Sheep and the Shepherd (click here)
ST ANDREW’S PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH
APRIL 25 2021
Mission Awareness Sunday
LIGHTING OF THE CHRIST CANDLE
As we enjoy the light of spring days may we always remember that Christ is the Light of the World
- Scripture Readers sought: In an effort to keep improving our experience of worship, we are asking for people to sign up to read Scripture. We have heard how much you miss hearing each other’s voices. You can come to the regular video Session on Saturday’s at 11:00 or arrange with John to submit a video or audio file. Scripture Lessons for the post-Easter season are available from Ena. Please prayerfully consider taking part in this expansion of our worship experience.
- Thank you to Rev. Shirley Cochrane for preparing and leading our worship today; also thank you to Janet Hanna for reading the scriptures.
- St. Andrew's also extends a big thank you to Gloria Fitt for providing the pre-service singing and accompaniment.
- This week we pray for: All community volunteers; Service clubs; Seniors Activity Centres. Bless them all as they continue to contend with the effects of the pandemic.
Pre-service sing-along (thank you to Gloria Fitt for providing the music and the inspiration.)
CALL TO WORSHIP
Jesus the Christ said, I am the Good Shepherd.
We have come to follow him.
We gather in the name of the One who leads us by still waters.
We have come to be restored in him.
We gather in the name of the One who prepares a banquet for us.
We have come to be fed by his love, so let us worship God.
HYMN 438 When morning guilds the skies
PRAYER OF INVOCATION
Lord God, our good and loving shepherd,
You nourish our lives and lead us into green pastures.
You restore our souls with rest and peace.
You give us true joy so our cup overflows with goodness.
You walk with us through the darkest valleys,
offering us courage and compassion.
At all times and in all circumstances, you are with us,
Creator, Redeemer and Guiding Spirit,
so we praise you, Holy One, now and always.
Hear us as we confess before you;
UNISON PRAYER OF CONFESSION
Patient God, your mercy is abundant and your love endless.
Trusting in your mercy,
we confess that often we have not shown your love to others,
even though we claim it for ourselves.
You have called us to show compassion,
but too often we are quick to judge others.
You have been called to follow Jesus,
yet we are distracted by our own plans and desires.
Forgive us for falling short of your hopes for us
and renew a right spirit within us.
In Jesus name we pray. AMEN
ASSURANCE OF PARDON
The mercy of our God is from everlasting to everlasting.
Friends, hear and believe the good news of the gospel.
In Jesus Christ, God’s generous love reaches out to embrace us.
We are forgiven and set free to begin again.
Let us give thanks for God’s most generous love.
Wherever you are, and whatever your circumstances may the blessing of Christ’s peace be upon you.
HYMN 691 The King of love my shepherd is
Psalm 23 A Psalm of David. (click here for the video of the readings and the sermon)
The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.
2 He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.
3 He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
4 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.
5 You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.
6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD forever.
11 “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 12 The hired hand is not the shepherd and does not own 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. 13 The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep.
14 “I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me— 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep. 16 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. 17 The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life—only to take it up again. 18 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.”
Send us your Holy Spirit as we listen to the witness of your people, so that we may claim the story of your redeeming love again and praise you with our lives through Christ, our Lord and Shepherd.
Many of you know I grew up on the coast. NO green pastures - not a lot of still waters - definitely no sheep. I never saw a sheep until in my late teens when I visited friends on Vancouver Island who had two sheep. The sheep were very friendly family pets - not soft and fuzzy to touch - but quite amusing. I don’t think those orchardists ever referred to themselves as shepherds.
I saw sheep again several years later – this time a very large flock – blocking the bus and all the traffic for sometime as they milled around on an English road - several shepherds and dogs trying to get them back onto the abundant green !
