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Monday, July 28, 2014

Perverse and foolish oft I strayed,
but yet in love he sought me,
and on his shoulder gently laid,
and home, rejoicing, brought me.

In death’s dark vale I fear no ill
with thee, dear Lord, beside me;
thy rod and staff my comfort still,
thy cross before to guide me.

     Henry Williams Baker’s “The King of Love My Shepherd Is”
     from Glory to God: The Presbyterian Hymnal

This hymn had me at “Oft I strayed.” It rings true even when we want to believe we have it all together, all calculated with five-year plans and vision statements. We’re more confused than we even seem, and if we’re honest, often we have strayed. Even when we think we’re doing so much good and have the best of intentions, we can stray, betraying our hearts and our loved ones, forgetting our call, and selling out our dreams. We begin to believe the lies we’ve heard about ourselves, we settle for less, we choose the safe option over the right path, or we think, finally, that we are in fact abandoned.

But this hymn tenderly reminds us that like a missing sheep, we will stray, but we have not been left to our own devices or abandoned: God comes to us and brings us home. The gospel means that we are far more flawed than we thought and far more loved than we ever imagined.

As I write my final devotion at Fourth Church, I want you to know that I prayed each time I wrote, for you and your faith walk, for God to show up in a meaningful way, in a mystical and other times ordinary way. I hope you pray for my faith walk, too.

For our shared walk in the way of Jesus, I want to remind you of what this hymn states so beautifully, hoping for it to become a song of your heart. God draws near, God pursues us. Even when we stray from the way, we are brought back home; even in death's dark vale, we just can’t seem to get rid of this God—shake, run, and hide as we do. No matter the idols we make of money, power, people, places, and even “God,” no matter the images we paint of a distant and uninterested or angry arbiter of justice God, and no matter how unforgivable we think our sin or how lost our way or how ugly our soul, this God is beside us. God is walking with us. Emmanuel, God with us. In the beginning and at the end.

Even when we lost our way or turned away, God of love, you did not abandon us. Remind us of your radical forgiveness and your steadfast love. Amen.

Written by Edwin Estevez, Pastoral Resident

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