The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want. + Psalm 23:1
The abundance of sheep and shepherds that walked through Sunday’s readings inspired us to create the image collage above. The SALTy twist, however, is that almost all the photos were taken in Afghanistan, a country full of shepherds, mountain tops, and dark valleys full of violence and pain.
Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I fear no evil; for you are with me; your rod and your staff - they comfort me. + Psalm 23:4
How, as pastors and as people of faith, do we proclaim peace and comfort in the midst of ongoing war and violence? Afghan photographer, Massoud Hossaini, was just awarded the 2012 Pulitzer Prize for breaking-news photography. He is perhaps most famous for his photograph of a young girl, dressed in emerald green, standing in the midst of the shadow of death and injury, her blood-stained hands opened as if crying out to God and to all who will listen, “Why?”
In her face, we see the anguish of Psalm 22 and the need to hold God accountable to her promise of comfort and protection in Psalm 23.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD my whole life long. + Psalm 23:6
In the midst of pain and violence, around the world and in our own backyards, can the church be a place of shelter full of goodness and mercy?
That’s the word we're going to keep coming back to this week: shelter. God’s promise in this psalm is shelter, even and especially in the presence of the enemy. With this word in mind, we found many, many architects and designers who are building sustainable, eco-friendly shelters for our brothers and sisters in developing nations.
We’re particularily smitten with Mohammed Rezwan’s work in the low-lying areas of Bangladesh, one of the most densely populated areas in the world and extremely vulnerable to frequent flooding. When monsoon season comes, children cannot attend classes, families are displaced, and basic community needs become impossible to meet. So, working with local boat builders, Rezwan modified the area’s common, flat-bottom riverboats into floating schools, libraries, health clinics, community meeting spaces, and homes.
See for yourself (Noah's Arc meets Psalm 23 - God is good!):
God’s shelter comes to us in all shapes and sizes. It comes in the form of an embrace, a favorite hymn, a floating school, a casserole, a food pantry, a kind word, a cool cup of water.
This good news makes us want to lift voices and join all the people from Long Street, Cape Town, South Africa as they proclaim the deep truth embedded in Sunday's psalm: God's shelter, in all it's various shapes and sizes, finds us all in one way or another. It also makes us want to go to church next Sunday so we can give thanks to a God who is and continues to be our strength and our shelter.
Now, it's your turn. Tell us where God's shelter finds you? Or, where you've seen God's strength and comfort in the world?
The SALT Team
Thanks to Afghanistan Matters for capturing this wise shepherd travelling with his flock through a tank graveyard on the outskirts of Kabul; to James Gordon for this young shepherd in Hindu Kush; to Ewok Jorduman for the soft sheep; and to Kyle Steed for such beautiful caligraphy seen here and here.