Sunday, May 3, 2020

Fourth Sunday of Easter

Let’s start with three deep breaths and relax….

Opening Reflection

God my Shepherd by Bob Bennett

Amen let us begin today’s worship

Call to Worship

L: Jesus the Good Shepherd calls our names to come and follow.

P: The voice, speaking our names, draws us to Christ.

L: We follow without fear, for the shepherd cares for us.

P: Our hearts rejoice and we can place our trust in the Good Shepherd.

L: Come, let us enter the gate with thanksgiving!

P: Let us go forth confidently with songs of praise! AMEN.

Jesus Like a shepherd lead us #252

(All candles lit.)
All: Alleluia, Christ is risen; Christ is risen indeed!

Today’s Gospel reading is

John 10:1-10 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

Jesus the Good Shepherd
10 “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. 10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.

The word of God for the people of God!


There seems to be a lot of talk of sheep and sheepfolds and brigands or bandits…
It’s all very poetic and a bit confusing… John also has added one of his “I am” statements well two actually into the mix…
Andrew Sachs author and pastor of Grace Church in Greenwich UK has an interesting look at this… “His repeated admonition is to “go bigger, go older” when studying any passage in the Bible.

By going bigger, he means that we need to consider the larger chunk of Scripture in which the passage we’re teaching is found. And by going older, he encourages Bible handlers to look carefully for allusions to the Old Testament that will provide insight into the passage.”[1]

In my research for today’s lesson I found myself heading towards sheep and shepherds till I found this interview with Pastor Sachs.

Guthrie: In John 10, you mentioned that we have two of them right there together. We might try to separate them. But I heard you say that maybe that’s not the wisest idea because they’re really in one central story. And this is where Jesus makes two statements both, “I am the door of the sheep.” And, I think, that’s maybe the hardest one, a hard one for us to know what to do with. And then, “I am the good shepherd.” So, tell us how those work together and how we approach these.

Sach: I so love these verses. The same points apply that we need to go bigger, and we need to go older. So, if we go bigger, Jesus says he’s the Good Shepherd in the context of others who are false shepherds. “All who came before me are thieves and robbers,” he says. He warns against the thief and against the wolf. What he’s talking about, In John chapter 9, just before we’ve had this blind man that Jesus amazingly has opened his eyes miraculously. And then we see the religious leaders persecuting him. And they drag his parents into the court, and they throw them out because they didn’t get the answer they’re looking for. You know, “Is this man your son? How come he can now see?” Then they abused the man himself, “You were steeped in sin from birth.” So, the religious leaders were mistreating this man, whereas Jesus deals with him tenderly and beautifully. Then you get his commentary, “I am the good shepherd the others are thieves and robbers.” So, Jesus is actually his commentary, we have the sign, the miracle in chapter nine, now we get the commentary on the sign in chapter 10. And Jesus is, actually, identifying the characters we’ve just witnessed. So, the man is the sheep, the new disciple, Jesus is the Good Shepherd, he treats him well, the Pharisees are the fake shepherds who treat him badly. They’re just in it for what they can get.

Go older, we know that all the way through the Bible, a shepherd has been a metaphor for being a king. So, of course, Moses was a shepherd who, literally, shepherded his father’s, you know, flock. And then David was a shepherd when he was recruited. It comes to be a metaphor for the leader of God’s people. Then we get to the prophet Ezekiel and he has this amazing chapter where he pronounces God’s judgment on the shepherds of Israel who only feed themselves in Ezekiel chapter 34. And God’s solution. He says, “I’m against thy shepherd,” says the Lord. And then he gives a solution, “I, myself, will shepherd the sheep.” So Ezekiel said God is against those who mistreat his people, the leaders of Israel who lead them astray, who don’t bind up the wounded and don’t go after the strays. And then God says, “I, myself, will come and be the shepherd.” He will do that.

And something else I saw just recently that I love. In Ezekiel, in the prophecy in chapter 34, there’s a little bit of a puzzle because God says, “I, myself, would do it.” And then at the end of the chapter, he says, “David will do it.” And you think, “Well, which is it, God? Are you gonna do it, or is your king gonna do it?” And it’s just unresolved in Ezekiel. And then you get to John chapter 10, and Jesus says, “I do it.” And then he says, “My father will do it.” So God does it, and God’s King does it. And is this two different people and which is it? Jesus says, “I and the Father are one.”

So the place in John 10 where Jesus most clearly gives us a glimpse of the Trinity, the unity of him and his father, he’s, actually, picking up a puzzle that was there since Ezekiel. Where is the shepherd gonna be God or God’s king, or it’s both, because God and God’s King are one?

