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Worship, prayer and Bible resources

Fourth Sunday of Easter - Year B

Liturgical Colour - White


Introduction

The image of Jesus shown above is typical of many early examples of Jesus as the Good Shepherd. Pictures of Jesus like this carrying a lamb on his shoulders can be found in the catacombs and on early grave stones. The Christian is shown to have Christ as the support. Then a change takes place, later pictures show Jesus the Good Shepherd cradling the church. We can see how an understanding develops of Christ working through the church, rather than the individual. Sheep listened to the church, obeyed the minister and were cared for.

Perhaps we need to move away from the idea of being looked after by clergy and rediscover that we all have service to do ourselves. We all have a mission and ministry and are called to serve. Christians move in the power of God and we are to grow as we each serve and fulfil our responsibilities to Christ. 


Opening Verses of Scripture  Psalm 23 v 1

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall lack nothing.
 

Collect Prayer for the Day — Before we read we pray

Risen Christ, faithful shepherd of your Father's sheep: teach us to hear your voice and to follow your command, that all your people may be gathered into one flock, to the glory of God the Father.  Common Worship Shorter Collect

Almighty God, whose Son Jesus Christ is the resurrection and the life: raise us, who trust in Him, from the death of sin to the life of righteousness, that we may seek those things which are above, where He reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen

God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus Christ, that great Shepherd of the sheep, with the blood of the eternal covenant: make us perfect in every good work to do your will, and work in us that which is well-pleasing in your sight; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.  Amen.   Methodist Worship

Good Shepherd of the sheep, by whom the lost are sought and guided into the fold: feed us and we shall be satisfied; heal us and we shall be made whole; and lead us, that we may be with you; for you are alive and reign, with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.   Methodist Worship
 

First Bible Reading   Acts 4: 5 - 12

The next day the rulers, elders and teachers of the law met in Jerusalem. Annas the high priest was there, and so were Caiaphas, John, Alexander and the other men of the high priest's family. They had Peter and John brought before them and began to question them: "By what power or what name did you do this?" Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them: "Rulers and elders of the people! If we are being called to account today for an act of kindness shown to a cripple and are asked how he was healed, then know this, you and all the people of Israel: It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed. He is "'the stone you builders rejected, which has become the capstone.' Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved."

Second Reading  1 John 3: 16 - 24

This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth. This then is how we know that we belong to the truth, and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence whenever our hearts condemn us. For God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything. Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God and receive from him anything we ask, because we obey his commands and do what pleases him. And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us. Those who obey his commands live in him, and he in them. And this is how we know that he lives in us: We know it by the Spirit he gave us.


Jesus the Good ShepherdGospel Reading   John 10: 11 - 18

"I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. The hired hand is not the shepherd who owns the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it. The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. "I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me-- just as the Father knows me and I know the Father--and I lay down my life for the sheep. I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd. The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life--only to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father."


Post Communion Sentence

Merciful Father; you gave your Son Jesus Christ to be the good shepherd, and in His love for us to lay down His life and rise again: keep us always under His protection, and give us grace to follow in His steps; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen

 

Commentary

Those who are interested in Desperate Housewives on television will remember the episode where the businessman Carlos returns to work after a kind of breakdown and starts giving money away to people who he believes have suffered from his previous deals shutting down companies and laying people off. He has looked at his life and sees that his wealth is built on the poverty and exploitation of others and he wants to put it right. His wife Gabby is furious and resentful, she tells him that he must care for his family that she will not be hurt as a result of his desire to be a better person and care for others. The episode ends with them being very angry with each other. In the passage from Chapter 10 of John today, there is a similar sort of thing going on. Jesus has healed a blind man and the Pharisees are incredibly resentful of Jesus. Jesus accuses them of not caring for others and thinking only of themselves and he likens them to thieves and robbers. Jesus tells them that he will give away everything, even his life, in order to care for others. By verse 33 of Chapter 11 we read that these Jewish Leaders had decided that they would kill Jesus because of the threat which he posed to their temple and nation.

Jesus was trying to help people to understand that God cared not just for the Jewish people, but for all people. He spoke of ‘other sheep’ that God cared about, those who were outside the Jewish nation. The leaders behaved just like Gabby with Carlos, they were concerned only about themselves and their own interests. Jesus knew that taking on vested interests was dangerous and he speaks clearly about the fact that he will end up like a Good Shepherd, laying down his life for the sheep.

We might be critical of the Jewish leaders and selfish people like Gabby, yet there is always a tendency to be concerned only about the welfare of ourselves and people like us. The Jewish leaders wanted to protect their livelihoods and the Jewish nation, they were unconcerned about the ones Jesus referred to as sheep from another pen.

