4th Sunday of Easter

This week’s Gospel invites us to think about Jesus being “The Good Shepherd,”

John ch 10 vs 3-4

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.

It also speaks about Jesus being “the way, the gate” to green pastures.

John ch 10 vs 9

I am the gate. Whoever enters by me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture.

The passage echoes the wonderfully comforting and well known Psalm 23, giving us an image of a green valley with still waters gently flowing through it. 

That image of Jesus as our saviour and shepherd is then echoed in Peter’s first letter

1 Peter 2:24-25  

He himself bore our sins in his body on the cross, so that, free from sins, we might live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed.

For you were going astray like sheep, but now you have returned to the shepherd and guardian of your souls.

 

I have been involved in planning and leading 3 funerals this week, so Psalm 23 has been very much in my thoughts. As I have journeyed with families caught up in grieving in a different way due to the restrictions from Covid19 pandemic, I have found it very hard, having all planning conversations with the family “remotely”. Pastoral conversations about how folk are feeling have had to be over the phone, it’s just not the same. Not being able to put an arm around a grief stricken relative as they battle tears to speak about their loved one to an almost empty room and a camera streaming the service to friends and family in their homes, has been upsetting. It has felt physically very strange, emotionally quite distressing and spiritually very different.

But the ancient words of Psalm 23, often read at funerals, have brought us comfort. The knowledge that Jesus is our shepherd, that God’s son has walked this path of suffering and walks with us now, is a very powerful spiritually in these unusual times. 

I posted a prayer and picture on our church facebook pages this week. I wanted an image that summed up the prayer for Thursday

Whether you are rushed off your feet, battling Covid19 on the frontline, or "climbing the walls", directed to stay home for 12 weeks to protect yourself from it’s life threatening affects, or somewhere inbetween, lockdown is affecting all of us physically, emotionally and spiritually. It does at times feel like a very dark valley. 

Our scriptures today remind us that Jesus wants to be our shepherd. He wants us to get to know “his voice”, to lead us through these difficult times. I know for many people the fact that the “gate” to church is closed. The doors being locked has meant they have had to find new ways of hearing God’s voice; whether it be at the other end of the phone through calling “Daily Hope” on 0800 804 8044, through the internet and social media, listening to the Daily Service on the radio or watching Songs of Praise on TV. But is not easy. Finding new ways of shopping, new ways of working, new ways of praying and mastering new technology is hard. Our anxiety can make us feel that the problems in front of us are like high mountains closing in and keeping us in the darkest valley.

The rainbow that we see in the picture, and in so many windows today, reminds us of God’s promise to Noah, after the floods, and His promise to us today, He will be with us. He will guide us with wise words from scripture, with loving actions of neighbours and through our prayers for each other.

May God be with you, may you find new strength and fresh hope as we journey together through this valley, until we can meet again.

 

 

 

Lectionary Readings for 4th Sunday of Easter

 

Psalm 23

The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want.

He makes me lie down in green pastures; he leads me beside still waters;

he restores my soul. He leads me in right paths for his name's sake.

Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I fear no evil; for you are with me; your rod and your staff-- they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD my whole life long.

 

1 Peter 2:24-25

He himself bore our sins in his body on the cross, so that, free from sins, we might live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed.

For you were going astray like sheep, but now you have returned to the shepherd and guardian of your souls.

 

John 10:1-10

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.

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly."

Risen Christ,

you filled your disciples with boldness and fresh hope:

strengthen us to proclaim your risen life

and fill us with your peace,

to the glory of God the Father.

Amen.

I found this image. 

It spoke to me of Psalm 23, the still waters and the green pastures and a sense of peace, but also of the way into those green pastures. 

We will all find ourselves at times in our lives in “the darkest valley”, when illness, bereavement, loss of a job, end of a relationship, threaten to overwhelm us and never more so than now.

Walton Team Ministry
 

0151 525 3130

 

waltonparishteam@hotmail.co.uk

Walton Team Ministry

Walton Cornerstone

2 Liston Street,

Liverpool L4 5RJ