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Sunday 3rd May 2020 Fourth Sunday of Easter

posted 1 May 2020, 14:42 by Church Office   [ updated 4 May 2020, 14:38 by CHS Info ]
 Sermon - The Good Shepherd
 Full parish service - 3 May 2020

You can download the order of service here, and a printable version of these readings, sermon and prayers can be downloaded here.

Sunday 3rd May 2020

Fourth Sunday of Easter

This Sunday is Good Shepherd Sunday.   Every year we hear a passage using sheep and shepherds to describe Jesus’ relationship with his people.  In Biblical times the analogy of shepherding was used to describe rulers and leaders.  Today it gives us an opportunity to think about trust and belonging.

In pram service (8am) this week we will have stories of sheep: thirsty sheep, hungry sheep, smelly sheep, naughty sheep, scared sheep … you get the idea.  We’ll have some songs and prayers and will make sheep together.  If you’d like to join in the craft please download the sheep template and print on card (click here).  You will need some cotton wool and glue to make the sheep look properly sheep-like. Here's the link to pram service.

In Sunday school (9:30am) Bring drawing materials to the table, or the floor whichever suits best. After opening with hellos we'll start with a hymn - the Lord is my Shepherd - where we are silenced as a group so can sing our hearts out at home along to the version I share.  What you'll need: white paint, white fluffy stuff, paint and glue, pens, pencils, paper. I'm guessing that......no, you work it out! Here's the link to Sunday school. There is a password in the newsletter (if you would like to receive the newsletter please give your details here). 

Readings

Acts 2:42-47

The Fellowship of the Believers

42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43 Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. 44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. 46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47 praising God and enjoying the favour of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.

John 10: 1-10

The Good Shepherd and His Sheep

10 “Very truly I tell you Pharisees, anyone who does not enter the sheep pen by the gate, but climbs in by some other way, is a thief and a robber. The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognise a stranger’s voice.” Jesus used this figure of speech, but the Pharisees did not understand what he was telling them.

Therefore Jesus said again, “Very truly I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. All who have come before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep have not listened to them. I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. They will come in and go out, and find pasture. 10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.

 

Sermon

Jesus is on about sheep again.  He talks about sheep a lot, maybe too much because “when Jesus used this figure of speech with them”, we’re told, “they did not understand what he was saying…”

Every year, three weeks after Easter, we get sheep, shepherds, sheepfolds, and I’m still not sure that we understand what Jesus is saying…

This year’s bit of sheep wisdom talks starts off with who the sheep listen to.  Apparently the sheep will follow the voice of the shepherd but not of the thieves and bandits.  Well, I’m not sure that’s true.  Sheep like people get distracted by all kinds of things and wander off following the promise of this or that without paying the least attention to any shepherd good or not so good.

So Jesus tries again: this time he explains that he is not the shepherd he’s the sheep gate.  The gate. For real.

I’m not sure that this clears things up any but let’s go with it.

Gates, they open and close right? They can be about security: they can keep things out and keep things in.   They can be about opportunity: they can let things out and they can let things in.

We are used to this language of open and closed.  Whether we as a nation are open for business or closed to immigrants.

We tend to prefer a gate locked tight when we are under threat – mainly from violence (open gates might let in terrorist) or economic insecurity (open gates might let in masses who will use up homes, jobs and social security budgets). 

Currently we have a dilemma: if our gates are shut we will keep out the virus that threatens our physical survival but we hear the voices of many arguing that if we don’t open them soon our economic survival will also be under threat.

So we get the gate metaphor. But here’s the thing.  Jesus’s gate seems to be pretty much permanently wedged open: the sheep move in and out they seem to have both security and opportunity. 

I suspect that this might be the point.  Jesus is not a king like other kings, he is not a shepherd like other shepherds and so it should come as no surprise that he is a gate not like other gates.

The whole sheep, shepherd, gate conversation begins just after Jesus has healed the man born blind.  The point about being blind was that it excluded you from the community.  Jesus heals the man and in doing so he heals the community because they should now all be gathered together without some left outside.  However, the community find another reason to exclude the formerly blind man this time because he was healed on the Sabbath.  So, having been brought in from outside because he has regained his sight, he is thrown out again.

