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4th Sunday of Easter : 21st April 2024

What follows is a worship service which, I pray, you can participate in at a time(s) that are convenient to you. This 'service' will take about forty five (45) minutes.

I pray that you will feel called to ACTIVELY PARTICIPATE in this service.

The text that is in regular typeface (that is what you are reading at the moment) is to be read quietly, while the text that is in
bold face (like you are reading right now) is meant to be read aloud.

Opening Hymn:

Let us continue by watching, and please do feel free to sing or read aloud the lyrics, as we commence our praise and thanksgiving.

When you are ready - click the "play" button on the video window, below:

A Call To Worship:

We meet in the name of God,

Creator of the universe,

source of true humanity,

mother and father of all. Amen.

An Assurance of Forgiveness:

(click the 'play' button below to listen)

The Absolution
00:00 / 00:18

The Sentence For Today (let us say aloud):

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not be in want.

The Special Prayer For Today (let us pray aloud):

O God, whose Son Jesus is the good shepherd of your people: Grant that when we hear his voice we may know him who calls us each by name, and follow where he leads; who, with you and the Holy Spirit, lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Our first reading for today:

(click the 'play' button below to listen)

Acts 4:5-12
00:00 / 01:07

Our second reading for today:

(click the 'play' button below to listen)

1 John 3:16-24
00:00 / 01:17

Gradual Hymn:

Let us continue by watching, and please do feel free to sing or read aloud the lyrics, as we raise out voices in praise and thanksgiving.

When you are ready - click the "play" button on the video window, below:

A reading from the holy gospel according to Saint John.

John 10:11-18
00:00 / 01:23

Listen to David speak to this gospel

A lot like sheep ?
00:00 / 11:16

or, if you prefer, you can read the sermon, below:

Sermon for Easter 4, 21st Apr 2024

Take my lips O God and speak through them, take our minds O God and think through them, take our hearts O God and love through them this day. <Amen>

Did you know that there are 25.3 million sheep in Aotearoa\NZ and just 5.1 million people. Basically that’s 5 sheep for every person.

It is quite a challenge to prepare a message for this 4th Sunday of Easter without talking about sheep and shepherds. They feature prominently in our gospel for today. Indeed, this particular Sunday, is known as “Good Shepherd Sunday.”

The image of God as our shepherd, and Jesus as our good shepherd, is such a familiar one. But I have to wonder: is it still of help to us in the 21st century? It is rather old fashioned, isn’t it? In biblical times, everyone knew a shepherd. It would have been a very familiar and helpful metaphor. But is that still the case? <PAUSE>

Yet, somehow, this image continues to speak to us as people of faith. Psalm 23 is still one of our most beloved passages in scripture. Jesus as the Good Shepherd is still one of the most familiar ways of thinking of, and picturing, our Saviour.

This week, I’ve been wondering why this is still the case because, for most people, agriculture is not something that is a common thought or topic for discussion … and then it struck me! The answer is actually quite simple: We humans long for a shepherd.

We all know that we need someone to lead us, to protect us, to guide us. Someone to go to when things get tough. We are a lot like sheep, and sheep need shepherds.

The world, in Jesus’s time, through the centuries, and now, looks for someone to lead.

Our world needs leaders. Our world needs good and faithful shepherds, to take care of us.

Our world certainly needs a good shepherd right now. We need someone that we trust to lead us, as nations and people all around the world. A world that continues to be plagued by the fragility of human-kind … war, terrorism, hatred, hunger, poverty, pollution, climate change, addictions, family violence, unemployment. <PAUSE>

There is no simple road map through all of these dreadful things that continue to plague humanity. There is no “quick fix”.

Times, like the present, are when we need a shepherd more than ever. Whether it is an old-fashioned image or not, it is still true. We are still a lot like sheep.

So, I, for one, am going to keep using the image, because it is helpful to think of us as sheep, and what that can teach us about our life of faith?

Sheep are “flock animals.” They like to be together. They don’t do so well on their own. There is safety in numbers, and sheep seem to know this. So, they tend to spend a lot of time together, and they find a lot of benefit from being together. We humans are “flock animals” too, are we not? We like to be together. We like to gather in groups. There is this innate drive to surround ourselves with like-minded people, in sports and politics, at work and at school. We tend to flock together. “Birds of a feather flock together”, as the old saying goes.

Can we refer to our FaithaLight community as a “flock”? You see, we are a community that recognises that there are important reasons to come together.

However, what is unique about us is that we are not necessarily “birds of a feather”. We all live in different communities, we are different ages, we grew up and live in different parts of the world, we have different native languages, we have different tastes in music, we support different sports teams, we have widely-varying political views, and on and on.

We are not exactly birds of a feather, but, BUT, we know that we need a shepherd to save us and lead us. <PAUSE> We are all followers of Jesus, and so, we are here, flocking together, as best we can, seeking guidance from our shepherd. <PAUSE>.

Furthermore, sheep are natural followers. They don’t like to be pushed; they prefer to be led, and it is their shepherd who leads them. When you think about it, that’s really smart. Sheep trust their shepherd, and go where the shepherd goes. They let the shepherd go first, to make sure the way is safe, and then to invite them to follow him.

Isn’t that what Jesus is asking of us? To be his followers? He’s not going to push us. He’s not going to force us. Instead, Jesus just keeps quietly calling us, in many and various ways, and inviting us over and over to follow Him. Jesus promises to lead us, to protect us, and even to lay down His life for us. He invites us to trust and follow Him.

