of who we are. Restore my body, mind, spirit.

    As one commentator put it, “he restores my soul” means “he gives me back my life.” Some of you are here today to have your souls restored — to get your lives back. This Psalm invites us to savor and enjoy God’s gifts: food for body and soul, and a good path in life.

     † † † 

    I GET CAUGHT UP in whatever is going on so that there’s never a moment to restore my soul among lush fields of wildflowers and babbling brooks. Perhaps this is why, despite its beauty, the Psalmist says God makes me to lie down in green pastures. Maybe it is simply not my natural state, our natural state, to be still, so we must be made to stop. We have our heads down searching for the next blade of grass or trudging to the next appointment — focused only on the moment and all that moment expects or demands.

    Maybe we just can’t find the green pastures; maybe we just can’t find rest without the shepherd’s staff beside us, nudging us toward still waters and lush meadows. So we are, at various times in our lives, made to be still, forced by circumstances beyond our control to stop because we simply can go no farther.

    The skilled shepherd, our Lord, makes us lie down, leads us to a resting place and restores us — nurtures us and gives us back our lives.

    Keith Cardwell  

    Psalm 23:2–3
    Holy Bible, New International Version

    2     He makes me lie down in green pastures,
    he leads me beside quiet waters,

    3     he refreshes my soul.
    He guides me along the right paths
        for his name’s sake.


    Isaiah 49:8–10
    New International Version

    Restoration of Israel
    8 This is what the LORD says:

    “In the time of my favor I will answer you,
        and in the day of salvation I will help you;
    I will keep you and will make you
        to be a covenant for the people,
    to restore the land
        and to reassign its desolate inheritances,

    9 to say to the captives, ‘Come out,’
        and to those in darkness, ‘Be free!’

    “They will feed beside the roads
        and find pasture on every barren hill.

    10 They will neither hunger nor thirst,
        nor will the desert heat or the sun beat down on them.
    He who has compassion on them will guide them
        and lead them beside springs of water.

    — This is the Word of the LORD.            

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