Home Worship - May 3 2020

Call to Worship

The Lord is alive! He is alive indeed! He has risen from the dead! Having passed
through death to life, Christ has won the victory over everything evil and
destructive. Full of glory and power, he enables us to bring the hope and joy of
resurrection into the world’s problems and tragedies. With God, nothing is
impossible. Hallelujah! He is alive indeed!

This is a place of safety; this is a time of comfort.
With all that we are; parts that are whole, and parts that are broken;
parts that are well, and parts that are sick ,
parts that are joyful and parts that are in pain;
With all that we are, we come to worship You,O God,
for You are gracious, merciful and kind, And we long to find our rest in You.

Hymn 1 All People that on Earth do Dwell

Prayer of Confession

We ask Your forgiveness for our failures failure to speak Your Name to those
who needed to hear it; failure to show love and compassion; failure in our
relationships; failure to put You and Your work first; failure to give You
priority in our lives; failure in those areas of our personal lives, which we
confess now in our hearts.

Hear and forgive us, we pray.

Father God, through Your Son You have promised that those who come to You
in true repentance will be forgiven.
We cIaim that forgiveness now in the certainty of your love.

Prayer of Thanksgiving

Again this should be the day
for loud hallelujahs sung in full churches.
as we meet with the Risen Christ.

But not this year.

But when I open my eyes,
the world IS full of loud hallelujahs.
They are being chirped by the birds in the trees.
They are being heralded by every bud bursting into leaf.
They are being sung by every soul who refuses to give in,
every person showing kindness to their neighbour,
all those who are finding creative ways to lift our spirits
and by the heroism of every front-line worker.

God of overflowing grace, at this Easter Time
may there still be a hallelujah in my heart,
as I join with creation and all God’s people in their homes,
rather than church buildings
to sing songs of love and praise
As we remember the Lord’s victory.

Let us be happy! Let us celebrate!
“This is the time of the Lord,
that brings us gladness and joy,
filling our hearts with glee!”

Lord of the Resurrection
put a new hope and a new confidence in our hearts.
You will forever be the God who gives us victory!

(provided by John Kingsley Hospital Chaplain (URC) Countess of Chester)

We now join with Christians all over the world as we say together
Our Father ….

NT Reading John 10:1-18

Some Thoughts

Amongst the early Christians the most popular image of Jesus was that
of the Good Shepherd. We have proof of this from the numerous
sketches of the ‘Good Shepherd’ found in the Catacombs.
The shepherd was also a frequent O.T. image of God, just as sheep are
a frequent image of Israel.

Although many painters and sculptors throughout history have made
great theological emphasis of the image of the shepherd, especially
carrying a lamb on his shoulders, to Jesus listeners this would have
been an everyday sight as it was normal rural practise.

The common people would see and recognise the connection but in
their arrogance the Pharisees considered shepherds members of an
unclean profession and thus would not be able to readily identify with
the story unless they changed their way of thinking.
Here, John starkly depicts the difference between the callous legalism
of the religious leaders and Jesus' compassion.
ln today‘s Gospel Jesus is talking about two different types of
shepherds. We have the good shepherd who leads his flock in the right
direction. He feeds them with suitable food, and protects them from
danger at the cost even of his own life. And the bad shepherd - Jesus
refers to him as the hired hand – who leads the sheep in the wrong
direction, neglects to feed them, or wrongly feeds them, lets his sheep
stray and get lost or hurt, and in time of danger when the wolf strikes
he will abandon them and run for his own safety. This hired shepherd
works only for money whereas the good shepherd works out of
devotion for his sheep.

It is obvious that Jesus was talking about Himself and His relationship
to the Jewish people. He was telling His disciples that He would not run
away from danger. He would stand His ground, even if it meant
sacrificing His own life in order to save them.

Why would a man do that, sacrifice Himself for His friends? Clearly the
answer is not for money. No amount of money could convince a person
to give his own life. He would have no use for it when he was dead and
gone. The only possible answer is love.

In this parable it becomes evident that Jesus knows himself to be the
living embodiment of God’s command to Israel in the Old Testament to
care for the outcast and the underprivileged, much to the disgust and
scorn of the Pharisees who regarded themselves as the ones who carry
out God’s wishes.

