Bonus: I Will Fear No Evil

Rev. Rich Rudowske

About The Episode

How do you deal with times of uncertainty? Seeking God in His Word in times of struggle is the sure answer. There is no greater comfort!  Join host, Rev. Rich Rudowske as he delivers this special sermon message in a bonus episode.

Rich Rudowske
Welcome to the Essentially Translatable Podcast brought to you by Lutheran Bible Translators. My name is Rich Rudowske. I’m the Chief Operating Officer here at LBT, and today’s episode is a bonus episode. It’s a sermon I recently delivered on the Psalms, particularly Psalm 23. It was given at the height of the lockdown and uncertainty surrounding the Covid-19 crisis. I hope that my story of seeking God in His Word during my time of personal crisis and struggle is inspirational to you. 

Rich Rudowske
Grace, mercy, and peace be multiplied to you from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen. The text for our sermon today is from Psalm chapter 23, verses four and six, verse four particularly. “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me. Your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” There was once a Sunday school teacher who asked her class if any of them could quote the 23rd Psalm. A little four-year-old girl was among them who raised her hands. A bit skeptical, the teacher asked her if she could really quote the entire Psalm. The little girl nodded, and the teacher motioned for her to come up to the front. 

Rich Rudowske
The little girl walked up to the podium, turned around to face the class, and made a little bow and said, the Lord is my shepherd, that’s all I want. And she bowed again and sat down. Although she obviously missed a few verses, that little girl captured the heart of Psalm 23. Throughout the Psalm, the idea is that we are totally reliant on and should be content in the shepherd’s care and that everything we need comes from him. In fact, the Psalms in general are songs and prayers that God by His Holy Spirit inspired men and women to compose. And if you think about it, that’s quite powerful. These are words that we can put on our lips and talk to God the way He has shown us to talk to Him. 

Rich Rudowske
The Psalms have a wide range of themes, from joyous celebration of the kingship of God, firm reliance on the Word of God, and the ways of God as the most fruitful and best way to live our life on this earth, deep, searching questions of God and why he lets things be the way they are, why he lets us suffer, and incredible words of faith and hope spoken in the midst of the worst imaginable circumstances. These are in the 150 chapters that make up the Psalms, and the Psalms can be found on the lips of many of our forerunners in the faith. David, of course, who wrote many of them from his experiences and in his darkest times, speaks many of them in other texts. 

Rich Rudowske
In the scripture, like Psalm 51, when he was confronted by the prophet Nathan for committing adultery and then murder to cover it up. Psalm three, from when he fled a rebellion against his rule, led by his own son, Absalom. Jonah, from the belly of the great fish, prayed parts of more than ten different Psalms. Jesus himself, even on the cross, spoke words from Psalm 22. And as the persecution against the disciples began in Acts 4, they prayed words from Psalm chapter 2. Now, I have to admit something. As a pastor and as a man, I am not a touchy feely kind of guy. I’m not a sensitive guy. I’m a leader. And I like to look to the future. I like to act decisively and meet it head on. 

Rich Rudowske
But I have always admired and maybe even been a little bit jealous of guys and ladies who, in a time of crisis, know the right words to say and that just exude peace. And one thing I notice is that they always seem to know a Psalm and bring that out with it. And that’s not who I’ve been. And while I work in Bible translation ministry and for sure have read the whole Bible several times, I have to admit that I’m actually not sure if I had ever read the whole book of Psalms. I couldn’t really get into it. I just seemed to get lost and maybe even a little disinterested. Even as a young student in school, in literature, when we got to poems in general, I always just thought that was kind of a waste of time. 

Rich Rudowske
I’m just not a poetry kind of guy. But in mid-March, I was sitting home with my family on a Wednesday night, and I got an alert on my phone. It was a BBC breaking news alert, and it said, “President Trump suspends all air travel from Europe for the next 30 days.” I saw that message and I knew that my life was changed for the foreseeable future with the type of work that I am in. Immediately, my phone began pinging with texts from personnel here and all over the world asking me if I saw the president’s announcement. I wrote a mass email to our organization saying that I was aware and would be addressing it in the morning. 