We can all behave like this when we are suspicious and resentful of others who are in some way different. There is a very human desire to build borders and boundaries, which we then have to define and defend against intruders. God’s desire is rather that these human borders and boundaries are broken down. We do well to remember that Jesus is the Good Shepherd who cares for all sheep, not just the ones in our flock. His love and willingness to give extends to the whole world which is his family. Charles Royden

 

Meditation

Go now with your trust in the good shepherd, and let us love, not just in words, but in truth and action. Believe in the name of Jesus Christ, and love one another, just as he has commanded us. And may God be at your side, even in valleys of death. May Christ Jesus be the cornerstone of your life. And may the Holy Spirit abide in you ....and tend you with love and mercy all the days of your life. Nathan Nettleton www.laughingbird.net
 

Hymns

  1. The King of love my shepherd is

  2. Majesty

  3. The Lord’s my shepherd

  4. Fill thou my life

  5. I will sing a wondrous story

 

Prayers for Sunday and the week ahead

Prayer encouragement in the Christian life

Prayer is a plant, the seed of which is sown in the heart of every Christian,

if it is well cultivated and nourished it will produce fruit, but if it is neglected, it will wither and die

Risen Christ,
faithful Shepherd
of your Father’s sheep:
teach us to hear your voice
and to follow your command,
that all your people
may be gathered into one flock,
to the glory of God the Father.
Amen.

God of glory, by the raising of your Son you have broken the chains of death and hell: fill your Church with faith and hope; for a new day has dawned and the way to life stands open in our Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen

Father God, we are thankful for Jesus. We know Him and He knows us. Thank you for all those who have been our shepherds. We ask that you would help us to be your good shepherds. Amen.

Living God, you have given us a living hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead: grant that we, being risen with Him, may fix our hearts on heavenly things and share eternal life. Amen

The God of peace, who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, make you perfect in every good work to do His will; and the blessing of God Almighty, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit be among you and remain with you always. Amen

My natural mother, my gracious mother, my most precious mother, have mercy on me. I have made myself dirty and unlike you, and I may not and cannot make it better, except with your secret help and your grace. Julian of Norwich (c.1342-c.1416)

Grant to us, O Lord, to pass this day in gladness and peace, without stumbling and without stain, that reaching the eventide victorious over all temptation, we may again praise you, the eternal God, blessed over all things now and for ever. Amen Mozarabic Sacramentary, 10th century

Psalm 23
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not be in want. He makes me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside quiet waters, He restores my soul.
He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. 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. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life,  and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever. Amen

 

Additional Material

Commentary

One Shepherd, One Sheep Herd
In today’s Gospel Jesus says twice “I am the good shepherd.” The context is the continuation of the discussions Jesus is having with the Pharisees after He has healed a man who was born blind. This man, who was blind, first heard the voice of Jesus and through believing in that voice came to believe and that was his sight. The implication is clear: the Pharisees are blinded by what they see and so are impaired of hearing and therefore do not believe. Hearing and believing becomes the central message of Jesus’ saying that he is the “Good Shepherd.” And, as the good shepherd He will stay faithful whilst the “hired,” or the Pharisees, turn away and have turned away from their vocation of tending and leading their “flock.” The Pharisees hear that they are interested only in being paid and so have made that their mission rather than caring and guiding their flock.

In identifying Jesus as a "good shepherd" John also sets up the contrast not just between Himself and the present day Pharisees but between Himself and the self-serving and corrupt "shepherds" of Israel's past, the wicked kings and leaders whose lack of concern for their people resulted in internal decay and external ruin. Indeed, the corruption of Israel's kings so disgusted God that Ezekiel had prophesied how God would personally come to be their shepherd. Thus in Jesus we see God's desire to shepherd His people personally being fulfilled. What Ezekiel expected to be exercised by God is now accomplished in Jesus. Jesus' care for his sheep is total: He shepherds the flock at the cost of laying down his own life for them. In some ways this is the reverse of what we might expect. Ordinarily in biblical times it was the sheep that were sacrificed. But in Jesus we have no ordinary shepherd!
The good shepherd not only lays down his life for the sheep, He knows the sheep and the sheep know him, not just through some kind of superficial knowledge but through deep experience and a relationship. Jesus, the good shepherd knows His sheep (that’s us!) because, as John tells us at the beginning of His gospel, He "became flesh and lived among us". Jesus knows his own, because he has lived in our skin and has experienced our joys and sorrows.

The ministry of the shepherd is threefold: to protect the sheep, preserve the unity of the flock, and to lead them. The shepherd does whatever he can to protect the sheep from harm and from being scattered. The response of the sheep to such a shepherd is to hear his voice and to follow where he leads. As Christians we have a responsibility to shepherd the community in which we live and to be the sheep that faithfully follow the voice of Christ. It is not enough to go through the motions of being a Christian, Christ wants more than lip service, He wants our hearts.

Contained in the message of the good shepherd there is a clear message regarding all our roles in leadership within the community of faith. Just as it berates the failure of Israel’s spiritual leaders and attacks the ‘professionals’, who are in ministry for the job and not as a calling, it emphasises that without personal commitment to God there can be no real leadership within the church. It’s a reminder to all who seek to lead, in any walk of life, that they need real commitment to the cause and that they need to keep close to those they seek to lead.

John’s gospel also illustrates that the role of the true shepherd is not only to be inward looking and care for the flock already in their charge, but to be outward looking and bring in sheep who are not already part of the flock. Sheep who might be very different from ourselves. We have one shepherd, we should be one Sheep Herd.

Jesus’ way of winning people was to be attractive to them and to care and provide for them, whatever their background or heritage. To lay aside by choice His self ego, and become a door through which they could be nurtured and enter into fellowship with God and each other. Just as Peter was called by Jesus to feed and nurture His sheep, so are we. And in Jesus we have a model which He invites us to follow. To be leaders and shepherds, caring, feeding and nurturing for those in our community whatever flock they may come from. Sam Cappleman