4th Sunday of Easter Worship

The Fourth Sunday of Easter – 3rd May 2020

The Preparation

Alleluia! Christ is risen.
He is risen indeed. Alleluia!
Great is the Lord and worthy of all praise.
Amen!
Praise and glory and wisdom, thanksgiving and honour,
power and might, be to our God for ever and ever! Amen.

I am the good shepherd,’ says the Lord.
‘The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.’ John 10:11

Hymn of Praise –The King of Love My Shepherd Is

Arrangement by Gonzalo L. Gonzalez Melody – St. Columba (ancient Irish melody) Lyrics by Henry Baker written in 1868.

The words are printed below.

The king of love my shepherd is,
whose goodness fails me never;
I nothing lack if I am his
and he is mine forever.

Where streams of living water flow
with gentle care he leads me;
and where the verdant pastures grow,
with heavenly food he feeds me.

Perverse and foolish I have strayed,
but in his love he sought me;
and on his shoulder gently laid,
and home, rejoicing, brought me.

In death’s dark veil I fear no ill
with you, dear Lord, beside me;
your rod and staff my comfort still,
your cross before to guide me.

And so through all the length of days
your goodness fails me never:
Good Shepherd, may I sing your praise
within your house for ever!

Christ is the good shepherd
who knows and cares for every one of the sheep
in different folds.
In Christ there is neither Jew nor Gentile;
in Christ there is no discrimination
of gender, class or race.
In Christ the poor are blessed,
the simple receive truth hidden from the wise.

Alleluia!
God of justice and compassion,
you give us a work to do
and a baptism of suffering and resurrection.

From you comes power to give to others
the care we have ourselves received
so that we, and all who love your world,
may live in harmony and trust.

In silence we remember our need for God’s forgiveness.

Silence

Let us confess our sins to God.

God of mercy, we have sinned against you and against others.
We have sinned in what we have done,
and in what we have failed to do.
We are truly sorry.
For the sake of your Son Jesus Christ, who died for our sins,

forgive us all that is past and raise us to newness of life. Amen.

In God there is forgiveness.

Loving and all-seeing God,
forgive us where we have failed to support one another
and to be what we claim to be.
Forgive us where we have failed to serve you;
and where our thoughts and actions have been
contrary to yours we ask your pardon.

God forgives us; let us be at peace.

Collect

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 whole,
and lead us that we may be with you,
with the Father and the Holy Spirit,
where you reign one God for ever. 

  Amen

The Ministry of the Word

A reading from Acts 2:42–47 (New Revised Standard Version)


(The new community of believers in the resurrected Jesus devote themselves to teaching and fellowship, to sharing eucharistic meals, and to the prayers)

They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. Awe came upon everyone, because many wonders and signs were being done by the apostles. All who believed were together and had all things in common; they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need. Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having the goodwill of all the people. And day by day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.

Acts 2:42–47 (New Revised Standard Version)

Hear what the Spirit is saying to the Church.
Thanks be to God. Alleluia!

Psalm 23

The Lord is my shepherd:
   therefore can I lack nothing.

You Lord make me lie down in green pastures:
   and lead me beside the waters of peace.

You revive my spirit:
   and guide me in right pathways for your names 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 are my comfort.

You spread a table for me in the sight of my enemies:
   you have anointed my head with oil, and my cup is overflowing.

Surely your goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life:
   and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.

Glory to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit;
as it was in the beginning is now and shall be for ever. Alleluia! Amen.

A reading from John 10:1–10 (New Revised Standard Version)

(Two related images in which Jesus is first the shepherd in charge of the sheep and then the gate through which the sheep enter)

Rev Alister Hendery reading today’s Gospel.

“Very truly, I tell you, anyone who does not enter the sheepfold by the gate but climbs in by another way is a thief and a bandit. The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep hear his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice. They will not follow a stranger, but they will run from him because they do not know the voice of strangers.” Jesus used this figure of speech with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them. So again Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and bandits; but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the gate. Whoever enters by me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.


John 10:1–10 (New Revised Standard Version)

Hear what the Spirit is saying to the Church.
Thanks be to God. Alleluia!

The Sermon  

SEE THE SERMON below – OR just WATCH THE VIDEO

4th Sunday of Easter (A)
Rediscovering the Shepherd                            
Psalm 23 & John 10: 1-10
 
I doubt if there’s a more familiar passage of Scripture than
Psalm 23. It’s such a clear expression of confidence and trust
in God’s care for us. Maybe that’s why we so often turn to it
at tough times.
 
