Thursday, April 30, 2015

Divine tracker: a reflection on Psalm 23

On Sunday I attended church at Port Augusta Congress. It was the conclusion of Walking on Country and it was good to end in worship with indigenous sisters and borthers. At the start of the service, the congregation was informed that I would be preaching. This was news to me, but I had been part of a discussion of the Lectionary text on the 4 hour drive from the Gammon Ranges (Adnyamathanha country) to Port Augusta, so I had been doing some processing.

What I wanted to do was
– expose the cultural lens we bring to Scripture (New Zealand sheep stories)
– name what we had heard as part of Walking on Country (the pastoralists)
– make sure that indigenous cultures had the “last word” (the story of Great Uncle Alf and the link to God the tracker)

Here is (my recollection) of what I said.

Today our Bible reading is Psalm 23:1 – “The Lord is my shepherd”.

At the start of the week, I heard these words from Scripture as a New Zealander. I come from a country with 40 million sheep and 4 million people. The shepherd stands behind the sheep. The shepherd has dogs, that bark and chase the sheep. So “The Lord is my shepherd” has a certain meaning. A God who chases me, with dogs.

On Friday and Saturday, I heard these words differently. As I visited the Northern Flinders, I heard of the arrival from overseas of pastoralists. They were shepherds. They fenced off the land. They stopped indigenous people from walking across their land. They hoarded the water holes. At times they poisoned them, to ensure water went to their sheep, not the indigenous inhabitants of the land that had been taken. On Friday and Saturday, I became ashamed to consider how these acts of shepherding might be linked to the Lord as shepherd.

On Sunday, as I was driving with Aunty Denise down to be with you here this morning, she told a story. It was about her Great Uncle Alf. He left his country here in the Flinders Ranges and settled down at Penola. He was a very skilled tracker. So skilled, he was employed by the Police to find lost people. When children got lost, it was Great Uncle Alf who time and again found them. Great Uncle Alf was so skilled, so valued, that after he died, the Police honoured him with a ceremony.

Great Uncle Alf, the tracker of lost children, gives me another way to understand “The Lord is my shepherd.” At times I am lost. I am cut off from God and far from my community. So I need God to track me. To do what seems difficult, near impossible, and find me.

So as we now move to communion, I invite us to consider together what it means to be found by God. “The Lord is my shepherd”; God is my tracker.

Posted by steve at 07:01 PM


  1. Good morning Steve
    I was pleasantly surprised when I saw the reflection you have posted about God is my Tracker A reflection on Psalm 23
    Being able to use our own Australian Indigenous stories as metaphors for interpreting and reflecting on scripture.
    This approach allows us think about what scripture text is saying to us.
    And to listen , a really deep listening for what God is Saying to us.

    Also thiis approach gives us freedom
    It has given me the freedom to think outside the box – (of Western cultural understandings only of scripture)
    that there are other ways to read and interpret scripture
    I am now wanting to look at the rest of the Psalm and see what other interesting insights I may be able to see and hear an word for today

    Comment by Denise champion — May 1, 2015 @ 10:26 am

  2. Thanks Denise. I was struck by the generosity of your culture on Friday. Your invitation, that now that we’ve heard your stories, we need to share them, as part of preserving your culture.

    So with that in mind, it seemed that Great Uncle Alf is a story that needs to be told, and that in the telling, does indeed give freedom to listen deeply, to think outside the Western box.

    I look forward to any other insights you find in the Psalm. (I did wonder as I speak if the frosty Valley of Nepabeanna was an experience of the valley of the shadow).


    Comment by steve — May 1, 2015 @ 10:57 am

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