Church of England Diocese of Birmingham St. Paul Blackheath

A short service for the fourth Sunday of Easter 3rd May 2020

Today is the fourth Sunday of Easter.

Grace, mercy and peace
From God our Father
and the Lord Jesus Christ be with you.
And also with you.

Alleluia, Christ is risen
He is risen indeed. Alleluia.


A prayer of approach.

We come to you, O God, in penitence for what we have done.
We come to you in anticipation for what you offer to us.
We come to you in hope, 
for we know you will give us abundant life. 
Amen.


A prayer of praise and thanksgiving

For your presence in our lives
great Shepherd of the sheep:
we praise and adore you.

For the security you offer us
great Shepherd of the sheep:
we praise and adore you.

For your life that enriches our life
great Shepherd of the sheep:
we praise and adore you.

For the sense of belonging,
great Shepherd of the sheep:
we praise and adore you.

For our place in your sheepfold,
great Shepherd of the sheep:
we praise and adore you.
Amen.


Our bible reading is John 10 verses 1-10

Jesus said, ‘I am just like a good shepherd who takes care of his flock of sheep. He knows the names of all his sheep. When he calls them, they follow him into the safety of the sheepfold. And when he calls them out, they follow him wherever he goes, because they know and trust him. But if a stranger gets into the sheepfold and calls to the sheep, they refuse to follow, because they do not know the stranger’s voice. The gatekeeper only opens the gate for the good shepherd. Thieves and robbers try to break into the fold to steal the sheep, but the shepherd protects them from danger.’

The people listening to Jesus still did not understand what he was saying, so he said to them, ‘I am just like the gate of the sheepfold. All those who went before me were thieves and robbers who wanted to lead the sheep astray, but the sheep did not listen to them. I am not like a thief who comes to steal and kill and destroy. I am the gate: whoever enters by me will be saved and will come in and go out and find pasture. I came that the sheep might have a full and happy life.’

Glossary
Sheep fold an enclosure in a field to keep sheep safe from wild animals and thieves; first century Middle Eastern sheepfolds were made of stone.


A Thought for the Day by Revd. Mike Sermon
The Parable of the Shepherd John 10.1-10

“The Lord’s my shepherd, I’ll not want.
He makes me down to lie
in pastures green.
He leadeth me the quiet waters by”.

So goes the well-known hymn from “The Scottish Psalter” of 1650. The poetry of these words and the familiar rhythm of the music set before us an image and understanding of our relationship with God.

The role of a shepherd is maligned and looked down upon in many cultures, because of its lowly status. But if we look beyond this, the intimacy of this relationship between shepherd and sheep, has qualities which resonate with the way in which God looks upon our human family.

Three important little words go to the heart of the matter. There immediately at the end of line one we are told and we sing “I’ll not want”. The needs that we have in life are manifold and they stretch far beyond simply the need for oxygen, water and food. We are made to be in relationships and in community, with God and with one another.

Here is the revelation that our primary relationship within community is with the Lord, my shepherd; with God the creator of all that is seen and unseen. The invitation that the shepherd lays before us, comes through the presence and teaching of Jesus who invites us to live life in all of its fullness.

To live life in all of its fullness is to live life abundantly, with more than enough to meet all of our needs. This is the offer and the nature of the invitation that God sets before us. It is contained in those three little words, “I’ll not want” and it means that in all circumstances on dark days and light days, in days of plenty and days of shortage I shall not want.

“I shall not want”, because as verse three of the hymn reminds us “thou art with me”. Life in all of its fullness, and an abundant life is one that is lived in the knowledge that the presence of God is with us and that we are never alone. The form of social isolation and lockdown that has come to us with the arrival of Covid-19 coronavirus is hard for everyone. For some of us it is all too much and we are withering without the social interaction and support of family and friends. That cost needs to be named and acknowledged. But in the midst of all that we are not alone, for God is with us.

Our bible passage is from John chapter 10 verses 1-10 and it is the parable of the shepherd. Do take the time to read it in full and to wonder at what it reveals to us about God. My focus is on verse 4

“When he has brought them out, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice”.

The sheep follow him because they know his voice. We live in a noisy world with many competing and often contradictory voices. The internet provides a platform for influencers, bloggers and preachers of every kind to sell their take on life, to convey their message and often to sell their product.

But not every voice has our best interests at heart. There is advice out there which if followed would damage our health or our wealth and so we need to look for something more than simply a voice and a message. We need to consider whether we know the voice that we have just heard and we must weigh up whether or not we trust the message it is conveying.

Behind every voice and message there are values and principles at work. Our challenge is to discern and understand what these are and this is why the experience and role of a shepherd is so helpful.

In Jesus’ day a shepherd would know his or her sheep by name. There would be a familiarity and trust between shepherd and sheep, because the voice of the shepherd is the one who feeds them, the voice of the shepherd is the one who shields them and the voice of the shepherd is the one who if need be would protect them by laying down his life for the sheep.

So in this moment, in the knowledge that God knows and loves you deeply and intimately how do you respond to his voice and his call?

“When he has brought them out, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice”. Amen.

Revd. Mike Sermon Vicar St Paul’s Blackheath, Priest in Charge St James’ Rounds Green


Hymn

The Lord's my Shepherd, I'll not want;
He makes me down to lie
In pastures green; He leadeth me
The quiet waters by.

My soul He doth restore again,
And me to walk doth make
Within the paths of righteousness,
E'en for His own name's sake.

Yea, though I walk in death's dark vale,
Yet will I fear no ill;
For Thou art with me, and Thy rod
And staff my comfort still.

My table Thou hast furnished me
In presence of my foes;
My head Thou dost with oil anoint,
And my cup overflows.

Goodness and mercy all my life
Shall surely follow me;
And in God's house forevermore,
My dwelling place shall be.

Psalm 23 from The Scottish Psalter


Our prayers.

Loving God, we pray for those whose lives are empty;
for all who feel alone and unloved; 
for those whose lives lack purpose.
Lord of love,
bring them abundant life.

We pray for those whose lives are filled with anger and bitterness;
for those who cannot let go of the past, 
and so have no present or future.
Lord of love,
bring them abundant life.

We pray for those whose lives are filled with anguish and pain;
for those who suffer depression; 
for those who are afraid to go out; 
for those who cannot see a way forward.
Lord of love,
bring them abundant life.

We pray for those who live on the edge;
for those who watch others enjoy life but are unable to join the group; 
for those who lack faith; 
for those whom others ignore.
Lord of love,
bring them abundant life.

Loving God, in a world that needs a message of life and hope, may your abundant life fill our world, our church and ourselves, we pray in the name of Jesus. 
Amen.

Abundant God,
fill us up this week.
When we are worried or happy,
when we are with others or alone, 
when we feel tired, and
when we feel most alive.
Guide us home to you. 
Amen.

So now may the God of hope
heal us and restore us,
that we may know the power of God’s love at work in our lives,
today and every day.
Amen.

Go in peace to love and serve the Lord.
In the name of Christ. Amen.

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