I don’t know how conversant our congregation is with sheep. A single flock can have as few as six animals or as much as hundreds of them. There are many characteristics that set sheep apart from other animals. Sheep are not very smart; innocent creatures incapable of defending themselves. Sheep obviously cannot voice out their needs. They have a predictable inclination to lose their way. They can be in a pasture with plenty of grass and adequate water and still wander aimlessly until they have nothing to eat or drink. Once lost they can't find their way back. Many animals seem to have inborn compasses - not so with sheep. Once lost, the shepherd must go and find them. If a sheep falls on their back, they cannot right themselves. Its fate is determined by common factors. such as dehydration and starvation as well as attacks by wild animals
Sheep and cattle are very different. Cows are herded from the rear with shouts and prods. But that doesn’t work with sheep. If you stand behind sheep making noises, they will just run around behind you. Sheep prefer to be led. Cows can be pushed; sheep must be lead. Is it not the same with us?
A good Shepherd knows and names each and every sheep in the flock regardless of how big the numbers could be and naturally knows the needs of each and every animal in the flock. Each sheep knows the voice of his shepherd. Ultimately, he is the protector of all under his care
Our psalm, and gospel for today all employ the metaphor of God as Shepherd and people as sheep. Most of us find comfort in the metaphor of God as Shepherd. However, when it comes to the metaphor of people as sheep; a lot of us become rather indignant—we’re not dumb and blind like sheep, are we? We don’t easily fall astray or get lost very easy, do we? No one is able to fool, trick or deceive us by “pulling the wool over our eyes,” are they?
The 23rd Psalm is frequently referred to as the “Shepherd Psalm” Many scholars and commentators have declared it is the most well known and loved of the psalms- Psalm 23 scores very high on the “everybody knows it” chart - However short as it is – this psalm packs an incredible compact masterpiece of David’s life. Needless to say, our brief look today just skims the beginning of the psalm,
David was a great king of Israel, the king by which all others who followed him were measured. But David was not born a king. He was born a shepherd. David knew what it meant to have a flock- to protect them and nurture them. He knew what it was like to be a lowly servant – and -what it was like to be on the top of the social ladder. He knew what sin was all about. He was a brilliant fighter and an excellent musician as well. Maybe that’s why many of us can all associate with him in some way. He was a man who had a vast array of experience.
David begins his Psalm saying, ‘The Lord is my shepherd’. This statement actually shook the readers of biblical times because the temptation in ancient Israel was to speak only about “our” God, (Deuteronomy 6:4) forgetting that the God of Israel is also the God of individuals. Then again, country shepherds were not always considered the elite of society in the first century. We remember the word Good is frequently understood as the opposite of bad.
He did not say "the Lord is the Shepherd of the world in general. He is saying, "The Lord is a Shepherd to me. He cares for me. He watches over me". He makes it personal. Our experience with God can never be vital until it is personal.
In Psalm 23 he writes that “the Lord provides for me, He gives me rest, he restores my health, he comforts me, he guards me from danger and fear, He ensures that I arrive at my destination surrounded by all goodness and kindness.” This psalm reminds us that God is intensely, personally committed to each and every one of us. In a world in which our hopes and dreams can vanish in a moment, we need that eternal promise that we are never beyond God’s care and protection. We can never do anything better than the One who made us. Only the Holy Spirit can make us live the life of Christ. Christ is calling us to serve as His ‘under shepherds’. He has commissioned us to feed His sheep. They need to be fed with the milk and meat of God’s word. They need a regular balanced diet of the Word of God to nourish them and make them grow spiritually.
Abraham, the father of the nation, was the keeper of great flocks. Moses was tending the flocks of his father-in-law, Jethro, when God called him into special service. When Isaiah spoke of the coming of the Messiah he stated; "He will feed his flock like a shepherd! He will gather his lambs into his arms."( Isaiah 40:11) David was a shepherd boy called in from the fields to be the King of Israel. It is small wonder that the image of the shepherd was frequently upon the lips of the savior. It was a part of his heritage and culture. Throughout the Judeo-Christian faith, the image of the shepherd has been stamped upon our thinking.
In our gospel today, Jesus says I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me. The key here is to know experientially This is not book knowledge, but very personal knowledge. The Good Shepherd provides because he knows our basic need, he pilots because he knows our need for direction, he protects because he knows our need for security, he pursues because he knows how easily we are led astray.
