A friend of mine who was studying to be a minister said that once he had asked an old preacher what his advice was for a new person like him. According to my friend’s story, the old preacher hesitated a bit until finally saying, “At some point, you will hit a point in which you will not be able to do or say anything for someone to help or comfort them, no matter how much you try. And this is when you pray Psalm 23 with them.”
And so, for now, I would like to pray Psalm 23 with you.
And, interspersed with the lines of Psalm 23, I would like to share with you some of Henry Ossawa Tanner’s paintings of the Good Shepherd. For Henry Ossawa Tanner — who was a black man who lived in America through arguably some of America’s greatest racial tensions, including the Civil War and the Reconstruction that followed — found the imagery of the Good Shepherd a great comfort. And he painted this scene multiple times too, his images moody, mysterious, evocative — and, yes, hopeful.
It was through his religious art that he hoped to put his gentle touch on the world. As he himself said, “My effort has been to not only put the Biblical incident in the original setting … but at the same time give the human touch ‘which makes the whole world kin’ and which ever remains the same.”
And so, without any ado…