Fourth Sunday of Easter- Week of April 25, 2021
Begin your devotion time by praying this prayer: Loving God, you guide us to places full of your love and grace. Help us rest in the joy of your presence every day. Amen.
Reflect on the Way of Love together: This week’s practice on the Way of Love is REST. Talk about the ways you rest in your household. Is it easy or hard to rest? Why is rest important? How will you rest this week?
Adult and Small Child
Read: Psalm 23
Reflect: When I was in first grade, my grandmother gave me a copy of the New Testament with Psalms. It was slightly bigger than a deck of cards and came wrapped in a white cloth cover with flowers sewn to the spine. Every time my sister and I visited my grandparents, this little book came, too, because we knew we would spend time learning another half verse of the 23rd Psalm. This continued for a year or so until we could recite it from memory.
As an adult I asked my grandmother why she chose Psalm 23 for us to memorize and she offered two simple words as a response, “It’s comforting.” She memorized these six verses as a preschooler and then carried it with her throughout her life, praying it whenever she was lonely or scared. She prayed them as a five-year-old when her mother was hospitalized and prayed them as an 80-year-old we she was widowed. She prayed them countless times in between. For 87 years, she’s found comfort in Psalm 23. Through this psalm she knew that she was never alone because God, her shepherd, was with her all of the time.
Respond: Psalm 23 acknowledges that life is sometimes scary and lonely, but in these moments, we can trust that God is with us. God leads us out of danger to the right path like shepherds lead sheep from mountain cliffs to green pastures. Sometimes God even leads to green pastures so we can lie down and rest. As you prepare for quiet time or nap time today, read through each verse of this short psalm. Where might God lead you to rest? When has God led you out of danger? How does God comfort you?
- Allison Liles
Adult and Elementary
Read: Psalm 23
Reflect: The first time I remember hearing Psalm 23 was as a little girl while I was watching my favorite television show, “Little House on the Prairie.” In the first season, Pa and Ma Ingalls pray this psalm when their baby boy is dying. I was struck then, as I am struck now, by that tiny “my” in the first verse. The Lord is my shepherd. Do you realize what that means? God is so close! In the history of the Reign of God, even as God stretches God’s arms around all people in all times and all places, God is right here in relationship with me always, whether I am sad or scared or hungry or hopeful. I can bring all of who I am and what I experience to God, who will give me rest, restore my soul, lead me, comfort me, feed me, protect me and shelter me. Is this your experience in your relationship with God? How would you describe the ways God cares for you?'
Respond: Sometimes (OK, a lot of the time!) our relationship with God is mysterious and difficult to put into words. Drawing can help us rest in God’s presence beyond language. Have paper and colored pencils, markers, crayons, or paint handy. Ask someone to read this psalm aloud to you three times, very slowly, with some silence between each reading. As you listen, imagine this scene unfolding before you and draw or paint what you see. At the end, you may want to wonder: What did you notice about this practice? About this psalm? About your relationship with God? When you are finished, say a prayer and offer your artwork as thanksgiving for God’s loving care.
- Kelly Ryan
Adult and Youth
Read: Psalm 23
Reflect: Psalm 23 is typically a psalm that people read when they are looking for comfort; it is a place to go to take rest in the Lord. The imagery in this psalm is amazing. The green pastures, the still waters, a dark valley but the peace that comes knowing that the Lord is with you. Then at verse five, the scene flips a little – you’re now at a party…with your enemies. But still the Lord is with you, and you know that the Lord will be with you forever.
Think back to an uncomfortable moment in your life – a time when you felt pretty awkward or out of place. Now think about this psalm and how you can relate it to that moment. Thinking of it then wouldn’t have changed the moment, but it may have brought you some peace knowing that the Lord is with you always, even in your embarrassing moments.
Our Way of Love practice this week is rest. When we rest, we receive the gift of God’s grace, peace and restoration.
Respond: Every morning this week when you wake up, say this prayer (or create your own!) and take some time to center yourself for the day ahead. If you have a hard day, use this prayer or your own prayer to remember that the Lord is always with you.
Start off now by praying it together: Comforting Lord, You are with me when I relax in the green pasture, or on my couch, you restore my soul and lead me down the right path. Even when I feel overwhelmed or afraid You are with me to calm me and comfort me. Surely your goodness and mercy will follow me throughout the day. Amen.
- Nicole McCarthy
Adult and Adults
Read: Psalm 23
Reflect: Sometimes it is difficult to really believe and accept the gift of this familiar, sweet psalm. In the busyness of life, we might find ourselves thinking more along the lines of: “I don’t have time to lie down in green pastures! I can’t stop for a banquet table; I need the drive through.” The 23rd Psalm radiates the peacefulness of a steady pace, with plenty of rest and nourishment for the journey, but we have to be able to pause if we want to receive this gift that God is offering us. To hear the shepherd’s voice, to follow in the way of love that God has promised is the way of abundant life, we need to rest and receive. The gift of Easter is that we do not earn it or hustle for it. There is no finish line where we achieve the prize of resurrection life. The nourishment, protection, leadership, and most of all, gracious presence of our shepherd is pure gift. Can we rest and receive the gift of God’s presence in the resurrected Jesus today.
Respond: Take a few deeper than normal breaths. If you are able and comfortable, place one hand over your heart and one hand on your belly, noticing your breath in your body. As you breathe, take a moment of rest, being present to yourself and to the Holy Spirit in this moment.
- Claire Brown