Today the psalmist reminds us that the voice of our Good Shepherd is the one who protects us, waters and feeds us and cares for all of our needs. He is the one, who, in our second lesson is not only the Lamb sacrificed for our sin, but also the Shepherd who promises us that one day: we will never more be hungry or thirsty no; sun and scorching heat will not strike us; he will guide us to springs of living water and wipe away every tear. What a marvellous promise! He is the one who, in our gospel, reassures us that he intimately knows us. If we listen to his voice, he shall always be with us and we with him.
Do you believe the promises of all the other voices in our world or the promises of God’s word? Are you listening to the voices of so many in our world today or are you listening to our Good Shepherd’s voice?
Most of the problems if not all we face in life, are the results of not heeding God’s guidance. We can enjoy every aspect of our personal life, marriage, career, and ministry if we are sensitive to his leading. He knows what’s best for us and he will help to achieve our goals as long as they are pure and within the perimeter of his will.
Problems are not absent in life. The choice as to whom David would claim as his Shepherd in life was not difficult for him to make. It would be the God that created man and not the god that man created. It would be "the Lord" the only true and living God.
Jesus also stated “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 Good Shepherd knew that the sheep were not all alike and that each of them had their own special needs Christ does not want any of us to perish but that we all belong to His fold. God cares for the lost and it certainly breaks His heart to see the people He loves living their lives without Him. Jesus Christ became human in order to bring in all the lost sheep. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, all believers in Christ Jesus, even those who are not of this sheep pen, are drawn together into one body, the body of Christ. We may never know to whom Jesus is referring here. But it makes me think about inclusiveness. Those who are oppressed, marginalized, confused, homeless, addicted influenced by evil voices.
It breaks Jesus’ heart to see hurting people who are not in His flock. For the good shepherd the reward comes in seeing his sheep content, well fed and safe. His energies are not spent making a reputation for himself, but rather in finding his sheep the finest pasture, to store feed for the winter season and to find water. Good shepherds provide shelter from the storm, constantly watch for enemies such as diseases and parasites to which sheep are susceptible. and protect the sheep at the slightest sound of trouble.
Jesus says: “My sheep hear my voice, I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one will snatch them out of my hand.” These are very comforting words to us all.
There are so many fraudulent voices speaking to us in our world today - trying to “pull the wool over our eyes.”. The mass media, especially through advertising, speaks with a very influential, manipulative, seductive voice. So many people in our society literally “buy into” this voice of the mass media advertising industry. It preaches a message of endless greed and consumerism. It tells us: “You must have this, that, or the other thing. You can have anything you want. Satisfy your every want, you deserve it, you can have it all.” This message is not the voice of Christ. It stops at nothing to exploit people and all of the world’s resources. It is a message of death; it is killing us by making the poor poorer, the rich richer and by polluting our environment and depleting all of the earth’s resources. It is also a lie, because it leads people to believe that our ultimate needs can be met by buying and possessing consumer goods. Our ultimate needs can only be met be being in loving relationships with God and one another. That’s why it’s so important for us as followers of Christ’s voice to be diligent in our reading and study of scripture and to pray daily; to attend worship weekly; these disciplines keep us more receptive to the voice of Christ.
Jesus did not minister for the glory or the money. Neither did he flee when trouble came. He was willing to sacrifice his life for us that we might gain eternal life and favor with the Father in heaven. As the good shepherd, Jesus brings to the job the strength and courage of an earthly shepherd but also the qualities of beauty and kindness. It is the kind of goodness that makes us feel wanted and secure.
May God grant us the grace and discernment necessary not to be led astray by all of the competing, false voices in our world today; by recognizing, listening to and following the true voice of our Good Shepherd.
