1 The LORD is my shepherd, I lack nothing. 2 He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, 3 he refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake. 4 Even though I walk through the darkest valley, 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 your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.
For some people life is all about food. Food can be the delight or the bane of someone’s life.
Thirty-one per cent of Americans are obese, and 22 per cent of Britons. Strictly speaking, a person is obese if their body weight is more than 20 per cent what it should be, given height, gender, age and build. Obesity is dangerous because it increases the likelihood of strokes, diabetes, heart attacks, gout, cancer, gallstones and osteoarthritis. It is remarkable how many people in the Western world are obese (as opposed to merely overweight), given these known risks. This indicates that being obese is not just a matter of choice, for the way our society is structured promotes obesity in communities and individuals.
Our society is full of food and our economies are structured to provide the well-fed with more and the hungry with less. The psalmist, we can safely presume, knew nothing about eating disorders or modern politics but he did know about hunger, greed and injustice. His words about a banquet spread near the valley of death are relevant for our time. Those who suffer severely from eating disorders really do walk in the valley of death when the thought of a banquet causes a near-phobic anticipation of weight gain or humiliation.
Their souls may truly need to be restored by God’s touch, but all of us need to be led into right paths. Our lives need to resist the lack of self-control, greed or ingratitude, or when they lead to social injustice, exclusion and death. Psalm 23 presents us with a grateful vision of peace, plenty and deliverance.
God of justice, remove from us greed and ungraciousness and heal our diseases of plenty, so that we may live in your love that casts out fear, until we see your heavenly table spread before us. Amen