Jesus addresses this parable to his religious accusers in effect turning
the tables on them and demonstrating that they are not truly Good
Shepherds to God’s people To speak in this way was a dangerous thing
for Jesus to do, but he was more concerned to challenge the evil
systems of his day than to preserve his own life.

Jesus makes the point that the shepherd will guard his flock because he
has a personal involvement with their well being as opposed to the
hired man who has no personal involvement and will therefore lose
nothing by walking away at the first sign of trouble.

The emphasis is on the selfless dedication of the shepherd in putting
the welfare of his sheep before even his own life, a direct reference to
the sacrifice that Jesus would shortly make .

This is in contrast to the Pharisees who stressed that God’s forgiveness
had to be earned by acts of public repentance and sacrifice and that
somehow God enjoyed damning the godless, and that God was remote

and dispassionate.. They were not leading people to God, they were
not feeding them with spiritual food, they were not going after those
who had strayed from the right path, those who had got lost and hurt,
and they most certainly would not have endangered their lives for

The truth is that God actively seeks sinners out so that they may be
made whole again in him and know his love .

This is a love that seeks reconciliation not revenge and punishment.
This is the freely given grace of God.

The parable describe the character of this grace. The shepherd guards
his sheep not because of monetary gain but because He has a personal
interest in His creation. This is the mind of heaven, whatever the heart
of man on earth may be. It is the work of Christ, the Good Shepherd.
Thus God acts in the world, seeking sinners. The hateful and hating
jealousy of self-righteousness such as the Pharisees finds no place in
the mind of heaven, where God dwells.

So what is the relevance of this passage today here in the 21 st century
This morning we must ask ourselves are we sheep or shepherd and if
shepherd what kind Good or bad.

If we are sheep then we have a lot in common with them. Often we
follow the crowd, never thinking where we are being led. We wander
away, following our own inclinations, trying to find new pastures and
new delights. We go astray because of our own stupidity, our
greed, our desire for pleasure. We can be led astray by others who
make evil look attractive.

How do we cope with these dangers and temptations? The only way is
to stay close to the Good Shepherd. Jesus tells us that His sheep listen
to His voice and follow Him because they know that they can trust Him

to keep them safe and lead them to rich pasture. There are many times
when we stray from our Good Shepherd, and we feel frightened and
alone. But we have His assurance that He will never desert us. He will
go in search of His lost sheep and bring them home.

If shepherd, Are we the hired man who like the Pharisees who does
God’s work because of the earthly rewards it brings of power and
adulation but at the first sign of trouble walks away.
Where would we be today if Jesus had turned round at the cross and
said I’ve done my bit its someone’s else’s turn.

Or are we like the Good Shepherd who looks after his flock not because
of monetary gain or fleeting earthly praise but because he loves them
and wants only the best for them even if it means losing his own life .

Hymn 691 Come Let Us Sing of a Wonderful love

Prayers of Intercession

Almighty and all powerful God, creator of the world and the nations
We bring before you all those caught up in the conflict in Syria and other
areas of conflict.

Lord, hear our prayers for your Church,
You have called us to serve, to go into all the world and make disciples. We are
slow and hesitant witnesses of you, foolish and afraid. May we find a voice to
shape the world, to share good news and bring all people into love and
knowledge of you.

Lord, hear our prayers for those that we love and for those who know no love,
We remember all who are ill, in body, mind or spirit
We remember all who are grieving and we remember
We remember all who are lost and alone, afraid of life
We remember all who are struggling to make sense of the world
and their faith in this time of trouble

Lord, hear our prayers for ourselves
for we have many concerns, worries and needs.
We bring them to you, the prayers we can speak and the prayers of our hearts
that cannot be put into words, for we are confident that you hear and answer
all who come to you .

May we, as a believing congregation, find a voice to comfort the sad, aid the
stranger and share ourselves with others in times of need.
All this we bring in the name of Jesus, our strength and Redeemer.

Hymn 378 Be Thou my Vision

Closing Prayer

Touched by Your grace,
We take Your grace to the world.

Healed by Your love,
We take Your love to the world.

Renewed by Your Spirit,
We go in the $pirit's power
to be agents of Your healing.