Worship: 'Good Shepherd Sunday'-4th Sunday of Easter 5.3.2020
Introduction to the day
Today is sometimes called “Good Shepherd Sunday.” Jesus is called the “gate” of the sheep in today’s gospel. The risen Christ opens the way to abundant life. He anoints our heads with oil and guides us beside the still waters of our baptism. Each Sunday he spreads a feast before us amid the world’s violence and war. We go forth to be signs of the resurrection and extend God’s tender care to all creation.
An Abundant Life
Abundant life is promised to those who follow Jesus. But what is meant by abundant life? Some Christians, and much of contemporary American culture, interpret an abundant life to mean the “good life” of many fine things, an opulent lifestyle. Much of our economy and leisure time revolves around consumerism—shopping and buying things which we hope will make us happier and our lives better. But an abundance of things does not necessarily lead to an abundant life.
What does Jesus mean when he says that he came so that we may have an abundant life? Psalm 23 provides us with a good illustration of what Jesus is promising to his followers. The psalm imagines an abundant life not in material terms but in relational terms. An abundant life is one lived in the presence of God, in the company of the Lord. Whether one is in green pastures or the darkest valley, there is nothing to want, because God is present. We are in the gracious and generous care of our Lord through times of material abundance and in times of want and scarcity. This relationship between our Lord and us who are his followers is a relationship with one who knows us abundantly, who knows us by name, and who knows what we truly need to be fulfilled. The image of Jesus as our shepherd reminds us that he is with us at all times, and our relationship with him provides us all we need.
Opening Song (Contemporary Option) I Shall Not Want
FOURTH SUNDAY OF EASTER I Am the Gate
As he prepared to return home near the end of three years in a state prison, the man wrote to the church where, before his arrest, he had worshiped, attended Bible study, and played guitar in the music program. While an inmate, he went to chapel and showed up at Bible study on a regular basis. He was ready and hopeful to return to his faith community. Days before his release, he received a letter from the church: “We cannot allow you to fellowship with us until our mission committee meets to decide whether to admit you.”
“I am the gate,” says Jesus, the shepherd and the bringer of life. Jesus is the one who opens the way. For all who suffer rejection—barred from entrance and denied community because of who they are, how they behave, where they come from, what they’ve done, how they look, or what they believe—it is shocking to hear Jesus say, “I am the gate, and I came to bring abundant life to all my sheep.” We may think, Really? Me? Can it be so?
To the religious leaders who saw themselves as gatekeepers—the deniers and allowers, the definers and approvers, the deciders and assigners—Jesus voiced his graced rebuke: “No! I am the gate, and the gate is open. All with ears listening and hearts aching for mercy, come this way. Enough of those who kill your hope, destroy your spirit, steal your worth! Thieves and bandits they are, in righteous disguise.”
And to the church, Jesus voices this nonnegotiable word: “I am the gate. The gate is open, bringing goodness and mercy to all. There are no exceptions and no exclusions. So, my sheep, pour my wine, break my bread, splash my water, serve my meal, spend my life, be my body, welcome all as my own. The gate is open.”
Opening Hymn (Traditional Selection)
The King of Love My Shepherd Is (LBW 456)
1 The King of love my shepherd is, whose goodness faileth never; I nothing lack if I am his, and he is mine forever. 2 Where streams of living water flow, my ransomed soul he leadeth and, where the verdant pastures grow, with food celestial feedeth.
3 Perverse and foolish oft I strayed, but yet in love he sought me, and on his shoulder gently laid, and home, rejoicing, brought me. 4 In death's dark vale I fear no ill, with thee, dear Lord, beside me, thy rod and staff my comfort still; thy cross before to guide me. 5 Thou spreadst a table in my sight; thine unction grace bestoweth; and, oh, what transport of delight, from thy pure chalice floweth! 6 And so, through all the length of days, thy goodness faileth never. Good Shepherd, may I sing thy praise, within thy house forever.
Text: Henry W. Baker, 1821-1877 CCL#11430988
The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all.
And also with you.
Brief Order for Confession and Forgiveness (LBW p. 56)
In the name of the Father, and of the ☩ Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
Almighty God, to whom all hearts are open, all desires known, and from whom no secrets are hid: Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit, that we may perfectly love you and worthily magnify your holy name, through Jesus Christ our Lord.
If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. But if we confess our sins, God who is faithful and just will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
Silence for reflection and self-examination.
Most merciful God,
we confess that we are in bondage to sin and cannot free ourselves. We have sinned against you in thought, word, and deed, by what we have done and by what we have left undone. We have not loved you with our whole heart; we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves. For the sake of your Son, Jesus Christ, have mercy on us. Forgive us, renew us, and lead us, so that we may delight in your will and walk in your ways, to the glory of your holy name. Amen
The minister addresses the congregation.
Almighty God, in his mercy, has given his Son to die for us and, for his sake, forgives us all our sins. As a called and ordained minister of the Church of Christ, and by his authority, I therefore declare to you the entire forgiveness of all your sins, in the name of the Father, and of the ☩ Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
Prayer of the Day (LBW p. 62)
Let us pray. . . .
