The assigned psalm for this week is by far the most familiar one in the Bible, namely the 23rd. It is recited at plenty of weddings, at some baptisms, at most funerals. It has been turned into traditional hymns, and into communion songs, and songs for guitar. For decades, maybe centuries, children were expected to memorize it just as surely as they were expected to memorize the Lord’s Prayer. Even Mark Twain’s mischievous Tom Sawyer (if I remember correctly) had to learn the 23rd.

All of which, to my contrarian impulses, has a tendency to make me want to denigrate it. Trite. Clichéd. Boring. Cotton candy.

And yes, it certainly can be said that the 23rd is the “comfort food” of the psalms. It promises everything to us, but (at least on its surface) asks nothing from us. It isn’t like the 24th Psalm, which says that in order to ascend the hill of the Lord and stand in His holy place one must have “clean hands and a pure heart.” Instead, this one just proclaims, indeed makes a firm assumption, that the speaker will have an overflowing cup while dwelling in the Lord’s house forever.

Not only is this attitude an apparent rejection of “works righteousness” (salvation “earned” through our own good works), but it doesn’t even seem to require that we be justified by our faith. We’re just protected, comforted, fed, housed, and redeemed, all almost as an entitlement.

Some might call this “cheap grace.”than meets the eye. Maybe we’re missing an unstated other half of the equation. Like a silent pronoun in a sentence — for example, in the sentence “go do it!,” the “you” is implied but not stated — what seems to be happening here is that the confidence in God’s protection is itself the statement of faith. If we are “justified by faith,” this psalm is the very expression of that faith. This is the substance of things hoped for: the protection, the comfort, the feeding, the redemption…..

[The full reflection is at this link.]