In conclusion, there are two words which I wish to briefly comment on. In the original Hebrew writing the word “mercy” is hesed. There is no word in any language that really means the same as this word. It’s not the same as love and it’s not the same as grace or even mercy. Hesed means carrying out a responsibility and fulfilling an obligation. For example - when a person looks after his or her parents - he or she is fulfilling a sense of duty or obligation. The other is “follow” the original word was “Pursue.” The Lord has an obligation toward us. Not that God owes us for anything we’ve done. Not at all! He has an obligation to live up to His Name as a merciful God! He is a faithful loving God who has an obligation to His own Name to do what He has promised to do. Out of pure grace, God has made promises to us - His children. He has promised us that Jesus has paid for all of our sins. He has promised us that all things will work out for our good. He has promised those who believe in Him an eternity in heaven. He has never made a promise that he didn’t keep. It isn’t presumptuous to believe God’s promises. It’s called God given faith.
Surely goodness and hesed will pursue me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever. AMEN
HYMN 485 – Saviour, like a shepherd lead us
St. John reminds us that because Jesus laid down his life for us, we ought to lay down our lives for him. What we offer today is not such a complete sacrifice, but our gifts show our love and commitment in gratitude for what Christ has given for us.
God, you are our Shepherd, strong and wise. We offer our gifts to you, asking you to bless them. Multiply their impact in the world to accomplish your will. May they be used wisely in mission and service, here in our community and through the outreach of The Presbyterian Church in Canada and its partners for the sake of Christ, our Risen Lord. Amen.
PRAYERS OF THE PEOPLE
Gracious and loving God,
as a shepherd cares for the flock, so you care for each one of us.
Move in our hearts and minds, our congregations and communities,
and lead us to care for one another for the sake of Jesus,
our Good Shepherd.
Today we thank you for the gift of rest.
We pray for all those who are tired from work or worry,
especially in these days of pandemic.
Grant peace to those who are worn out with anxiety or frustration,
and rest for all those who are weary from the responsibilities of their work.
Lord, in your mercy,
Hear our prayer.
God our Guide, we thank you for the gifts of truth and wisdom.
We pray for those who cannot discern truth in the midst of conspiracy theories,
and for all who suffer under authorities who distort reality for their own ends.
Grant wisdom and common sense to all who must make decisions
in these confusing days of competing arguments.
Lord, in your mercy,
Hear our prayer.
God our Strength, we thank you for the ways you refresh our souls.
We pray for those whose lives are burdened with poverty,
or with uncertainty about the future beyond the pandemic.
We remember all who face any sort of trial or difficulty,
those who are sick, in pain, or facing death,
and those who are bereaved by the loss of someone dear.
For all of these precious souls, be their source of healing and peace.
Lord, in your mercy,
Hear our prayer.
God our Shield and Defender, we thank you for staying with us when we face danger or death. We pray for all those who live in fear:
prisoners, exiles and refugees, victims of oppression, racism and hatred,
those who know the threat of violence day after day.
Be for them a steady companion and their source of courage.
Lord, in your mercy,
Hear our prayer.
God our Provider, we thank you for all the ways you fill our cup to overflowing.
Today we remember the folks in our community who volunteer in the various agencies looking after peoples needs; for Service clubs, for the Seniors Centers- all of which are still under the restraints of rules and guidelines to help in the suppression of transmitting viruses.
Thank you for offering peace and calm in the midst of turmoil,
for the return of happiness after times of strife,
and for insight emerging after confusion and indecision.
Help us recognize your redeeming gifts which guide us and give us hope.
Show us how we can be part of your redeeming work,
unfolding in the world around us,
and bless the ministries undertaken through The Presbyterian Church in Canada.
We remember in prayer and give thanks for all former and current mission staff who, in faith, accepted God’s call to participate in God’s mission in Canada and globally.
Bless those who serve in challenging missions in Canada,
and around the world.
Equip them well to reach out in love and respect, together with local partners,
to accomplish your will in Jesus’ name.
Hear us as we offer the prayer that Jesus taught us:
The Lord’s Prayer
Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name, thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen.
HYMN 772 Christ for the world we sing
May the love of God enfold us, the wisdom of the Son enlighten us, and the fire of the Spirit kindle us and may the blessing of God remain with us always.