The chosen hymns for this week, The King of Love and We The Lord's my Shepherd can be found below along with a transcription of the sermon for those who prefer to read.
The Good Shepherd
Welcome to our time of reflection for Sunday 3rd May.
Today we will be reflecting on what Jesus meant when he said he was the Good Shepherd and why he thought it was important that we know he is the Good Shepherd.
I don’t know about you, but I have been conflicted in my emotions.
On the one hand I feel grateful for the health my family and I have, especially when I watch the news and see how some people are struggling.
But on the other hand I deeply miss the physical contact of some deep and personal friends I have.
It’s a bit like these reflections.
It is wonderful how we can share together at this time through the wonders of modern technology, but we miss the community getting together.
And this conflict is felt in our prayer lives. So our first prayer reflects this struggle
Save us from offering to you any prayer that we are not prepared for you to answer honestly.
Save us from any prayer where we seek to know your will; unless we are prepared to follow that will in actions.
Save us from praying to see your presence in our lives; unless we are prepared to see that vision burn from our hearts all the fears and pettiness, all the hatreds and angers and jealousies that live there.
Save us from asking for the world to be better; until we are ready to accept our responsibilities in the world.
Save us from asking to follow the way of Christ without accepting the call to love, the call to sacrifice that your way demands of us.
Take our sorrows and use them to show us the blessings we have had and miss.
Take our mistakes and use them to show us the peace of your forgiveness.
Take our broken promises and disappointed hopes and use them to show us your faithfulness to us.
Take all our clouds of sadness and calamity and show us your resilience and perseverance.
So in all things may we see your presence with us, and find the hope that we seek.
When John wrote his Gospel it wasn’t a haphazard thing. He didn’t just put down the things that came into his head. He saw the needs of the church of his time, and he wrote only those things that would be useful to the church.
And the church in John’s time was struggling.
They were not allowed to meet; they were told if they did meet then they might be imprisoned and executed.
They were struggling to understand where God was in all of this.
Wasn’t Jesus victorious over death?
Didn’t his disciples go forth with confidence, even with the threats of the Temple leaders hanging over them, and the church exploded?
Why wasn’t the church in John’s day doing the same?
Had God deserted them?
And when John reflected on this he remembered a couple of sayings of Jesus that he hoped would help his church
From John’s 10: 1-10.
To truly understand this passage you need to know a bit about shepherding in Jesus’ day.
The shepherds were usually family herds that were run by the head of the family but the shepherd would usually be the youngest of the family as it was a 24 hour job.
The shepherd led the sheep from the front, guiding them to new pastures every day. The reason for that is that a herd of sheep can go through a lot of grass, if you stayed in the same patch very soon that area would become a mess with the top layer of grass chewed away and the ground churned up by all the hooves.
But at night the shepherd would return to the family area and put the sheep in the pen. The shepherd would then sleep across the entrance like a gate. That way if the sheep became agitated during the night they would move around and kick the shepherd awake who could then defend them from whatever the danger was.
The shepherd was with the sheep all the time. The sheep got to know the shepherd and the shepherd got to know the sheep. The sheep would recognise their own shepherd by his voice and would follow him wherever he went.
And they would do that because they trusted him.
The Gospel writer John, knew his church was struggling with the circumstances they lived in, he knew many were losing the trust they once had.
Now he could have shouted and screamed at them to stay faithful.
He could have told them that terrible things would happen if they gave up, maybe that God would punish them for giving up.
But following what John knew of Jesus, remembering what Jesus was like when he and the rest of the disciples were struggling, he told them a couple of parables that Jesus told them.
Jesus said that he was the Good Shepherd, Jesus said that he was like the Gate of the sheep pen.
What do these mean?
Well with the Good Shepherd the sheep follow the shepherd because of past experiences.
The Shepherd had always been there, from when they were a lamb. Always guiding, always leading always protecting. They could trust the shepherd because of their past experiences.
I think John wanted his church, us, to do two things here.
The first is I think he wanted us to remember our past and where God had worked in the past. If we are struggling just now, sometimes it helps to remember the ways in which God has helped us in the past.
If God helped us then, he will surely help us now.
The second thing is just as important. I think John wanted us to share those experiences with others. Because others may not have been in the faith long enough to know how God helps us. They may not have seen God’s touch in their lives, or not recognised God’s help in the past,
and because they can’t see God’s help, or recognise God’s help, they may think God’s help isn’t there.
And I don’t mean in some great miraculous way; like I was going to crash the car and suddenly the car rose off the ground and landed safely.
Instead we should share the ordinary ways in which God supports us; like someone struggling with the death of their spouse, and God putting people in their life to support and comfort them. That with time, even though it was hard, they got through it and can now begin to remember the happy memories they had had with their spouse.
So the first thing John is trying to tell his community, and our community, is that we can trust the shepherd because he has proven himself to us in the past.
But the second message is just as important.
What if the Good Shepherd is distracted? Because sometimes in our lives we feel we are alone. No matter how much we want to feel God is close to us, it feels like God is somewhere else, it feels like we are facing this problem alone.
It is like the Shepherd is asleep.
And John uses that image.
The sheep are in the sheep pen, maybe the wolves are moving in from the woods. The sheep can see the danger but they feel trapped. And the shepherd, the shepherd is asleep, the shepherd can’t help them.
And John assures them with the image he has given them. Because they know the shepherd is never really asleep. The shepherd is always aware that he may be needed and just as a new parent is always listening for the cry of their baby, even when they are asleep, the shepherd is always aware of the movements of the sheep, even when he is asleep.
They didn’t need to worry; we don’t need to worry, because our shepherd is always alert to what is going on.
No matter what you are facing just now, remember that Jesus is the Good Shepherd.
He is the one who is willing to guide us to safe pastures, if we are willing to follow.
He is the one who watches over us at all times.
If we can believe this truth then we will find peace.
If we can share this truth then maybe those we care about can find peace.
Let us pray.
And in our prayer we will have moments of silence where you can give your personal concerns to God
There are so many people in our hearts just now.
There are so many people who need your help.
We pray for those who are isolated and struggling with ill health of body, mind or soul and all of those who are caring for them at this time; in our hospitals, in our nursing homes or in their own homes...
We pray for all of those who are leading us just now, the scrutiny that they are under and the responsibility that they bear...
We pray for those tasked with finding long term solutions to our plight just now, the scientists seeking cures and vaccinations, the law makers seeking ways we can be together again, the business leaders seeking to re-establish our economy and some kind of financial normality, the social scientist seeking for us to find a healing to all the hurts we have been through...
We pray for those close to us who have shown us the love and care we have needed to get through this time, and those we can help in practical ways...
In all our prayers may we remember this truth, you are our Good Shepherd, you watch over us and guard us from the dangers that would overwhelm us.
May we remember this and rest in your peace.
Thank you for being with us today, either on the video or on the telephone.
Remember you can ask the church to pray for people you care about through the web page.
Don’t forget to donate to local foodbanks in your area.
Until next time...
We hope we have been a blessing to you, try to be a blessing to others.