Jesus is our shepherd, the Good Shepherd. The leader that our world needs right now. We are his sheep. Flocking together, listening for his voice, and following him. Perhaps this image of being sheep, and Jesus as our Good Shepherd, is not so out of date as I first might have thought.

Our world has NOT out-grown its need for a shepherd. So, today, Good Shepherd Sunday, we pause to remember that we are blessed to have a shepherd, who is good and loving and faithful; who promises to lead us all the days of our life, through the trials and tribulations and whatever this world throws at us. <PAUSE>

We can help this shepherd by being good and faithful sheep: By continuing to flock together, faithfully listening for his voice, and by following him.

The Lord is our shepherd. Still. So, let us be his sheep and to God will be the glory.

I runga e te Ingoa o te Atua, te Matua, te Tama me te Wairua Tapu.
In the name of God, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit <AMINE>

Pause and Reflect

Just take a moment now to pause. Bow your head, close your eyes.
 

Allow these words of Holy Scripture and this interpretation of them today to speak to you.

An Affirmation of Our Faith

Let us affirm our faith by saying aloud, and together, "The Apostles Creed":

apostles_creed_pic02.jpg
Image by Allef Vinicius

... and now let us pray for the Church, the World, and Ourselves, giving thanks for God's goodness.

​Let us pray aloud, and together:

Holy God, your Son remained with his disciples for 40 days after His resurrection, teaching them to love all people as friends and neighbours. We too are his disciples and we offer our prayers on behalf of Your people, the world in which we live and all those with whom we share it.

In Jesus, name we pray. Amen.

(LONGER pause for silent, personal reflection)

In response to the call today “Lord, in your mercy” Our response is, “hear our prayer!”

(Short Silence) Lord, in your mercy: hear our prayer

Loving God, the letter of John reminds us that “If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person?”  Help us to try to aspire to this love whenever and wherever we are able.

(Short Silence) Lord, in your mercy: hear our prayer

Loving God we pray for all world leaders that, using Jesus Christ the Good Shepherd as the ultimate model of leadership, they would lead and care for their own flocks in such a way that peace might abound, righteousness flourish and injustice be eradicated.


(Short Silence) Lord, in your mercy: hear our prayer

Father God, help us to reach out to strangers in our midst.  As we remember the way the early Church lived in one heart and mind and shared everything they had may we too be always mindful of the needs of others less fortunate and always welcome the newcomer , the stranger, the visitor, joyfully into our midst.

(Short Silence) Lord, in your mercy: hear our prayer

Loving God we pray for those who do not know Your peace and for those who are struggling with their lives.  We ask for Your healing on those who are sick, Your strength for those who are tired and Your love for those who live with despair and fear

We especially raise before you now all those who have asked for our prayers from around the world … those we know in New Zealand, in Singapore, in Argentina, in France, in Australia, in the US, in Canada, in Austria, in Ukraine, in China and any others we now name aloud, or in the silence of our hearts, and those who are known only by you.

(Short Silence) Lord, in your mercy: hear our prayer

Gracious God, we pray for those who now walk in the valley of the shadow of death. We know from the Psalm that You are with them and have gone before them to prepare them a table overflowing with all good things.  Guide those who are left behind in the paths of righteousness and uphold them in their sorrow with the assurance of your goodness and love.

(Short Silence) Lord, in your Mercy: Hear our prayer

In a moment of silence we pray for ourselves, our families, friends, for all whom we love and for our personal ministries. Make us worthy of the resurrection that Your Son has won for us.

(Short Silence) Lord, in your mercy: hear our prayer

Everlasting God, we ask that you would bless us, wherever we may be across the world, help us to be your faithful sheep and inspire us with a vision for the future and reverence for the past.  Guide us each day as we minister to one another and to the world.  Help us each day to bear witness to Your name and to do Your bidding, always mindful of your amazing love for us.

(Short Silence) Lord, in your mercy: hear our prayer

Forth in the peace of Christ we go; Christ to the world with joy we bring; Christ in our minds, Christ on our lips, Christ in our hearts, the world’s true King.

Merciful father: accept these prayers for the sake of your Son, our Saviour, Jesus Christ.  AMEN.

lord's_prayer_pic01_edited.jpg

Remembering that we are confident to pray this day, and every day, because Jesus Christ continues to teach us:
 

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.

Let us conclude our prayers by praying together and aloud:

 

God of mercy,
you have given us grace to pray with one heart and one voice,
and have promised to hear the prayers
of two or three who agree in your name,
fulfil now, we pray,
the prayers and longings of your people
as may be best for us and for your kingdom.
Grant us in this world to know your truth,
and in the world to come to see your glory. Amen.

The Blessing

May The Risen Lord Christ turn His face towards each and every one of you.

May He cause His light to shine upon you, and

may He grant you His peace, and

 

The blessing of Almighty God who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit,

be with you and all of those whom you love,

on this day and forever more.

A Closing Hymn:

Let us conclude our worship today by watching, and please do feel free to sing or read aloud the lyrics, as we unite in another hymn our praise and thanksgiving.

When you are ready - click the "play" button on the video window, below:

The Dismissal

Go now, go out into the world

to love and serve The Lord.

 

Go in peace.

AMEN, we go in the name of Christ.

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