Fourth Sunday of Easter ~ May 3, 2020
Note: Each time you see a musical link in the liturgy, mute or lower the volume on your device before clicking on the link. Once you have done that then click on the link. If an ad pops up, you can then “Skip Ad” and not be disturbed by the noise of the advertisements. Once you see that the music is beginning then unmute or raise the volume on your device. This will allow a more meaningful worship experience for you. Peace be with you.
Prelude: Alle Menschen müssen sterben (All Must Depart) J. Pachelbel
Pachelbel composed this chorale prelude shortly after losing both his wife and son during the plague of 1683. Based on a well-known melody of the same name, earlier settings focused only on death and dying. Pachelbel’s version emphasizes the gift of patience and serenity believers can expect to experience in moving from the sadness of death to the joy of eternal life.
We acknowledge that we live and work on the unceded, ancestral and traditional territories of indigenous peoples. We accept that Mother Earth and the peoples near us and around the world are all our relations. Thanks be to God.
Let us worship God together.
Introit: I Was Glad: K. Bissell https://youtu.be/8iaBVjmVWjo
I was glad when they said unto me, “We will go into the house of the Lord.”
Our feet shall stand in thy gates, O Jerusalem.
O pray for the peace of Jerusalem : they shall prosper that love thee.
Peace be within thy walls, and plenteousness within thy palaces.
For my brethren and companions’ sakes, I will wish thee prosperity.
Yea, because of the house of the Lord our God, I will seek to do thee good. [Psalm 22]
*Call to Worship:
Christ is risen. Christ is risen indeed! In the newness and resurrection of this Easter season, there is hope. In the freedom and joy of Easter, there is liberation. In our Easter alleluias and amens, there is grace. Christ is risen. Christ is risen indeed! Alleluia!
Hymn: The Strife is O’er https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h9-FCgn-buw
Prayer of the Day:
God of grace and glory, by the death and resurrection of your Beloved Child your reign of wholeness has been unleashed within our bent and broken world. Open us to your empowering grace that we may be bearers of your world-redeeming love; through the resurrected Christ, who is our dignity, our power, and our peace. Amen. VU 188
Listening for THE WORD
Hymn: The Lord’s My Shepherd https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kbGsIVeKU_E
Scripture Reading: John 10:1-10 (read by Winston Lanyon) https://youtu.be/qXyrcKkWM8g
A Reading from the Gospel according to John. Listen for what the Spirit is saying to the Church.
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. 2 The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. 3 The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep hear his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 4 When he has brought out all his own, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice. 5 They will not follow a stranger, but they will run from him because they do not know the voice of strangers.” 6 Jesus used this figure of speech with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them.
7 So again Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. 8 All who came before me are thieves and bandits; but the sheep did not listen to them. 9 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.
This is the story of our faith. Thanks be to God.
Choral Anthem: Brother James’ Air https://youtu.be/Rsw1gix1CvA
Reflection: The Rev. Jay Olson https://youtu.be/d7gUGaFHduY
The biblical passage given to us today in the lectionary is one about Shepherd and sheep. I have to confess that I have never liked this image very much. I have never seen myself nor do I see myself now as a shepherd of a flock. Jesus is the shepherd not me. I’m one of the sheep and as a Minister of Word, Sacrament and Pastoral Care I also have an additional role and functions. I have been called and formed for this particular role in the Church that is to contribute to the vitality of life in this dynamic circle of faith. I’m a little bit like a sheepdog moving about in support of the care and leading of a flock. But I am not the shepherd!
What is most troublesome for me about the shepherd image is that it has been used to neutralize the radical character and teaching of Jesus. The image of Jesus as a gentle shepherd has so sentimentalized our picture of him that we do not see him as the gospels do and we do not hear his voice as it calls to us from the stories. This gentle Jesus remember is the same one who called out his followers for their lack of trust and for the ways they excluded the “least” among them. This not-always-gentle Jesus called them to wake up, pay attention, share everything they had and learn to live in God’s rule not their version of it. To see and limit Jesus the shepherd as a kindly sort who just takes care of people misses the point of the shepherd ruler in opposition to the conquering king ruler. In other words, a sentimental, gentle Jesus meek and mild, just does not cut it biblically. Not then and not now.
So what might these few verses be saying to us today?
As a Minister, when I think of you and remember us gathered together, I do not see you as sheep. I see you, us, as a community of people brought together by our experiences of the holy, brought together and continually becoming together to embody that holy presence for one another and for the world. And yes, I do see One with us who is here with us to lead and prod us in our becoming.
I see in these few verses vitality of movement and activity. There is a shepherd that goes in and out ahead of the sheep. There’s a gate that lets movement of people and creatures in and out. And there’s a gatekeeper and sheep; sheep who know the voice of their shepherd. And there are those that might be referred to as sheep rustlers and poachers.
These versus are to me like a snapshot of a circle of relationships that is community – God’s community – like the community for which Jesus prayed in the garden, remember when he prayed that they/we would be one. And in the margin of the snapshot is the caption about abundant life – similar to the vision of life in the 23rd Psalm, a life-cup filled to overflowing.
