“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.” (Psalm 23:6)
This verse from the twenty-third Psalm heralds the arrival of Shepherding Sunday. It’s celebrated each year on the fourth Sunday of Easter. It’s the day when we read (or sing) everybody’s favourite Davidic Psalm and think about all things sheep and shepherding.
The persistence of this tradition strikes me as remarkable. Most of us don’t have sheep living within a hundred miles of us! We did not grow up on farms, caring for sheep, and we don’t know any shepherds. Even so, this ancient song that eulogises over the relationship between the shepherd and his flock remains the best-known of all the one hundred and fifty Psalms and, in my experience, is the most requested song at every funeral!
I assume that the popularity of Psalm at funerals is largely due to the way verse four resonates with us: “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil …” (Psalms 23:4) I like that verse, but it’s the first half of verse six that resonates with me the most: “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life” (Psalms 23:6)
The word translated here as ‘follow’ (‘radaph’) is a verb that is quite common in the Hebrew Bible, turning up 144 times. It is normally translated as ‘pursue’ and generally refers to military pursuits where troops are tracking down their enemies. In the context of the shepherd and his sheep, some have suggested that ‘Goodness’ and ‘Mercy’ must therefore be the sheepdogs, chasing up the flock up from behind while the shepherd leads from the front. The only problem with this is that, as far as we know, there were no sheepdogs in use in the time of King David.
My suggestion is that see in the twenty-third Psalm a combination of metaphors, rather than try to syncretise them. While the Good Shepherd is walking ahead of us, keeping away predators, Goodness and Mercy are tracking us down from behind, ready to pounce on us when we least expect it. Is this not our experience?
Time and time again I’ve found that whenever things get really dark – when I indeed find myself walking through that valley of the shadow of death – that all of a sudden, I get jumped by Goodness and Mercy! I am alone, destitute, and losing hope, and then someone reaches out, lifts me up, shows me love, and fills me with joy!
I try to live my life this way – keeping my eyes fixed on the Good Shepherd, leading the way ahead of me, but glancing back every now and then, knowing that those two beneficent hounds could well jump me at any moment!
“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.”
Our Bush Bash and Eucharist
t was a great weekend at Binacrombi, and we now have a new resident there – Hope, the deer (see photo below). I’m not sure who named him ‘Hope’ but I take it as a good sign. Binacrombi is full of hope.😊
The Bush Bash was rather special as I had one enthusiastic young guest who was very keen to box but is autistic. His parents were (understandably) concerned about hits to the head. As you’ll see from the video below, the bout went very well, and everyone had a great time. It was a few years ago now, but we did once host a weekend camp for the ‘Fighting for Autism’ group at Binacrombi. They are a fantastic bunch. We had a great weekend. We must do it again soon!😊
Sunday’s Eucharist was also very special. The video includes the jokes told by both Doug and myself, and I’ve also included the embarrassing section where I exhibit how much I’ve forgotten of Roman history. Doug told a joke about the relationship between Julius Caesar and Cleopatra, and I responded by suggesting that it was Mark Anthony who had the relationship with Cleopatra and not Caesar. Thank you to David Baldwin who graciously emailed me with an appropriate reprimand, reminding me that both men had a relationship with the great Egyptian monarch.
Last Sunday was also the festival of Saint George (of dragon-slaying fame) and I offered a few facts about the life of George that I hope are historically accurate. I still remember my time at St George’s Cathedral in Jerusalem in 2004, where George is celebrated as one of the great Palestinian saints. Details as to how he slew the dragon are included in the video.
This Sunday, as mentioned, is Shepherding Sunday, so I’ve asked our Islamic brother, Tom, to join us a week early, along with David Baldwin. I’m keen to hear how the Islamic community responds to the twenty-third Psalm. Rev. Stephen Sizer has also graciously agreed to bring his video commentary (one the Acts of the Apostles) forward one week. Join us at midday via www.thesundayeucharist.com or via your favourite social media platform: Facebook , YouTube, Twitter or LinkedIn. or Telegram.
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- Saturday, April 29th – Down the Rabbit Hole Ball @The Epping Club
- Sunday, April 30th – Our Eucharist from midday via @thesundayeucharist.com or via Facebook , YouTube, Twitter or LinkedIn. or Telegram
- Tuesday, May 2nd – Boxing from 6.30 pm @The Fight Lab
- Thursday, May 4th – Boxing from 6.30 pm @The Fight Lab
- Friday, May 5th to Sunday, May 7th @Binacrombi for all who can join me.
I am keen to have a good group join me at Binacrombi next weekend but I must note that I am also trying to get to the funeral of my old friend, Father Bob Maguire. The funeral has been scheduled for Friday, May 5th, in Melbourne.
I’m not quite sure how I’m going to get to Melbourne for the funeral during the day and bet back to Binacrombi by Friday evening, but I’m hoping it’s doable. Make contact if you’re keen for the weekend experience. I’ll do my best to make it work.
Time for me to put in more time on my speech for the – Down the Rabbit Hole Ball tomorrow night. I believe the event has sold out, which is very exciting, meaning that there will be around 150 of us in attendance. Expect plenty of pics next week.
May the Lord bless and strengthen you for the work to which you have been called.
About Father Dave Smith
Preacher, Pugilist, Activist, Father of four
2 thoughts on “Goodness and Mercy”
one way I’ve been “jumped” by goodness and mercy is just yesterday I went into a health food store that offered fresh nonsugary smoothies… I thought the counter worker was annoyed with me because I was really tired at that particular moment — and for sure looked it — and I was trying to figure out the lesser-cost option because everything looked delicious and expensive.
He said “I know it’s hard to be in that position” so today don’t worry about it, your order’s on me.
I thanked him and let him know I plan to be a repeat customer.
God’s mercies renew every morning indeed… it’s incredible!
At those prices, I’d definitely be a repeat customer! 😉
Indeed, you’ve been jumped by Goodness and Mercy! 🙂