God of all power, you called from death our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep. Send us as shepherds to rescue the lost, to heal the injured, and to feed one another with knowledge and understanding; through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.
First Lesson: Acts 2:42-47 The Fellowship of the Believers
Today’s reading is a description of life in the community following Peter’s sermon on the day of Pentecost, when the Spirit was poured out on God’s people. The new community is sustained in worship and fellowship, shares what they have, and ensures that everyone has enough.
And they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.
Here ends the reading.
Psalm: Psalm 23 The Lord Is My Shepherd
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 paths of righteousness for his name's sake.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will 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 forever.
Second Lesson: 1 Peter 2:19-25
By Christ’s Wounds We Are Healed
Doing the right things does not guarantee that one will not experience difficulties, hardships, rejection, or even suffering. Here Christ is presented as the model for our path of endurance and loyalty to God, particularly amid adversity.
For this is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly. For what credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure? But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God. For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.
Here ends the reading.
Gospel: John 10:1-10 I Am the Good Shepherd
Jesus uses an image familiar to the people of his day to make a point about spiritual leadership. Those who listen to Jesus are led to abundant life.
“Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door but climbs in by another way, that man is a thief and a robber. But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the gatekeeper opens. The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.” This figure of speech Jesus used with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them.
So, Jesus again said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and 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.
The Gospel of the Lord.
Praise to you, O Christ.
Sermon Entering Into the Sheepfold
The Lord told of a sheepfold which is a fenced area where the sheep were placed for protection. There the sheep should be safe and could not scatter. However, the sheepfold made the sheep easy prey for thieves and robbers. In the darkness of the night, the robber could silently climb into the sheepfold and steal or kill the sheep. If possible the thief would catch a small lamb and carry the lamb away. If this was too difficult, the robber would silently cut the throat of a sheep, remove the hide and perhaps a quarter of meat to sell. Sounds awful, doesn’t it. This tells us there are enemies out there trying to destroy us. It is even worse if we stray from the sheepfold (for us, that means leaving the protective place He has for us and trying to “go it alone.”
In some situations, the sheepfold was a large area used by more than one shepherd. A porter (guard) was placed at the door (gate). When the shepherd came, the porter would open the door. The shepherd would walk in and call his own sheep by name. The sheep would respond to their shepherd and the shepherd would lead them out. The sheep would not respond to a stranger for they know not the voice of strangers.
The difference between the thief and robber and the shepherd of the sheep is the entrance into the sheepfold. The shepherd of the sheep enters the door (gate). The thief and robber climb in some other way.
John 10:6 This parable Jesus spoke unto them: but they understood not what things they were which He said.”
John 10:7 Then said Jesus unto them again . . .
At this point John wrote how the Pharisees knew Jesus was speaking a parable, but they did not understand what he meant. The Lord then made it perfectly clear.
Verily, verily I am the door
Again the Verily, verily is given followed by I am the door of the sheep (John 10:7). First and foremost, Jesus is the door of the sheepfold. Four times will Jesus speak of the door. Before Jesus identified himself as the good shepherd, he identified himself as the door of the sheep. Before he can lead us as the good shepherd, we each must come through him to enter his kingdom. The shepherd of the sheep must pass through him. Jesus did not say thieves could not enter. Yet He is saying indeed they do get into the sheepfold. The difference is the entrance.
The genuine shepherds must meet his approval. They must enter correctly. Though they may think they are given a position by someone else, in the final analysis, they must come through him.
if any man . . .
The Lord repeated and amplified his statement saying, I am the door (John 10:9). The Lord expands the thought from only the shepherds passing through him. The sheep too must pass through him. He said, If any man . . . Then he gives the process for salvation. Jesus said . . . by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture. We have a conjunction. We link saved with find pasture. The purpose of salvation is to find pasture.
First there is the entering into the sheepfold to which he is the door. The modern day sheepfold is the church which is to be the expression of the kingdom of God. Going through the door is an individual’s response to the Father’s drawing. This response provides salvation. The Bible says we are delivered from the power of darkness and translated into the kingdom of Christ (Col 1:13).
The Bible also teaches we were dead in that we were separated from God, but when we pass through the door, we are quickened or made alive. At this time the Bible says we are raised up and made to sit together in heavenly places (Eph 2:5, 6).
Ephesians 2:5 Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;)
Ephesians 2:6 And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus:
Once in the kingdom through Christ the door, we have access to all the kingdom benefits. Our lives will change as we apply the teaching of Jesus. We are not only guaranteed eternal life, but an abundant life.
…he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture.
The person, after entering, can then go in and out. Once we have entered the kingdom, the kingdom goes with us every place we go. Jesus said we are in the world, but not of the world (Joh 17:14). We are to salt the earth (Mat 5:13). We are the light of the world (Mat 5:14). We are not to hole up, but rather to go forth. If we will go and do what we are supposed to do, the promise is we will find pasture.
