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Psalm 23
The Lord is my Shepherd
God leads me beside still waters

Psalm 23 

Cuthbert cross

He leads me beside still waters 

Read : Psalm 23, Revelation 22: 1-17 

For a few moments let's take time out - come with me to a different place and a different time … close your eyes if you wish and imagine . . .  

Sitting on a sandy beach,
bare legs and bare arms feeling the warmth of the summer sun,
the sand warm to the touch,
feeling the merest hint of a breeze.
hardly a sound to interrupt your thoughts,
the salty smell of the river Forth,
the blue water,
the cloudless sky,
the sunlight reflecting off the water,
diamond sparkles to dazzle the eyes,
the merest hint of a wave, lapping the shore.  

. . . serene, calm, still and that day, that moment is one of my most treasured memories. 

Sitting on the beach at Earlsferry as a young teenager, eagerly participating in the Scripture Union Seaside Mission, hungry and thirsty for stories of Jesus, singing songs the words of which stay with after nearly forty years:  

"By blue Galilee, Jesus walked of old, by blue Galilee wondrous things he told"  

Was the Firth of Forth, flowing out to the North Sea, anything like the sea of Galilee to look at?  

When Jesus walked along its shores, or along the shores of the river Jordan , was he mesmerised by the sparkles on the water, dazzled by the light, soothed by the quiet sounds of the still waters?  


Throughout the gospels, the whole of the Bible, indeed, water plays such an important role. In desert lands with arid mountain landscapes it is not hard to imagine the significance of a flowing stream or river that would provide water for the animals to drink, water for people to drink and cook with and wash in.  

A tiny spring, bubbling to the surface high up in the hills would be a Godsend, literally to those who passed by, quenching thirst and wetting parched lips with its crystal clear, cold waters.  

From tiny spring to a larger stream the waters flow before feeding down into a larger river. A wide river, used to water crops and irrigate fields as it continued its journey down towards sea or Lake. Always flowing and moving but so often seeming still and tranquil in contrast to a swollen river, flowing in spate which brought danger, threatening to sweep animals, people, homes, shelters away. 

It is of little wonder that the psalmist speaks of still waters,
to be led beside still waters brings to mind safety,
to bend low over the water and drink without fear,
to walk into the gently flowing waters to be cooled down,
to sit quietly beside the still waters in quiet contemplation,
to be still oneself.  

The waters of a stream or river are still but not stagnant - as long as there is sufficient water flowing then there is, within its depths, life and movement.  

Drifting slowly along the river brings life and sustains life: - fish for catching, water fowl for eating - water for drinking, cleansing wounds, for healing.  

The reading from Revelation talks about the river that flows through the streets of the heavenly city, crystal clear, and in its banks grow the trees which bear the leaves for the healing of the nations - again, precious water that sustains life. 

And in another river, a very different river, Jesus was baptised. The River Jordan was where John the Baptist carried out his ministry and where, as we know, Jesus came to be baptized.  

So let us consider for a moment our own baptism -  

'By water and the Holy Spirit,
God claims us as his own,
washes us from sin,
and sets us free from the power of death.' 

The cleansing power of water and the Holy Spirit to wash us free from sin and death, first encountered at our Baptism is still at work in our lives today. 

And listen, too, to the words that Christ himself spoke to a foreign woman who came to a well to draw water and who came away with so much more. . . 

Jesus said ". . .those who drink of the water that I give them will never be thirsty." The water of life, knowledge that will never dry up, that will sustain us for all eternity, living waters. 

The saying goes that still waters run deep. 

We read of water in the Scriptures and we learn much. 

Still waters run deep, sustaining life and healing our wounds, cleansing us from sin through Holy Baptism. 

May we all, as the Psalmist before us, walk in the company of the Good Shepherd, beside calm still waters that soothe our troubled hearts, that inspire us, refresh us and will that sustain us our whole lives through.  

Still waters, living waters, healing rivers - Lead us beside them Lord, we pray. 

Rev Suzie Stark, 2013


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