Guthrie: Yeah, so probably his original heroes, certainly John when he wrote it, they are a little more immersed in Ezekiel than we are likely today. So perhaps they would have been able to make those connections. They, certainly, would have, when they heard “shepherd,’ they didn’t necessarily think shepherd of a sheep like we do. They’re thinking about Israel’s leaders, and both their priestly and governmental leaders who have proved unfaithful.

Sach: Sometimes, I say to people that if I told you yesterday, “All my troubles seemed so far away, but now it seems they’re here to stay.” You’re smiling because you immediately recognize the allusion to the Beatles. Whereas we read in the Bible a story about false shepherds and three shepherds and we don’t say think Ezekiel 34. And that is because we know the Beatles better than we know the Old Testament. So shame on us. I think, it’s just is an encouragement to immerse ourselves in the scriptures because often the New Testament as you say, it’s just expecting us to pick up these allusions. And as we get to know the Old Testament better, we will see them everywhere.”[2]

This commentary certainly brings this talk of sheep and sheepfolds into context and we see the example of how Christ cares for the sheep in this case the blind man. But the story doesn’t end there for the last line in this reading says, speaking of sheep, “I have come in order that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” (John 10:10)

Jesus came so that those who were abused and mistreated by the religiously Righteous and the church leaders may have life and have it abundantly.

Lord knows “The Church” hasn’t been guilty of any such crimes since we learned of the blind man…the pastor said sarcastically!

When I was in seminary, I asked the question who is Herman neutic and why are we talking about him…well here we go…

“One way to get a fresh perspective is to consider what we are bringing with us to the text. Hermeneutics is the field of study that reflects on these and other factors in the interpretive process. A reader taking on a particular hermeneutical approach intentionally brings certain questions or issues with them when they engage a text.1 For the Good Shepherd Discourse, a fruitful hermeneutical approach might be a sociocultural reading that pays special attention to power dynamics in the text and to “the relationships between that text and other social and cultural realities” like gender, race, or colonialism.2 Postcolonial criticism is one type of sociocultural approach that pays attention to the power dynamics produced by and at work in colonization. When applied to a text from the era of the Roman Empire, such a reading notices how the text interacts with the social and cultural realities of imperial life.”[3]

So warren carter points out that the tradition of the time was to look at kings and emperors as good shepherds who offer security and abundance for the empire and its subjects.[4] But though this was the tradition the reality of the time spoke very differently. So john besides embracing the old testament to tell of who Jesus is also shows Jesus standing against empirical powers.

“Jesus’ claim to be the ultimate good shepherd who brings abundant life is further supported by his actions of healing and providing wine and bread. The presentation of Jesus offers a critique of the Roman Empire, which claimed (as reported in the writings of Philo, Josephus, Tacitus, and others) to bring wholeness and wellbeing to society, when its structures actually brought sickness and poverty to most of its subjects.”[5]

Lindsay Jodrey from Princeton Theological presents us with an interesting challenge rewarding this text…

“As Jesus delivers this discourse, he tells the hearers that he is using a figure of speech. The narrator interjects that “they did not understand what he was saying to them” (1:6). Perhaps the hearers of Jesus’ Good Shepherd discourse didn’t understand what he was saying because the metaphor was messy. Or perhaps they were too embedded in the systems of the Empire to even see the other way to which Jesus was pointing. A way where violence is not used to control. A way of space for “other sheep,” a way for distribution of resources.

One reason we read this text alongside the imagery of Empire, was to get a new vantage point, so that we don’t miss an important word for us today. We should take care not to be comforted by this passage too quickly. While it certainly speaks to those parts of our lives where we might be disadvantaged or ostracized, we must open our imaginations to the more uncomfortable implications of this text for our current context.

It is easy to critique the Roman Empire of the ancient world, but there are far too many similarities to our current systems to ignore the message for our own sociopolitical context.
Let us be open to noticing new things about ourselves as we read this text:
  • Where do we participate in systems that oppress others?
  • Where do we grapple and grasp for power?
  • Where are we challenging the systems even when it will cost us something?
  • Are we following the voice of the Good Shepherd who calls us to critique these systems and follow the path to abundant life?”[6]

As we engage the scripture as a congregation, as denominations and as a global movement we must pay attention to how it  authentically, deeply, and honestly  leads to more questions than answers.  The Gospel should make us a little uncomfortable at first and very uncomfortable by the end.  The Gospel is written to comfort the afflicted and afflict those who are in comfort… so comeback to the text, look at the questions asked here today, and pray on them. Then ask this question; where Christ is shepherding you to?


