Following the Shepherd #4 in Series
Everywhere we look we can see the presence of God, if we look through the eyes of faith. Through the Holy Spirit, God reminds us of the unconditional love God has for us. Through the Holy Spirit we feel the presence of Jesus, our Savior, walking with us every day; comforting us in the midst of every tragedy and rejoicing in every celebration like High School Graduation.
Through the power of Pentecost and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, God IS with us, we are not alone. With the Psalmist in Psalm 8 we can say “O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is Your name in all the earth.” With the Psalmist we can celebrate God’s continual presence in our lives.
In an old Peanuts cartoon, Lucy is down in the dumps & says to Linus, “My life is a drag. I’ve never been so low in all my life.”
Linus, the deep thinker and theologian of the comic strip tries to cheer her up by saying “When you’re in a mood like this you should think of the things you have to be thankful for, count your blessings.”
Lucy sarcastically replies, “That’s a good one, What do I have to be thankful for?”
“Well for one thing,” Linus says, “you have a brother who loves you!”
Lucy responds, “Sometimes, you say the right things.” (1)
Sometimes we just need to hear the right thing don’t we? A kind word. An encouraging word. A bit of praise for a job well done or difficult task accomplished. I think the 23rd Psalm is one of the passages that says “the right thing.” And sometimes just when we need it.
Let’s look at it again Psalms 23:1-6 (KJV)
 The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.
 He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.
 He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
 Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.
 Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.
 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever.
The verse I want to focus on today is verse 5: “Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.”
This is one of those days when there is so much going on and so much I could possibly say about each of the various aspects of the day that I could probably preach three sermons. I promise I won’t. Today, we’re not only looking at verse 5, but today is Pentecost Sunday, the Sunday we celebrate the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on all believers. It’s one of those watershed moments in the life of the church.
Today is also Aldersgate Day, which some would say is John Wesley’s spiritual awakening and the real birth of Methodism. But it’s also Senior Celebration Sunday when we celebrate the milestone of High School Graduation with our Seniors.
So how does that all tie together. Let’s take a look.
I. YOU PREPARE A TABLE:
A. The first thing this verse teaches us is that God prepares a table before us. To me that means God will always provide. It’s a reminder of all that we’ve said before; that God promises to be with us no matter. We don’t have to face the world alone. And it also tells us that God will provide for all of our needs if we simply trust God to do it. We may not live high on the hog eating bone in Rib Eye, smoked salmon and Ossobuco; we might only be able to afford ramen and grilled cheese but God will provide and take care of us.
B. A little girl was being punished for some minor infraction of the rules. So, she had to eat her dinner alone at a little table in the corner of the dining room. The rest of the family wasn’t paying any attention to her until they heard her praying out loud over her food. “I thank Thee, Lord, for preparing a table before me in the presence of mine enemies.” (2)
The second part of this section, I think, is fascinating. In Middle Eastern hospitality, the custom is that the host protect the guest at all costs. Think of nomadic tribes and warring factions. Sharing food and drink wasn’t taken lightly, it was a covenant of friendship and mutual protection.
That’s what God offers us. But most of us don’t have the kind of enemies we would normally think of like those nomadic tribes. But we do have enemies that affect how we live our lives. And in the face of those enemies God continues to feed us and lead us. Let me give you a couple of examples of the kinds of enemies I’m talking about..
Hans Christian Andersen, suffered from dyslexia, yet despite that his stories have thrilled millions of children. He’s still one of my favorites.
Winston Churchill and James Earl Jones, both noted for their voices and their oratory skills, had a problem with stuttering. Churchhill wrote his speeches very carefully, leaving out words that ended in s and then he rehearsed them several times. Thomas Edison, the great inventor, was thought to be stupid by his teacher and he left school at age eight. Woodrow Wilson couldn’t read well until he was eleven. Six Olympic athletes from America had to overcome asthma.
God does prepare a table before us in the presence of these kinds of enemies. God helps us conquer them, which allows us to say with the apostle Paul, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” (3) God sets a pretty good table if we’ll just trust God and take a seat.
II. YOU ANOINT MY HEAD:
A. The second portion of this verse says, “thou anointest my head with oil.” It was the custom of the host at banquet to anoint the guest or guests of honor with oil. It was perfumed oil which added to the fragrance of the room. It refreshed the weary traveler from the ravages of the sun.
