OK, show of hands…who doesn’t love the 23rd Psalm?
Yeah, that’s right, nobody doesn’t love it. And that’s because it has:
- Bucolic imagery
- Poetic language
- A kick-butt challenge
Whoah, a kick-butt challenge?!?! Why yes it does. Right after we get all that “comforting” language about being forced to rest and practice self-care even if it means the always “gentle” rod and staff (0uch) we are presented with a picture of a five-star meal prepared just for us…and our enemies!
So maybe it doesn’t say that the enemies are eating the feast, but do you really think that God would welcome us to a table where we get to flaunt our pleasure in front of our enemies as if a bit of gloating and schadenfreude would be good for our souls? No, that wouldn’t be in keeping with the God of extravagant welcome and outrageous hospitality whom we see everywhere else in scripture. Indeed, if we were to hoard the bounty for ourselves, Goodness and Mercy following us all the days of our lives would surely feel like stalking wouldn’t it?
I think that the place setting at the table set before us in the presence of our enemies consists of long spoons and long forks. It forces us to choose between heaven and hell (as in the classic allegory). We can look at the delectable food and starve because we are unable to feed ourselves and unwilling to feed our enemies. Or we can share the bounty of the green pastures and still waters (which we had to be forced to find in the first place) because we realize that we got exactly what we didn’t deserve. Sure, just because we use our long spoons to offer food to the enemy does not assure that the enemy will offer food in return on his or her long spoon, but if there is to be any hope, it surely rests in offering nourishment not withholding it.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting that it is easy, nor is it a surefire plan. In the chat during the live broadcast this week, we had a painful disclosure from a mother of a gay man. She was considering whether to accept an invitation to break bread with an interfaith group which had denied a voice to another mother whose gay son who had taken his own life. The hope had been to learn from the struggle of the son and the pain of the mother, to offer hope in the face of despair. But the Muslim leaders had vetoed the idea simply because of the alleged offense of homosexuality. While this points to the value of working harder to find more generous partners in interfaith dialogue (something Wild Goose Festival Darkwood Brew guest Ani Zonneveld encouraged us to do), it also reminds us that we don’t always get to choose who is invited to dinner and sometimes we have the choice whether or not to break bread with the enemy.
I can’t say that I know what I would do in this situation. Going to the gathering where some of those gathered would disparage the very worth of people I love could clearly send a hurtful message to those very people whom I want to stand up for. On the other hand, if I am at the table and have a long spoon on which I can offer a loving gift even to such people, perhaps the challenge of Psalm 23 pushes me to do just that. Regardless of the choices you and I make, we can rest assured that God has set a great meal on the table before us.