A shepherd’s staff has a crook for drawing the sheep away from danger, and a blunt end for prodding them toward places they would rather not go. This week’s texts embrace the tension between the two in the shepherd’s role.
It feels to me like evil is hovering over the prison in the form of a government ready to kill a woman who prayed with me when my father was dying of cancer. There isn't a thing I can do about it except pray this psalm and damn if we can't get it right.
Several years ago, a neighbor of mine gave me a birdhouse. It was the perfect size and structure for bluebirds to build their nests inside. I put it on a wood post in the yard, which turned out to be a bad idea. Neighborhood cats dug their claws into the wood and climbed up to kill the newborn chicks. The nest became a grave.
I had all the qualifications: the prerogatives of the firstborn, the stature of a man of authority, a Goliath, an aquiline nose, an Octavian head, a heart flaming with anger, Saul’s good looks and regal gait. I had splendor and grace. I prayed loudly, devoutly. I came from good roots and was born in the right place. Who could be holier from Bethlehem?
How could my kid brother be anointed, the one with rosacea, looks like carpenter’s shavings, the smell of sheep dung on his hands, who roamed the fields looking for a lost lamb. He wasn’t even invited to the sacrificial banquet.
That old stickler Samuel knew I should be king. I coveted the horn that was strapped over his shoulders leaning toward me. Why wasn’t that good enough for God? My name alone should have given me the edge in the kingdom.