We probably read Psalm 23 with John 10 in the back of our
minds. Jesus is the Good Shepherd, leading us, caring for us,
guarding and protecting us, giving us comfort. But this isn’t
a Christian composition. Like all the psalms, it’s a gift from
our Hebrew forebears. So, when we read or sing them, it’s
helpful to remember the stories that lie behind these poems.
 
What I like about the psalms is that they embrace all
dimensions of human experience and the different facets of our
relationship with God. There’s power and passion in them,
misery and joy, lamentation and celebration, anger and
tenderness, despair and hope. The psalms encompass the full
range of emotion and response to God.
 
Our journey with God never takes a smooth course, and so it
was for the Jewish people. They wrestled with their
relationship with God. They longed to live with God as sheep
live with a shepherd, but their life was hard. They struggled
to believe that this Shepherd was leading them to green
pastures, or that goodness and mercy would always follow them.
It often seemed that God had deserted them, and they walked
away from God. They rushed down what they thought were more
promising paths toward more attractive gods, which always led
them into trouble. Then they would return to the Lord their
God and discover that the One who had called them, hadn’t left
them, but had remained faithful, even when they were
unfaithful. That’s why so many of the psalms describe the
churning, disruptive experience of being lost and found,
judged and forgiven, sent away and brought back. It’s all a
part of the pathos of people who get scared and lose their
way, and of the high drama of God, searching to find the lost
sheep.
 
Remembering this, leads me to read Psalm 23 from a different
slant. Here’s a picture of our humanity. Of course, we’re
drawn to the images of green pastures, still waters, and an
overflowing cup, because this is what we desire. But like the
Hebrews, in all their struggles, our lives are often not
like this. ‘He makes me lie down in green pastures...’ Sheep
may be rather brainless creatures, but they never need to be
made to lie down. We humans so often live our lives as if
we’re on a treadmill with no stop button, and when we find the
green pastures, they are never quite green enough. So, we work
harder, strive more, and forget that God only desires to give
us what we need.
 
The psychologist, Rollo May, observed, ‘Humans are the
strangest of all of God’s creatures, because they run fastest
when they have lost their way.’ When we’re fearful, we respond
by running faster, and that leads us to make mistakes and take
the wrong course. It happens in church communities. We think
we’re aren’t going to survive, so we involve ourselves in
frenetic activity. But what this busy activity says, is that
we don’t really trust the Divine Shepherd; we don’t trust the
Shepherd to lead us to green pastures and still waters and
down the right paths. Maybe, a gift of this time in lockdown,
is that we’ve had to push the stop button and re-discover who
God is and who we are.
 
I confess to having a problem with this psalm. I don’t mind
calling the Lord my Shepherd, but I’m not so keen about being
called a sheep, simply because sheep aren’t particularly
smart. They scare easily and run off in all directions, and
left to their own devices, they get lost. But then, when I
think about it, the psalmist understood human nature. He’s
saying, ‘Sorry people – you’ve lost your way in your
 relationship with the Lord and with each other. Otherwise,
why do you keep running so fast? Why do you keep chasing after
things that don’t really last? Why aren’t you willing to put
your feet up and be still with the One who wants to lovingly
care for you – who wants to renew and refresh you?’
 
We experience lostness in various ways – lost in our grief and
hurts; lost in our shame for things done and left undone; we
lose sight of who we were called to be; lose sight of the fact
that we’re God’s beloved children. Maybe that’s what Jesus was
getting at when he spoke of coming to give people abundant
life – life in all its fulness. Abundant life looks different to different people in different places, at different times.
But it’s always a response to whatever is robbing us from
being the people God calls us to be and living a life that’s
rooted in the confidence that God is with us and will never
leave us. That’s what ‘Shepherd’ means. It’s a metaphor for
‘God-with-us’ – code for God saying, ‘I won't leave you and
I’ll give you what you need deep down. So, you can slow the
treadmill down. You can even get off and have a rest. Then I
can lead you beside still waters and restore your soul and
take you to a place of peace; to a relationship where you’re
restored and can be who you are meant to be.
 
