Psalm 23, again and still

Dear President Trump,

A few weeks ago we had a memorial service at church for one of our dear long-time members. This woman was 94 and I’m happy to say the sanctuary was brimming with people. Near the end of the service a recording came on that sounded for all the world like it was going to be a predictable, solemn rendition of the 23rd Psalm until it got to the end of the first line and we heard “She makes me lie down in green meadows….” The whole room breathed in at the same time on hearing “She”. Towards the end of the piece there was another collective breath and sigh when we heard the words “Glory be to our Mother, and Daughter, and to the Holy of Holies….” We were hearing Bobby McFerrin’s 1990 version of the psalm, which he had dedicated to his mother. I don’t know whether our friend had requested this piece, but we are all pretty sure she had quite a hand in how her service would go so she probably did.

Since then, the Soul Choir has been learning it, practicing it, dissecting it and this morning we were tripping over the line “And fills my heart with songs.” The inclination is to leave the “s” off of “songs” and just sing “song” – it sounds better and is what comes naturally. However, we realized the “s” is there for a reason, the plural is very intentional. The song itself speaks to the reality that there are multiple valid interpretations of songs (and psalms) such that no one has the corner on how things must be. It seems unlikely that our friend knew this piece would be taken up by her church and treasured the way it has been and it seems doubtful she was hoping this particular detail would come through, and yet I wouldn’t put any of this past her. Words and word choices were exceptionally important to her and she was always trying to bring her understanding of Jesus’s message of loving inclusiveness and both/and-ness to the fore. Whether she intentionally planted this seed, I am so grateful she did. We need to be reminded over and over that we are all in this together, that we are strengthened when we recognize that all of the issues we face are interconnected and that your well-being is my well-being and mine is yours.

May we be safe and secure even when we are pulled out of our comfort zones.
May we be happy to break out of our fixed notions.
May we see that our health and strength depends on community and connection.
May we all be at peace with ourselves and with one another, including you.

Sincerely,
Tracy Simpson

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