Updated: Apr 7
“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…”:
We may know those words from having recited or chanted the Psalms from the old Prayer Book in our formative years, or having sung the Christian hymn based on them.
I often wonder what younger readers, or those hearing those words for the first time, make of the phrase “I shall not want”. It is intended to be a strong affirmation of trust in the provision and care of the God who Shepherds us, and who leaves us confident that we shall be in need of nothing (i.e. I shall not want). To the modern ear, I fear that may not be quite so clear!
But it was the following phrase which I found ringing in my ears as I listened to a recent news item telling me that -
“Everyone will live within 15 minutes’ walk of a green space or water,
under new government plans to restore nature…”
As a government-led plan some were quick to question the likelihood of such a grand ideal ever being realised. But rather than dismiss the ideal, let’s ponder it.
The desire behind it is two-fold.
It is about conserving and reinstating green and watery habitats which will potentially restore the goodness and well-being of nature itself –trees and plants, birds and animals, the flourishing of all things wild!
But it is also about the impact which the green and blue wonders of the natural world can have upon the goodness and well-being of human living. An abundance of research supports the belief that being close to, and immersing oneself in, the natural world has a positive impact upon physical and mental well-being. What is often missing from those reports is any reference to spiritual well-being.
It is rather wonderful that thousands of years ago, without any government reports, or medical research, the writer of Psalm 23 knew that green spaces /pastures and quiet waters restored and refreshed.
These weeks of March, within the life of the Christian Church, are this year also the season of Lent – a season for journeying towards Easter. Many think of Lent as a time to ‘give something up’ or commit to something often rather dry and wearisome. What is far better is to think of it as being a season for seeking out those things which will in some sense restore and refresh our souls and spirits.
Of course, as a leader of a Christian Church, I would want to commend the practice of prayer and reflection on scripture as valuable ways of immersing ourselves in things which are spiritually life-giving and thirst-quenching. But walking green pastures and breathing in riverside vistas are for many of us also a springboard to a deeper sense of who we are, and a deep awareness of something and someone beyond us who cares for all creation and who cares for our every breath – who restores bodies, minds and spirits.
May we this March / Lent find places and spaces within us, and around us, for
re-connection, renewal and refreshment. (See the March calendar for opportunities provided by St Oswald’s) - Carolyn (Priest in Charge)