The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.
Sometimes our life will take us through the darkest valleys and the desolate mountain roads, but God is always with us, to navigate the way.
One of my first smart phones was an Android that came with Google maps and a pretty advanced GPS system for that time. The iPhone was still relatively new, and Apple was trouble replicating what Google mastered. I would come to discover that smartphones aren’t always that smart.
Before going to a client meeting in an area that was unfamiliar, I typed in their address into my phone and began to follow the directions. It was about a 13-mile trip from Santa Monica to downtown - mostly on one freeway. As the voice began to direct me, I was quick to realize she had no idea where she was going. As so I’d have to figure out on my own how to get to my meeting on time.
When we take the family on road trips, we opt for actual paper maps instead of relying on GPS. But on a trip to Tennessee, our rental car didn’t come with a map. We had to rely on my phone to navigate us back to the airport. “In 400 feet, turn right and proceed on route for the next 30 miles,” said that familiar calm and reassuring voice.
Given what had happened to me in L.A. you’d think I would have worried when we were directed away from the interstate highway that the rest of my family had taken. Instead, I just blindly followed her lead down a two-lane country road that zigged and zagged through the Tennessee Mountainside.
A left turn here. A right turn there. A merge onto another small road, and then “the left.” Yes, “the left” on a road that clearly screamed, “You’re lost.”
Having spent some time in rural Michigan, I wouldn’t call it a road per se. It was more like someone’s dirt driveway, or an old footpath to a secret fishing hole. It was a straight out of a horror movie kind of path…the kind that never bodes well for the people in the car.
Because I had blindly put my trust in this electronic device, I automatically made the left turn into my worst nightmare.
As the woods began to close in on us, the voice of the evil map lady no longer seemed calm or reassuring “Continue on route for one mile, then turn right.”
The only thing I wanted to continue to do was look for was a place to turn around. But the road was too narrow and the forest too thick to maneuver the rental car safely.
Best to keep going forward than to be stuck going nowhere.
The last thing I heard evil map woman say before we lost cell signal was, “In a quarter mile turn right.” At this point, crashing the car or missing our plane was the least of my worries.
I quietly recited the mantra, “The Lord is my Shepherd.”
The rest of my family would not be so lucky. Apparently there was a bad accident on the interstate that caused a huge traffic jam. They all missed their flights home.
Over 6,000 years before cellular technology, a poet wrote these words, “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.” I have often read the 23rd Psalm at funerals and at the bedside of the sick and dying because it speaks so well to the peace and joy that God provides. The psalmist paints a symbolic and tender picture of a God comes to us, and gives us comfort and hope in our time of need.
I think that poet were to write this today, he might describe God as our GPS who leads us to out of the way places so our souls can find peace and rest, and our thirst can be quenched without fear or worry. No matter how dark or scary the journey might seem, God leads the way home where a hot meal and comfortable bed awaits.
In John’s gospel, Jesus builds on this theme too. And I think it’s safe to say Jesus is our G.P.S. as in he is the Good People Shepherd; the one God sent to gather the sheep, to care for them and keep them safe.
Many years ago, Pope John Paul II said, “God has thought of us from eternity and has loved us as unique individuals. He has called every one of us by name, as the Good Shepherd calls His sheep by name.”
We are God’s sheep who looked after by a Good People Shepherd.
Thanks to my smart phone, I now know a few things about sheep. First, they’re smart and very perceptive. They know their shepherd by the sound of his voice, and even his scent. Second, they do not just blindly follow as the old maxim suggests. Sheep follow their shepherd willingly because he has spent his life living with them, looking out for them, building a relationship of trust with them.
The Good Shepherd knows which ones are cranky in the morning and which ones lag behind or wander off. He knows this because he’s chased after them; fallen in the mud with them; picked thorns from their hoofs; and chased off wolves. He has learned to love them in spite of all their noisy bleating and baaing.
We are God’s sheep, and we are called to follow, not blindly but willingly, because we know what God is willing to do for us no matter the cost. The Bible tells us that when we follow the Good Shepherd, we are less likely to wander of the righteous path where the mental wolves of the world want to steal and scatter us.
But we all wander off from time-to-time. And eventually each one of us will get lost. How blessed are we to know that we have God’s GPS, the Good People Shepherd, to get us back to where we ought to be.
Today there’s a standard feature that comes on all iPhone called, “Find my phone.” It’s there for the off chance that my phone should get lost or stolen. Humans also come equipped with similar technology. Being made in the image of God is like having a divine chip implanted in us so we are always on God’s radar. God always knows where we are, because God is always with us – whether we know it or not.
Jesus, our Good People Shepherd, comes and retrieves us when we are lost. When the world steals us away, Jesus finds us and guides us back to the right path. Sometimes our life will take us through the darkest valleys and the desolate mountain roads, but God is always with us, to navigate the way.
As we move through the Easter season, may we come to know Jesus not just as the Good Shepherd who knows his sheep, but also as the divine GPS who implanted our lives into his. Just as he has laid down for his life for us, so too will Jesus lift us back up again. Jesus not only brings us with him, but sits us down with us at God’s table so we can receive grace-upon-grace until our cup overflows. Through him, we are invited to “dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of our life.”
No matter how advanced technology will become, I don't think it will ever be able to do for you what God has already done for all through Jesus.