March 26, 2014

An unexpected encounter

By Jeff Hochstetler, apartments manager
SCRIPTURE: Psalm 23 (NRSV)
DEVOTIONAL:

Feeling ambitious one summer, my high school friends and I decided to make sandwiches to feed homeless people in downtown Cleveland. Back then, a lot of the downtown homeless population bided their time at Public Square or were paid minimum wage for overseeing private parking lots during home Indians games.

Our first trip up was fairly uneventful – we quickly handed out our food and left – but it was enough to make us want to do it again. Soon, every Thursday, we were stuffing our backpacks with sandwiches and bottled water to give away.

After several weeks downtown, we started coming across a regular crowd. Over ham and cheese sandwiches we’d talk about life, Cleveland sports’ terrible luck and the weather. July’s intense sun warmed the concrete buildings and city streets, radiating a heat that often lingered past sunset. To keep cool, many found shade on building corners or in cardboard boxes.

One evening I found myself talking to Ray, one of our regular guests. As what often happened, faith came up during our conversation. At the moment, Ray felt like challenging me. Ray asked me if I knew Psalm 23.

“Sure,” I said.

“Well then recite it.”

In the King James Version I had memorized from Sunday school I said, “The Lord is my Shepard; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures: he leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul…” I stopped. What came next? My mind had gone blank.

Ray sat there dumbfounded, looking at me. “Come on,” he said rolling his hands like waterwheels. “Come on!” Impatiently he picked up where I left off. “He leadeth me in paths of righteousness for his name sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death: I shall fear no evil, for thou art with me; thy rod and they staff they comfort me…”

Ray continued reciting the Psalm until the end, where he finished with a confident “and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever!” With that, the words of Scripture came alive! Ray’s internalized Psalm was more palpable, more trusting and more hopeful than what I had yet witnessed. And then I realized that angels had hosted me.

SCRIPTURE: Psalm 23 (NRSV)

The Divine Shepherd

A Psalm of David.
The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures;
he leads me beside still waters;
he restores my soul.
He leads me in right paths
for his name’s sake.

Even though I walk through the darkest valley,
I fear no evil;
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff—
they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord
my whole life long.

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Comments (11)

  1. This happens to me frequently.
    I am a nurse, and some shifts my
    patients say something, share a story or in-
    formation, or provide an example of love, that
    I am in awe of God’s presence in my life. Thanks
    For sharing this wonderful story of God in you
    And God in him.

    Carol Stevens March 26, 2014 |
  2. / Thanks Jeff. Good way to beging this day in Lent. How often we assume that
    some “troubling” person is evil, perhaps missing the way in which that person
    is an angel in disguise!

    Norm Morford March 26, 2014 |
  3. This story is a profound example of the unity of giving and receiving.

    John J. Smith March 26, 2014 |
  4. Have just come home from a Lenten study – yes Ps 23 featured! Would have loved to share your encounter. Will do so next week, so thank you and keep on being a blessing.

    ANNETTE BAILEY March 26, 2014 |
  5. Oh Jeff. What a day booster! An unexpected encounter indeed! To have such hope amid such adversity can only (I think) be divinely inspired. Were you ‘hosted’ by angels? I’ll concur with that!

    Debbie Lackowitz March 26, 2014 |
  6. You show how hard it is to remember especially under pressure. Good thing there are angles to help.

    Paul Rohrer March 26, 2014 |
  7. Thanks, Jeff. Helpful thoughts to ponder, and well said.

    Carol Graber March 26, 2014 |
  8. Thank you for this potent story, Jeff. Lord, give us eyes to see the angels among us!

    Barry March 26, 2014 |
  9. Wow Jeff. A wonderful story. I could feel the heat from the pavement and the goosebumps on my arms as you recognized your sandwich-sharing angel. Thanks for the way you blessed my day.

    Brenda Shelly March 26, 2014 |
  10. I find Psalm 23 to be a favorite with many older folk, myself included. How often we have entertained angel when we were not aware. Thanks for the way you shared your experience.

    Mary K. Mishler March 27, 2014 |
  11. Thank You, Jeff! You are gifted. Thank you for sharing your gifts with others.

    Jim Miller ('53) March 27, 2014 |