A call to prayer
The early disciples devoted themselves to prayer,
The teachings of the apostles, and sharing the bread of life.
They were a people of prayer,
Who shared their joys and concerns,
Their passions and sorrows,
With one another and with the Lord.
For burdens shared and burdens lessened,
And joys shared and joys enriched,
Come, let us follow their example and lift our prayers to God

Please write your joys and concerns in the comment section and I will lift them up after this hymn

Blessed be the tie that Binds #393

Let us pray the prayer Jesus taught us

Our Creator, who art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kin-dom come, Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For Thine is the kin-dom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen

Normally this would be the call to the offering if you would care to you can mail in your offerings or go to the top of the webpage and click the donate now
The office is open for regular hours
We are accepting donations for the kidz cupboard and the food pantry

Now let us prepare our hearts and our tables
For Holy Communion this morning,
I invite you to lend Christ your table.

On the first day of Holy Week long ago,
people throughout Judea arrived
at the dusty gates of Jerusalem,
primed with “Hosanna” in their hearts
and Jesus asked to borrow a donkey.

On the Thursday that followed,
Jesus rented or was given
John Mark’s mother’s Upper Room
to celebrate the Passover with the disciples.

On the afternoon of the resurrection,
Jesus was invited into a house in Emmaus
and used the bread of that hospitality
to break and bless.

Lend Christ your table, your bread, your cup and your heart,
for, as the disciples told the person who loaned the donkey,
“The Lord has need of it.”

Prayer of Consecration
Leader:          We are one bread, one body, one cup of blessing.
Though we are many throughout the earth
and this church community is scattered,
we are one in Christ.
In your many kitchens, and living rooms,
rest your hands lightly upon these elements
which we set aside today to be a sacrament.
Let us ask God’s blessing upon them.

Unison:         Gentle Redeemer, there is no lockdown on your blessing
and no quarantine on grace.
Send your Spirit of life and love,
power and blessing
upon every table where your child shelters in place,
that this Bread may be broken and gathered in love
and this Cup poured out to give hope to all.
Risen Christ, live in us, that we may live in you.
Breathe in us, that we may breathe in you.

Words of Remembering
Leader:          We remember that Paul the apostle
wrote letters to congregations throughout places
we now call Greece, Turkey and Macedonia,
and they were the first “remote” worship resources.
Our online service has a long heritage.
The Communion words sent to the church at Corinth were these:

For I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you,
that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed
took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks,
he broke it and said,
“This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.”
In the same way he took the cup also, after supper, saying,
“This cup is the new covenant in my blood.
Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.”
For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup,
you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes.

Sharing of the Elements
Leader:          Let us in our many places receive the gift of God, the Bread of Heaven.
Unison:         We are one in Christ in the bread we share.

Leader:          Let us in our many places receive the gift of God, the Cup of Blessing.
Unison:         We are one in Christ in the cup we share.

Prayer of Thanksgiving
Leader:          Let us pray in thanksgiving for this meal of grace,
rejoicing that, by the very method of our worship,
we have embodied the truth that Christ’s love
is not limited by buildings made with human hands,
nor contained in human ceremonies,
but blows as free as the Spirit in all places.

Unison:         Spirit of Christ, you have blessed our tables and our lives.
May the eating of this Bread give us courage to speak faith and act love,
in your precious world,
and may the drinking of this Cup renew our hope
even in the midst of pandemic.
Wrap your hopeful presence around all
whose bodies, spirits and hearts need healing,
and let us become your compassion and safe refuge.  Amen[7]

I am available for one on visits or phone calls if you need any prayer we will be together again soon but until then remember you are the hands and the feet of our lord in this world and in this world of no physical contact we can still smile, wave, chat , check in

Final hymn of blessings Thuma Mina #360

Monday Bible Study on Zoom

Rev. Dr. Joseph Shore-Goss is inviting you to a scheduled Zoom meeting.

Topic: Bible Study
Time: May 4, 2020 12:00 PM Eastern Time (US and Canada)
        Every week on Mon, until May 25, 2020, 4 occurrence(s)
        May 4, 2020 12:00 PM
        May 11, 2020 12:00 PM
        May 18, 2020 12:00 PM
        May 25, 2020 12:00 PM
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[3] Alicia D. Myers and Lindsey S. Jodrey, “Come and Read: Hermeneutics and Interpretive Perspectives in the Gospel of John,” in Come and Read: Interpretive Approaches to the Gospel of John, ed. Alicia Myers and Lindsey S. Jodrey (Lanham, MD: Fortress Academic, 2020), 6.

[4] Warren Carter, “Jesus the Good Shepherd: John 10 as Political Rhetoric,” in Come and Read: Interpretive Approaches to the Gospel of John, ed. Alicia Myers and Lindsey S. Jodrey (Lanham, MD: Fortress Academic, 2020), 97.

[7] Online Communion for Palm Sunday was written by the Rev. Maren C. Tirabassi.
©2020 Maren Tirabassi, all publishing rights reserved.  Permission for congregations to use in worship or educational settings, including streaming.

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