And in a sense, that’s exactly what God did at Pentecost. The spirit of the early church was battered and nearly broken by the crucifixion. The resurrection got it back on its feet but it was still sort of punch drunk and gun shy. It took the power and the presence of the Holy Spirit filling the disciples and followers with God’s presence and God’s power before the early church could begin to blossom and grow.
B. And we all need that power to survive and to enjoy the table prepared for us. About two weeks ago I was contacted by someone I was stationed with in Japan. All the pictures and emails we shared made m remember one particular incident in Japan when I was in the Coast Guard. The teletype was the early answer to email and the fax machine. We had two of them on base. The radiomen started doing their normal Preventive Maintenance which included dismantling one of the teletypes for a thorough cleaning of all the parts.
A couple of us were off duty and visiting with the radioman who was cleaning this particular teletype. We watched him take it apart and put it all back together. It wouldn’t work. It wouldn’t come on. So, he took it all apart and put it back together again. It still didn’t run. He took it all apart a third time and when he was just about finished we couldn’t contain ourselves anymore. We busted out laughing and pointed out that that he’d forgotten one of the main things. He forgot to plug it in. No wonder it didn’t work.
That’s why God pours out the Holy Spirit into our lives because without the Holy Spirit, we couldn’t be the Christians we’re called and commissioned to be. The Holy Spirit is God’s power poured out into our lives. The Holy Spirit helps us stay plugged in. The outpouring of God’s Holy Spirit in our lives is the Good Shepherd anointing our heads with oil.
III. MY CUP OVERFLOWS:
And when we are plugged into God, then we discover the overwhelming abundance of blessings God has in store for us. And our cup truly does overflow with love and grace and mercy. With joy and purpose. We’re blessed beyond belief.
Sometime back in, Bill Keane’s Family Circus comic strip, Billy, the little boy sneezes and says, “Ah-Choo!” and his mother says, “God bless you!”
He says it again and again she says, “God bless you.”
He does it again and again, getting louder each time, and each time his mother says, “God bless you.” After the fifth time though, his mother says, “You’re pushing it.”
And Billy replies, “I was just tryin’ to be really blest.” (4)
Most of us know that we’ve already been blessed beyond belief. Not necessarily in physical things but we’ve been blessed. We live in the freest and wealthiest country in the world. We don’t really need any more blessings, our cups are already overflowing. What we need is to be grateful for the blessings we’ve received. And as, God’s children, we need to be ready to share some of our blessings with others.
Early on in my ministry I remember somebody saying “If your cup of blessing is overflowing, make sure you slosh it on somebody else.” In other words, we are blessed to be a blessing. Be as generous with your blessings as God is with you. We are blessed to be a blessing.
A certain little boy was sulking after being punished by his father. Shortly afterward he knelt by his bed to say his prayers which ended with the usual blessings for all the family but one. Then he turned to his father and said, “I suppose you noticed you weren’t in it.” (5)
The great thing about our relationship with the Good Shepherd is we don’t have to worry about it. No matter what, we’re always in the blessings.
Remember this, especially you graduating seniors, you leave today With Overflowing Cups. God DOES prepare a table before you. God is going before you and preparing the way, no matter what direction you choose. God will always provide and protect you from any enemies, if you trust God.
God will anoint you through the Holy Spirit so you can stay plugged into the power of God and be refreshed when life gets tough.
Because of your faith, you will, and have already received, blessing upon blessing. But those blessings are meant to be shared. And the more you share those blessings, the more you give away, the more blessed you’ll become. If you truly want to live a life that honors God, then follow Bishop Reuben Job’s 3 Simple Rules.
Do no harm. Do good. Stay in love with God,
If you live these to the best of your ability, “Your cup WILL overflow.” And like the Psalmist you’ll be able to say: “O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is Your name in all the earth.”
This is the Word of the Lord for this day.
1. The Pastor’s Story File (Saratoga Press, P.O. Box 8, Platteville, CO, 80651; 970-785-2990), November 1999
3. Preaching, Vol. 11, No. 3+
4. Preaching Vol. 13, #2+
5. Parables, Etc. (Saratoga Press, P.O. Box 8, Platteville, CO, 80651; 970-785-2990), January 1989