The salvation the Lord provides is to find good pasture. For a sheep, pasture is abundant green grass. For you and me, pasture is the abundant life. Pasture is success. Pasture is peace and joy. Pasture is a good life. Jesus explains exactly this as he says,
John 10:10 The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.
Maybe one day streets of gold and walls of jasper will be what I need, but today I need the abundant life. Perhaps one day I will need abundant death, but Jesus came to give life and that more abundantly! This is a promise.
Today I need a functional family, not dysfunctional. I need a job I enjoy and feel fulfilled. I need money to not only pay my bills, but enough to enjoy my life and leave some for my children and grandchildren. I need my health. I need to be spiritually alive. Jesus came to give me and you abundant life!
Hymn of the Day (Traditional Selection)
Have No Fear, Little Flock (LBW 476)
1 Have no fear, little flock; have no fear, little flock, for the Father has chosen to give you the kingdom; have no fear, little flock! 2 Have good cheer, little flock; have good cheer, little flock, for the Father will keep you in his love forever; have good cheer, little flock! 3 Praise the Lord high above; praise the Lord high above, for he stoops down to heal you, uplift and restore you; praise the Lord high above! 4 Thankful hearts raise to God; thankful hearts raise to God, for he stays close beside you, in all things works with you; thankful hearts raise to God!
Text: Luke 12:32, st. 1; Marjorie Jilson, b. 1931, sts. 2-4
Text © 1973 Concordia Publishing House CCL#11430988
Good Shepherd (Lead On)
Creed (LBW p. 64)
I believe in God, the Father almighty,
creator of heaven and earth.
I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord.
He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit
and born of the virgin Mary.
He suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried.
He descended into hell.*
On the third day he rose again.
He ascended into heaven,
and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic Church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting. Amen
our ordinary gifts seem small for such a celebration,
but you make of them an abundance,
just as you do with our lives.
Feed us again at this table
for service in your name,
in the strength of the risen Christ.
Create in me a clean heart, O God,
and renew a right spirit within me.
Cast me not away from your presence,
and take not your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation,
and uphold me with your free Spirit.
Uplifted by the promised hope of healing and resurrection, we join the people of God in all times and places in praying for the church, the world, and all who are in need.
A brief silence.
Shepherding God, we thank you for the educational ministries of your church. Enrich the work of teachers, professors, mentors, advisors, and faculty at colleges, seminaries, and learning sites (especially those colleges and seminaries we name in our hearts) Lord, in your mercy,
hear our prayer.
Creating God, we praise you for those who maintain and operate farm equipment, for those who plant and harvest crops, for local farmers’ markets, and for those involved in agriculture of any kind. Strengthen their hands as they feed the world. Lord, in your mercy,
hear our prayer.
Guiding God, no one should be in want. Bid the nations to return to your paths of righteousness and inspire our leaders to walk in your ways, so that all may have the opportunity to live abundantly and sustainably. Lord, in your mercy,
hear our prayer.
Comforting God, you carry us tenderly. We pray for those who walk through dark valleys overshadowed by anxiety and overwhelmed with suffering (especially those within our congregation, our families and our community we name in our hearts). Lord, in your mercy,
hear our prayer.
Nurturing God, you desire justice for the hungry. Bless advocacy work, food pantries, and feeding ministries in our congregation and communities. May none of our neighbors lack for basic needs. Lord, in your mercy,
hear our prayer.
Here other intercessions may be offered.
Everlasting God, your beloved have heard your voice; you have called them by name and guided them to your side in death. We thank you for their lives of faithful witness. Lord, in your mercy,
hear our prayer.
With bold confidence in your love, almighty God, we place all for whom we pray into your eternal care; through Christ our Lord.
Lord’s Prayer (LBW p. 76)
Our Father, who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name,
thy kingdom 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 kingdom,
and the power, and the glory,
forever and ever. Amen.
May the One who brought forth Jesus from the dead
raise you to new life, fill you with hope,
and turn your mourning into dancing.
Almighty God, Father, ☩ Son, and Holy Spirit,
bless you now and forever.
Closing Hymn Traditional Selection LBW #481
Savior, like a Shepherd Lead Us
1 Savior, like a shepherd lead us;
much we need your tender care.
In your pleasant pastures feed us,
for our use your fold prepare.
Blessed Jesus, blessed Jesus,
you have bought us; we are yours.
2 We are yours; in love befriend us,
be the guardian of our way;
keep your flock, from sin defend us,
seek us when we go astray.
Blessed Jesus, blessed Jesus,
hear us children when we pray.
3 You have promised to receive us,
poor and sinful though we be;
you have mercy to relieve us,
grace to cleanse, and pow’r to free.
Blessed Jesus, blessed Jesus,
early let us turn to you.
4 Early let us seek your favor,
early let us do your will;
blessed Lord and only Savior,
with your love our spirits fill.
Blessed Jesus, blessed Jesus,
you have loved us, love us still.
Text: Dorothy A. Thrupp, 1779-1847
Goodness, Love and Mercy
Christ is risen, just as he said.
Go in peace. Share the good news. Alleluia!
Thanks be to God. Alleluia!
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