Rich Rudowske
And at that moment, I had people living and in transit all over the world, including our Executive Director and several guests with him for a recent Bible dedication, and the question of where they should be and how to get themselves where they needed to be was completely up in the air, and ultimately my responsibility to be sure that it got handled. Now, my staff and I have handled isolated crisis situations, but in this case, the whole world at one time was becoming a crisis situation, including the location of our home office. Working to determine next steps on several fronts was all-consuming. For the next 48 hours, we decided that we needed to shut down the Concordia-based office for two weeks to see how things would play out. 

Rich Rudowske
I’ll tell you, I got some pushback on that and I even thought and hoped in the back of my mind that we’d just be out those two weeks and it’d be more like a test to see if we could really do it if we needed to, if a work from home crisis actually hit. But we are going into the 8th week of that now and there isn’t really for sure end in sight for that. But at the beginning of that first two weeks, sitting at home trying to figure stuff out, I pulled out an old book that I had on the Psalms. 

Rich Rudowske
And in the back of that book it had a chart showing that in the monastic tradition of the Christian church, how the monks would pray through all 150 Psalms in a two week period, with prayer time about six or seven times a day. And I decided to make the commitment to pray 150 Psalms in two weeks. And I’m not telling you that to brag or suggest that you need to do it, but I, both as a pastor and as a man who needed to help a lot of other people make important decisions about how to get where they were going to go, whether to stay or to leave where they were, and just to navigate a lot of uncertainty. I felt like I needed to immerse myself in God’s Word in prayer in order to be up for that task. 

Rich Rudowske
And the Psalms are God’s prayer book. So I began working from home like everybody else did. And I breaked every three or 4 hours, including getting up during the night to pray Psalms and at the same time praying for my staff, the missionaries and guests that were still traveling internationally. Their flights were canceled. Someone was sick and we were questioning if it could be the virus. And we were trying to decide whether it was safer for some folks to be in their missionary context where they were, or whether it was safer to come back to the United States, which looked like it was melting down as part of the office closure. A skeleton crew needed to continue to work from the office and we had a rotation of managers that were assigned to be on duty while that crew was there. 

Rich Rudowske
And I took my first turn on the Friday of the first week, just nine days after I had gotten that first BBC News alert on my phone. And to be honest, I sat in my office in our nearly empty building and I cried. I cried thinking about all that had changed, all the people I missed, all the uncertainty. But I didn’t cry because I was afraid. I had peace. That surpasses understanding in the midst of circumstances where it is completely understandable to not have peace. God’s Word through the Psalms was working through me. More than that, the reality that they convey that all things are in the Lord’s hands, and whether we live or die, whether we have plenty or are in want, we are the Lord’s. And that was, at that time, real and palpable to me. 

Rich Rudowske
You know, it’s funny that in today’s world, the church is not generally perceived as concerned with facts, with realities. But we are. We are concerned with facts and with realities which finally govern the world and the universe, and which we will all, in the end have to acknowledge. Whether we like them or not. We are. And God’s Word shows us the ultimate reality. In 21st-century America, we’re taught that the church and religion deals not with facts, but with belief, which you can take or leave. It’s optional. It’s nice to have, but facts have to come from science. And I’m not anti-science person. I think science can be a gift from God. 

Rich Rudowske
But I would like to point out, if I may, that the best that science had to offer in the current pandemic was to run home and hide while we try to figure out what to do. The true facts of God’s Word tell us that no matter what we encounter, our identity is in Christ. And whether we live or die, whether we are in plenty or in want, whether we suffer or thrive, we are in the Lord’s hands. And that fact gives me peace that the world can’t give. And that fact was being driven deep into my heart through a time of prayer and engaging God’s Word in the Psalms. And I continued through that second week of praying the Psalms. And as the week drew near the end, it became clear that we were not going to return to normal anytime soon. 

Rich Rudowske
The president and later the governor recommended restrictions on movement for the whole month of April, and were going to be in it for the long haul. Circumstances changed in some areas where we thought missionaries would shelter in place, and we had to pivot quickly to evacuate them on embassy flights. Every time I thought we had things nailed down, something else changed. But through it all, I felt peace. Exhausted, but peace. Now, I got to tell you, before I started this two-week praying through all 150 Psalms. The only Psalm I really knew well was Psalm 23. And the very last Psalm in the two-week rotation, after I had prayed all the other 149 Psalms, including several of them repeated several times during the way it was laid out. The last one was Psalm 23. 

