Sunday, 26 April 2015

Can't make it to church? 26th April 15

As we come to the fourth Sunday of Easter we find ourselves with probably the most familiar Psalm there is, Psalm 23 (The Lord's my Shepherd) - thanks to the fact that it features in most funeral services. This is rather fitting as we lost a great servant to our parish this week: the Revd Mick Pacey (may he rest in peace).

But there is also a lovely continuous theme running throughout today's readings for in the Gospel we hear about the 'Good' shepherd - one who lays down his life for his sheep - and the hired help who runs away when danger threatens. Jesus is the Good shepherd and the wolf is that which stands opposed to what is right and sees to bring us down into a place where our lives are forfeit. 

The two voices of right and wrong are generally always discernible and Jesus tells us that we know His voice. This something I learned many years ago when some of those I was with were calling to she sheep around us as we made our way across Salisbury Plain, but they totally ignored - but when the shepherd appeared and called out, the sheep all turned and made their way to him. When you hear the authentic voice of jesus, which way do you go I wonder for true safety

Safety is found in Jesus and He is the one who (like the "good' shepherd) lays down His life for us as remission in the 1 John passage (and is the same shepherd who is spoken of in the Psalm of course). Then comes a little sting in the tail because we are also told that we need to be there for others in the same way Jesus is for us.

How can you be a Christian and pass by those brothers or sisters who are in need? This is a recurring theme because we are also told elsewhere that the person in front of you is the image of the invisible God made visible. If we love God who we can't see then how can we not love the image of that God made flesh in front of us?

Lots of thinking to be done here about incarnacy (being human) and caring for those around us and the like - all of which brings us into a place where as we get stuck in we too find ourselves being challenged with, "By what power, or in whose name, do you do this?'.

How I wish more Christians were challenged like that fir the right reasons. There are times when I find the people being subjected to this sort of challenge are those who exhibit their own self-righteous take on things, but this ia about being seen to exhibit a spiritually sound and bible-based ministry. Which is what orthodoxy (right thinking that stays in line with what the Bible teaches without clever manipulation to make wrong look right) is all about.

The passages today holds up Jesus as the shepherd and call us to mirror that by shepherding and ministering to those around us like He did: It's called being a disciple - and even if we are rejected, great stuff, after all Jesus too was despised and rejected but now is the 'topmost cornerstone' or the 'capstone' for He causes everything to hold up, even under the most intense pressure.

So discipleship - Fancy it? 

All you have to do is live like Christ!

The Collect
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.

Acts 4.5-12
The next day their rulers, elders, and scribes assembled in Jerusalem, with Annas the high priest, Caiaphas, John, and Alexander, and all who were of the high-priestly family. When they had made the prisoners stand in their midst, they inquired, ‘By what power or by what name did you do this?’

Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, ‘Rulers of the people and elders,if we are questioned today because of a good deed done to someone who was sick and are asked how this man has been healed, let it be known to all of you, and to all the people of Israel, that this man is standing before you in good health by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead. This Jesus is

“the stone that was rejected by you, the builders; it has become the cornerstone.”

There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among mortals by which we must be saved.’

Psalm 23
The Lord is my shepherd; therefore can I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures and leads me beside still waters. He shall refresh my soul and guide me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. 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 spread a table before me in the presence of those who trouble me; you have anointed my head with oil and my cup shall be full. Surely goodness and loving mercy shall follow me all the days of my life,  and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.

1 John 3.16-24
We know love by this, that he laid down his life for us - and we ought to lay down our lives for one another. How does God’s love abide in anyone who has the world’s goods and sees a brother or sister in need and yet refuses help?

Little children, let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action. And by this we will know that we are from the truth and will reassure our hearts before him whenever our hearts condemn us; for God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything. Beloved, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have boldness before God; and we receive from him whatever we ask, because we obey his commandments and do what pleases him.

And this is his commandment, that we should believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us. All who obey his commandments abide in him, and he abides in them. And by this we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit that he has given us.

 John 10.11-18
‘I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. The hired hand, who is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and runs away—and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. The hired hand runs away because a hired hand does not care for the sheep. I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own 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 do not belong to this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd. For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life in order to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it up again. I have received this command from my Father.’

Post Communion Prayer
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.

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