When I picture this activity in my head, I don’t see sheep, I see you! I see us. I see people gathered, virtually and in person (not individuals but groups of people – a great big, worldwide flock of us) Shaughnessy Heights United Church and every Pastoral Charge with which I have served. I see the pastoral charges across the Pacific Mountain Region and Canada, in the United States, the Philippines, Palestine, Britain, Norway, Korea – and and and…
I see us all in John’s active circle of complex relationships – shepherd, sheep, gatekeepers, rustlers, those who hear God’s voice and more.
The Christ is the gate, the opening for life, John tells us.
The Christ is gatekeeper welcoming in and sending out.
The Christ is the shepherd who calls and searches, protects and corrects.
The Christ for us is a gateway to the abundant life God makes available to us all.
Jesus, the Christ, witnessed to God’s rule of grace in opposition to rule by conquering forces. He did so by sacrificing himself for the good of all – what the commentator Gerard Sloyan calls, “…Jesus’ self-sacrifice to achieve a transcendent good for many.” Page 132
I believe the good news is this. God’s purpose in Jesus the Christ was and is that all would be fully alive, overflowing with life; that all would have enough and that we would be one people aligned in God’s purposes.
This is who the Shepherd ruler calls us to be. Perhaps this is how God longs to see us.
We know the voice of our not-always-gentle Shepherd and we hear the call to life. How then will we respond especially now? In this spectacularly opportune time as we figure out how to put the world together again, will we follow the route and the plans of the rustlers or will we listen for and follow the voice of the One who is the Way of life?
Too often we have lived, worked and worshipped as a group of individuals. The virus has reminded us ever so painfully of the truth that we live and move as a people not just as individuals. So let us listen for the voice of God as one people and let us move together as one people co-creating with God for a much-needed better world. The gate is open. Here we go.
Choral Anthem: Listen to the Lambs R. N. Dett https://youtu.be/hhjJo3zsixk
Pastoral Prayer and the Lord’s Prayer: https://youtu.be/lhFD67Fs3H0 (led by Winston Lanyon)
And so we pray,
Great God, we give you thanks for your faithfulness to creation;
for your presence, your provision, your comfort and your correction.
We listen for your voice out of our longing for direction, understanding and compassion.
Open the gate of understanding and wisdom for us to enter.
Lead us to the resources that will bring life and show us how to share them equitably.
We pray still for the people of Bella Bella as they grieve deeply the deaths of eleven of their beloveds and for the people of Nova Scotia as they learn to live again while carrying the burden of their grief. Overwhelm them all with your healing power and grant them the peace that passes understanding.
And now, as a nation, we grieve for the 6 Canadian military personnel who died in the helicopter crash off the coast of Greece. Our hearts are broken again. We ask your comfort and care for the families of those who died in the crash, for the crew of the HMCS Fredrickton and the whole military family. We give thanks for the Chaplains who will accompany many in their heartaches today as they do every day. Bless them.
And we are thankful.
We are thankful for the myriad of people giving themselves fully to the causes of healing, wellness, justice and peace. For the people stocking grocery and drug store shelves, for shelter and food bank workers, and for those who are providing meals for people in need. We cheer them on and long for them to know how grateful we are to them. We owe our lives to them.
We long to know that you hear us as we pray and that you answer.
We ask you to help us unleash our resources and all the powers of good to find cures,
therapies and vaccines for devastating diseases.
We pray for comfort for those who are lonely and feeling lost.
We pray for the restoration of your world and all its creatures.
We pray that we would not go back to the way things were but that we will truly commit to
co-creating with you a better world especially for “the least” among us.
Hold open the gate of life for us and beckon us to walk through it with you. Prod us toward the right direction when we go astray and speak to us so often that we recognize your voice and walk toward it. Shepherd us.
Hear us as we pray as Jesus taught using the words of our Indigenous Australian neighbours.
Great Spirit, Creator of all,
from the stars to all the earth,
loved and respected be your name.
May it happen that all should live in your way
following your purpose for all creation.
Enable us to find what we need for today’s journey.
Forgive us when we go wrong
as we forgive those who wrong us.
Have compassion on us when we are being tested.
Do not abandon us to fear and evil.
Our hope is in your new community.
You are the one who can transform all creation,
making everything new,
now and for all eternity. Amen. Indigenous Prayer from Australia
Response: Ubi Caritas https://youtu.be/hHkmOi5Wzgo
Our Offering: In response to God’s great love for us we return to God a portion of what has been given to us. Take a moment now to offer the gifts of your time, your talent and your money for the work of ministry. Prepare to give the offering away. As you do, tap that part of yourself where gratitude resides. Give thanks and give back to God. No gift is too small, and all gifts are sincerely appreciated.
Choral Anthem for Reflection on the Offering: Ye Choirs of New Jerusalem: C. V. Stanford
Prayer of Dedication:
Great God, we give our offerings to you from the gifts you have given to us.
Thank you for your provision, for your presence, for your love.
May these offerings further your purposes through Shaughnessy Heights United Church and all those who serve you. Amen.
Hymn: Thy Hand, O God, Has Guide https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=44RNKCp-hCY
Commissioning and Benediction:
Be witnesses in the world of God’s resurrection power by caring for the safety of others and doing so with all the confidence, joy and courage of an Easter people. Shout with all your might that the God of Life has had the last word, for Christ is Risen! Christ is risen indeed! Alleluia! Amen!
Postlude: Fugue in a minor (BWV 543) J. S. Bach https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8pxQZVBlnbA&t=301s