Rich Rudowske
And it rushed into me like a welcome spring of familiar words deep in meeting and content, words that were read at my grandparents funeral that I reflected on at my own father’s funeral. Words that had come up so many other times in my life. And here they were again, like the completion and welcoming back of something familiar. After all these other Psalms, all these new Psalms, all these new situations, all these new ways of praising God, questioning God, hoping in God, and pleading with God that you find in the Psalms. And the words that really stood out were from verse four. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil. 

Rich Rudowske
Now, before I read the rest of the verse, and this would have been so much more fun to do if we were in person with the whole congregation. But before I read the rest of the verse, if there are any U. S. Marine Corps folks or veterans, soldiers, active military listening, you know that the Marines quote this verse, but they don’t quite quote the second half the same way. And I probably shouldn’t do this, but I guarantee that everybody listening is never going to forget what I’m about to say. The Marines, when going into a dangerous situation, will sometimes say, even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, because I’m the baddest expletive dude in this valley. 

Rich Rudowske
Now, look, we don’t put our faith and trust in our own power or strength, but we are walking through that valley with Jesus. And the valley of the shadow of death is a dangerous place. And Jesus, we don’t usually think of him like this, but Jesus is one bad expletive dude in that valley with us, right? Jesus looked death in the eye. He took all that the evil in the world could offer, took it all on himself and suffered it all. And only you ever noticed this in the crucifixion story. Only when he was ready did he give up his spirit to death, because Jesus is one bad dude. And then he took it up again on the third day. Jesus has gone through the valley of the shadow of death, and he has taken the worst that it could offer. 

Rich Rudowske
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil for you. Jesus are with me, and you are one bad dude. Your rod and your staff, they comfort me in this pandemic time. We’ve been through a lot. Some of you listening may be wrestling with economic uncertainty due to job loss or reduction. Some of you may be wrestling with health concerns and the very real possibility that exposure to this virus could lead to prolonged sickness or death for you or a loved one, or being isolated from your loved ones. That’s real. And I don’t mean to minimize that at all. In any way, it is scary. The valley of the shadow of death is not a made-up place. 

Rich Rudowske
The Psalmist used this because he had experienced it, but it’s a metaphor for many things that happen in life. We walk in the valley of the shadow of death every single day. We’re just more aware of it sometimes than we are of others. But the fact is we are always walking through it. But we are always walking through it with Jesus and where the peace that the world can give based on facts and human reason and our ability to manipulate the situation and bend it to our control. Where that kind of peace runs out is where the peace that surpasses understanding begins. And real truth and real facts are found in God’s Word. 

Rich Rudowske
In this Easter season, which is unlike any Easter season that any of us has experienced in our lifetime, may this be a cause for us to put even more our hope in the foundational fact that Christ is risen. And that means the trajectory of the whole universe, which was seemingly spinning in hopelessness, is now on a path to redemption with God through Jesus. And that changes everything. And when we walk through the valley of the shadow of death, we know with whom we make that walk. Or as David says in Psalm 23:6, surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and then after that, I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. 

Rich Rudowske
Thanks for the opportunity to share some of my thoughts with you about my own time of personal crisis and struggle. There is no greater comfort and source of peace than being able to connect with God through His Word. If you or a friend is struggling and in need of an English or Spanish language Bible, please write to me at and we’ll get you connected to some generous partners who can provide you with one thank you for listening to the Essentially Translatable Podcast brought to you by Lutheran Bible Translators. Look for past episodes of the podcast or on Apple, Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts. Follow Lutheran Bible Translators on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter, or go to to find out how you can get involved in the Bible translation movement and put God’s Word in their hands. 

Rich Rudowske
The Essential Translatable Podcast is edited and produced by Andrew Olson. The executive producer is Amy Gertz. Music written and performed by Rob Veith. I’m Rich Rudowske. So long for now. 


  • Rev. Rich Rudowske delivers a sermon on Psalm 23 during the height of the Covid-19 crisis.
  • The Psalms are a way to communicate with God and find peace in times of crisis.
  • As situations change and grow exhausting, peace is found in the Word of God.

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