A Guest Post by Rev. W.C. Hall Jr
The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. 2 He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.
3 He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness
for his name’s sake
4 Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil, for you are with me;
your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
5 You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD forever.
(Psalm 23:1-6, English Standard Version).
There is always plenty to do when a pastor moves from one church to another. Things have to be packed, movers have to be called, things have to be packed, oh, did I mention things have to be packed? I am also trying to take a little vacation time before the move, so its a lot. And, things have to be packed. Anyway, yesterday was my last Sunday in Huntington and my first Sunday at Perritte Memorial is July 5th. I didn’t want to take off the blog two full weeks so I asked some friends to contribute guest posts. So, you get to hear some other voices. As of now I will be posting Saturdays and Sundays.
The Rev. W.C. Hall Jr. has been a good friend for many years. W.C. was my pastor when I became United Methodist. He was still my pastor when I entered candidacy for ministry. When one is ordained an Elder two other elders can lay hands on the ordinand. W.C. was one of my two. I don’t remember where all he has served during his ministry but I do know he served Crystal Beach/Bolivar, Texas A&M Wesley Foundation, First UMC Canton, Asbury UMC, Pasadena (this is my home church), First UMC Dayton, First UMC Bellville and Holy Trinity UMC (Houston). W.C. is currently retired and living in Beaumont. He still loves to preach, when he has the opportunity.
I have long enjoyed the story of the young boy who as a Sunday School student was assigned the task of memorizing the 23rd Psalm. He had many gifts and graces, but memorizing was not one of them! He worked on it at home with his parents; wrote it one hundred times on his Big Chief tablet; listened intently as his grandmother read it for him; but nothing seemed to work. The Sunday morning finally arrived when he was to stand before his Sunday School class and recite Psalm 23. He was a nervous wreck. His teacher called on him and slowly he walked to the front of the class. His little knees were knocking and he was sweating in spite of the air conditioning. After what seemed like a long time,the little fellow cleared his throat and in a soft voice said, “The Lord is my shepherd . . . and that’s all I know.” There was nervous laughter from the other students as he returned to his seat, but you know on a very real sense, that’s all you need to know. The rest of Psalm 23 is commentary on that opening line, “The Lord is my shepherd…”
The image of sheep and shepherd is commonly found in both Old and New Testaments of the Bible. That is a problem for most of us who live in Texas where sheep have long ago been replaced by cattle. Most of us have never seen a sheep except in a petting zoo. If the psalmist had talked about cows and cowboys who take care of them, we would feel more at home. However, even today in Israel, you would need to look long and hard to find a cow, while sheep can be seen in abundance. The psalmist wrote and found inspiration in the familiar knowledge of sheep and shepherd.
In the Gospel of John, Jesus talked about himself as being “the good shepherd” (John 10:1 – 15). In the Gospel, Jesus says there are two kinds of shepherds. Some shepherds are hired to take care of the sheep that belong to others, while “the good shepherd” owned the sheep in their care. Jesus taught us that we are the sheep of his pasture, that we belong to him. We can trust him as the good shepherd knowing that He will take care of us. That care is extended through the good days (green pastures and still waters) and the bad days (valley of the shadow of death).
I share this with you because it is important to me that you know that I have been diagnosed with a terminal illness, myelodysplasia. It took me a week to learn how to pronounce that! It is a disease in which my body has stopped making blood and I am dependent on transfusions to live. In a very real sense, I am living on borrowed time. I am not pleased about that, but I am at peace with that. The Good Shepherd has walked with me for eighty years and has taught me to trust the words of Psalm 23, “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for Thou art with me.” It is wonderful that the Lord of life, is also the Lord of death. I have learned through all I have experienced to trust the One who has given me life. As I approach the last years of my life, it is wonderful to know the reality of which St. Paul spoke to the Romans, “ Whether I live or whether I die, I am the Lord’s (Romans 8:14). Thanks be to God!