Psalm 23 is about God who longs to be with us always, even as
we walk through the darkest valley. That darkness is different
for each of us: sickness, the loss of work, this uncertainty
of this time, a fear, pain or struggle. It’s where life seems
to be covered in shadows in which nameless terrors lurk. In
this place God says, ‘I’m present. Don’t fear the evil you
face. I’m with you. My goodness and mercy shall follow you. In
fact, I’ll run after you and I won’t let you go.’
 
This assurance doesn’t erase evil, or suffering, or heartache.
Nowhere in the Psalms do we find such naivety. That’s part of
their attractiveness. They are real. They allow us to hurt and
grieve and rant. Deathly valleys and enemies still exist, but
they aren’t capable of destroying God’s loving care and
goodness for us, and they need not cripple us with fear so
that we have to keep frantically running. We can stop and
allow ourselves to be sustained and fed by the Shepherd – to
be led to an oasis of green, and there, to lie down by restful
waters; refreshed for the journey, knowing that God’s loving
kindness and mercy will pursue us every day of our lives.
                                                              
Alister Hendery
St Matthew’s, Hastings – 3.5.2020

A meditative song: Because the Lord Is My Shepherd


BY CHRISTOPHER WALKER.
The words are below.

Because the Lord is my shepherd,
I have everything I need.
He lets me rest in the meadow
And leads me to be quiet streams.
He restores my soul
And he leads me in the paths that are right:

Lord,
You are my shepherd,
You are my friend.
I want to follow always,
Just to follow my friend.

And when the road leads to darkness,
I shall walk there unafraid.
Even when death is close I have courage,
For your help is there.
You are close beside me with concert,
You are guiding my way:

Lord,
You are my shepherd,
You are my friend.
I want to follow always,
Just to follow my friend.

In love you make me a banquet
For my enemies to see.
You make me welcome,
Pouring down honour from your Mighty hand;
And this Joy fills me with gladness,
It is too much to bear:

Lord,
You are my shepherd,
You are my friend.
I want to follow always,
Just to follow my friend.

Your goodness always is with
And your mercy I know.
Your loving and kindness strengthens me
Always as I go through life.
I shall dwell in your presence forever,
Giving praises to your name:

Lord,
You are my shepherd,
You are my friend.
I want to follow always,
Just to follow my friend.

Prayers

Good shepherd, you are the shepherd of many flocks:
we pray for those who are frightened or bewildered…
for those who are hungry and without shelter…
Lead us in the paths of righteousness, that your people everywhere may be freed from want.

Loving God, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

Good Shepherd, you call us by name and claim us as your own:
we pray for all who are shepherds to your flock…
for all who have lost their way or strayed from your path…
Guide us in your ways, that we may tread the path that leads to abundant life.

Loving God, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

Good Shepherd, each of your flock is precious in your eyes:
we pray for those who are unable to care for themselves…
for all whose lives are closely linked to ours…
Protect your people from danger and harm, they may know your goodness and mercy.

Loving God, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

Good Shepherd, you seek especially your lost and wounded ones:
we pray for those who are sick or in any kind of trouble…
for those who grieve for loved ones…
Comfort us in our need, that we may know your presence and not be afraid.

Loving God, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

Good Shepherd, you long to bring all your flock safely home:
we pray for those who are walking through the valley of the shadow of death.
May they know your peace and love…
Grant that we may all dwell in your house for ever.

Loving God, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

In darkness and in light,
in trouble and in joy,
help us, heavenly Father,
to trust your love,
to serve your purpose,
and to praise your name,
through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

The risen Christ is in our midst, and so we pray

Our Father in heaven,
   hallowed be your name,
   your kingdom come,
   your will be done,
       on earth as in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins
   as we forgive those who sin against us.
Save us from the time of trial
   and deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom, the power, and the glory are yours    now and for ever.    Amen. 

The God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great shepherd of the sheep, make us perfect in every good work to do his will.

Let us bless the Lord.
Thanks be to God. Alleluia!

KEEP IN TOUCH

Our St Matthew’s website is being updated regularly:  https://stmattshastings.com

Also our St Matthew’s Facebook

CONTACTS

The Rev’d Alister Hendery: 021 742 434
Email: alister.hendery@waiapu.com

Parish Office (Tracey at home):  06 878 9476
Email: stmatthews.hastings@gmail.com

~ This copyright material is taken from A New Zealand Prayer Book / He Karakia Mihinare o Aotearoa, © Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia and is used in accordance with regulations.