The thing about Jesus, the striking thing about Jesus, is that Jesus never throws anyone out. No one. Ever. Not the rich young man who can’t bring himself to give away his riches, not Judas whom he knew would betray him, not the condemned man being crucified next to him, not the soldiers who executed him.  No one gets shut out.  Ever.

This is a hard thing for human beings to cope with.  Our security rests on us being able to know who is in and who is out.  We want to be able to keep out those we disagree with, those we feel threatened by, those who might challenge us.

And the church is often a terrible example of this: arguing constantly over keeping out gays and women and people who are suspected of thinking and believing differently.   Yet at the same time churches have always been a place of sanctuary.  The church is one of the few places in society where anyone, anyone at all, can pole up and be a part of us.  Church at its best is the most radically open of places.

We will always find this teaching hard, we will always struggle to accept homophobes as well LGBT people, perpetrators as well as victims yet it is what Jesus asks us to do. 

Thank God then that WE are NOT the gate or gatekeeper.  We are the sheep. We are always the included never the includer. 

We don’t get to judge who comes in and who goes out, that is Christ’s job. 

We get to experience the discomfort and the excitement, the challenge and the change, the abundant life that will inevitably flow from keeping the gate wide open.  


Prayers

Mighty God,
in whom we know the power of redemption,
you stand among us in the shadows of our time.
As we move through every sorrow and trial of this life,
uphold us with knowledge of the final morning
when, in the glorious presence of your risen Son,
we will share in his resurrection,
redeemed and restored to the fullness of life
and forever freed to be your people. Amen.

Prayers of Intercessions

Lord, grant us the stillness and calm of your Spirit that we might concentrate on these few minutes of prayer together.

Lord of all nations on earth, we ask you to give guidance to the leaders of all countries, who have the heavy responsibility of shaping policies to do what is best for their people – your people.  May they make wise decisions and now more than ever be prepared to work together for the greater good in the current situation.

Lord, in your mercy – Hear our prayer

 

We pray for your Church throughout the world that it might come together in unity and we ask for your blessing on all the clergy who are working tirelessly to maintain the ministry of your word and pastoral care in these difficult circumstances.  We think particularly of our own parish.  Lord, as you taught us to love our neighbours as ourselves, give us courage that we might do what each of us can to help those in need, to comfort those in distress, to offer practical help and assure the isolated of your love.

Lord, in your mercy – Hear our prayer

 

We pray for doctors, nurses and medical staff who are caring for the sick and those working in care homes.  Strengthen them with your love and keep them safe.  Give them skill, sympathy and resilience to carry on.  Give your wisdom to all those throughout the world who are searching for a cure.

Lord, in your mercy – Hear our prayer

 

We pray for our local community in Clapham, our families, some of whom may be far-flung and we cannot see at present, our friends, our neighbours, the elderly, the isolated, the anxious, those who are struggling financially, the hungry and the homeless.  Lord, lift up all those who are brought low and keep them in your love and mercy at this time of uncertainty and distress.

Lord, in your mercy – Hear our prayer

 

We bring before you the sick and the suffering and entrust them to your tender care.  Comfort them that they might be restored to health and strength and may your everlasting arms be there to hold them safe.  We ask in particular for your blessing on Jane Bell, Heidi Bell, Albert Bell, Sara Carter, Ruby Mitchell, Bernard Maciejko, Jane Taylor, Linda Parker, Christine Harris, Shirley Dobson, Jane Roberts and Damien Harte, and in a moment of silence we remember any others close to us or known to us ………..

Lord, in your mercy – Hear our prayer

 

We pray for the souls of those who have recently died, including Gillian Davies, and we pray for Jo Ross and her family, and also Enzo Saunt, and we pray for his family, Rosie, Ant and Maria.  We think of all those who are mourning a recent bereavement.  May they know your comfort and support and be surrounded with your love.  

Lord, in your mercy – Hear our prayer

 

On this ‘Good Shepherd’ Sunday may we think of ourselves as your flock, Lord, safely garnered into your sheepfold, so that we might increasingly trust in you, dedicate our lives to you and grow in your Spirit knowing that nothing can separate us from your love.

Merciful Father –

Accept these prayers for the sake of your Son, our Saviour, Jesus Christ.  Amen.

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Church Office,
1 May 2020, 14:42