Fourth Sunday of Easter: Acts 2: 42-47; Psalm 23; 1 Peter 2:19-25, John 10:1-10
Message: “The Good Shepherd”
Have you ever seen, on video or, even better, in person, the Navajo shepherd herding their sheep in Monument Valley? Well, on the reservation the role of the shepherd of the sheep has not changed that much since the time of Jesus, when it was a common experience of many, which is why Jesus used it as the context of his teachings.
The lectionary Gospel reading for this Sunday is rich with meaning and application for those who reflect on the mission of the church alluded to by our Lord: “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.”
Imagine that: Jews, Greeks, Romans, Egyptians, Parthians, Medes, slaves, free, “our kind” and those very definitely not “our kind,” all sheep who, according to Jesus, belong to that great shepherd of the sheep.
“Psalm 23 has charmed more grief to rest than all the philosophy of the world.” Henry Ward Beecher
An actor once told of an experience honoring an old priest from the village where he was born. During the course of the evening he was asked to recite the 23rd Psalm. When he completed the recitation the audience applauded in recognition of his eloquent expression of this beautiful passage from the Bible. Then the actor asked the old priest who was being honored at the occasion to stand and recite the 23rd Psalm. When the old priest finished, there was no applause but a reverent hush fell over the entire audience until the actor said respectfully: “I know the 23rd Psalm, but he knows the shepherd.”
Music: “The Lord’s My Shepherd,” “Shepherd of Love,” “Gentle Shepherd,” “Savior, Like a Shepherd Lead Us”
Call to Worship
“He will feed his flock like a shepherd; he will gather the lambs in his arms, and carry them in his bosom, and gently lead the mother sheep.” (Isaiah 40:11)
Eternal God, we remember that your son, Jesus, when he saw the crowds, had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.” May that be our vision. Amen
Prayer of Confession
We confess, holy God, that we are not the persons we should be, nor the persons we could be, nor even the persons we seem to be. What’s more, we haven’t been all that concerned. We’ve been content to drift along as best we can, without being very intentional about our inward health. Other things have preoccupied our minds, and we haven’t always given you first place in our lives. Pardon us, we pray, and enliven us with your Holy Spirit to new heights of awareness and spiritual growth.
Words of Assurance
“We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each has turned to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all” (Isa. 53:6)
Prayer of Thanks
O Lord, we give thanks to you for your abundant mercies and gracious presence in our lives. Thank you for the hope that Jesus brings to our broken lives and spirits. Thank you that our hope is not shallow and empty, but founded upon the rock which is higher than we are. May our joy and gladness in the gospel be seen and heard every day in all we do and say, to the glory of God and the mission of Jesus Christ to the world. Amen
It is now our privilege to invest our tithes and offerings in the worldwide effort to bring the good news of Jesus Christ to the world.
All shall give as they are able, according to the blessing of the Lord your God. (Deut. 16:17)
We are grateful, almighty and merciful God, for this opportunity to invest in eternal soul that will never die, in a cause that will never fail, and in truths that will never go out of date.
Now may the God of peace, who brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, make you complete in everything good so that you may do his will, working among us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen (Heb. 13:20-21)
(Prayers and other worship items courtesy of Leroy Koopman @ Liturgical Publications. Subscribers are permitted to reprint material in non-profit publications only; all other reproduction is prohibited. 2013 Liturgical Publications Inc, LPi Resource Center, P.O. Box 510817, New Berlin, WE 53151-0817, 1-800-950-9952 ext. 2469)