Strong Shepherd of the wilderness and the plains: we praise you.
A Call to Worship
Easter 4A 2014
Shepherding God, you meet our every need, even those deep needs
we hide or repress. “The Lord is my shepherd; I have everything I need..”
Risk-taking Shepherd who fulfilled your chosen role: we worship you.
Generous God, you go to extraordinary lengths in your care and concern
for our welfare. “...You welcome me as a guest, anointing my head with oil...”
Healing Shepherd, whose steadfast love for all your flock brings hope
of home to your damaged and wayward flock: we give you our thanks.
“...He renews my strength.... I will live in the house of the Lord forever....”
You pour grace on to our wounds and hold us together by binding up
our hurts, and you shelter us in the security of your abiding presence.
Great Shepherd of all the sheep, we gather to praise and worship you. Amen.
A psalm of David.
1 The LORD is my shepherd; I have everything I need.
2 He lets me rest in green meadows;
he leads me beside peaceful streams.
3 He renews my strength.
He guides me along right paths, bringing honor to his name.
4 Even when I walk through the dark valley of death,
I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me.
Your rod and your staff protect and comfort me.
5 You prepare a feast for me in the presence of my enemies.
You welcome me as a guest, anointing my head with oil.
My cup overflows with blessings.
6 Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me
all the days of my life,
and I will live in the house of the LORD forever.
Prayers of Thankfulness and Trust
Good Shepherd, strong and yet tender, the Shepherd who is at home on the
Easter 4A 2014
plains as in the wilderness; in all circumstances of life and living you meet
with us and care for us, through the desert experiences of our life; and in
those times when life is simple and straightforward. We give thanks that you
offer your leadership to us, going on ahead of us to guide and show us the
way; and that you bless us in our journey with your abiding presence. You
meet our every need, even those deep spiritual and personal needs we hide
or repress; and you equip us so that together as the people of your flock, we
can journey on as “....the people of God on the way to the promised end...”1
Great Shepherd of all your flock, we gather now to praise and worship you.
Reliable and yet Risk-taking Shepherd, your committed faithfulness to your
role as Shepherd demonstrates your eternal care and concern for the welfare
of your diverse and often unruly and disorderly flock; and for this we give our
thanks. Without our Good Shepherd to guide us - we would be utterly lost! We
give thanks that you slow us down when we become impetuous, and encourage
us when we are lethargic or drifting away from your leading. In faith and trust,
we accept your leading, even if that path takes us into untried and even dark
paths. Just as the Good Shepherd always carries the weak members of the
flock, so we know and trust you will carry us through our testing times. Our
Unshakeable Shepherd, it is because we place our complete trust in you that
we are able to journey on with you; and we know you will lead us safely to the
green pastures and the quiet waters of your restoring and enlivening presence.
Wise Shepherd of all your flock, we gather now to appreciate and honour you.
Healing Shepherd of steadfast love and mercy, we gather now to worship and
thank you. We come to you seeking healing and wholeness, because in your
mercy, you pour grace on to our wounds and hold us together by binding up our
hurts; and you shelter us in the certain security of your abiding presence. You
anoint us with limitless grace and love that does not discriminate; and in the most
unlikely places, you prepare for us a banquet sharing that meal with us; and even
sitting down beside us to comfort us when we are fearful of unexpected outcomes.
We are overwhelmed by such hospitality and generosity, and we give thanks for the
promises of the unfailing love our Shepherd, that will remain with us all our days.
Holy Shepherd of all your flock, we gather now to remember and revere you. Amen.
A Personal Meditation
Psalm 23 appears in the Revised Common Lectionary at least once every
Easter 4A 2014
year, and over the years whilst I’ve searched for a deeper understanding of
the being and nature of God and attributes to describe God, I have used and
reused many titles for God.2 I have also described God as being a Shepherd
who is Caring, Good, Gracious, Gentle, Great and Pioneering. In my experience
of people who care for sheep – even today – they still have to be resilient and
committed to the welfare of their flock, which requires long hours and often very
hard work. One of the risks of using descriptions for the Being of God is that we
often limit God in our thinking and praying. Jesus’ “great commandment” urges:
'You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your
mind...'3 It is easy to love God with our emotions and our efforts, but how much
attention do we give to loving God with our mind, our intellect or our imagination?
|Creative pause:||In your experiences of God, how would you describe God?|
The partner Old Testament reading for today is the anointing by Samuel of the
shepherd boy David as Israel’s second king. According to various articles and
other information, a shepherd boy started his apprenticeship at a very early age—
as young as five or six years old, and he usually accompanied an older boy or
man on his journeying. This very rigorous, but often boring training enabled the
lad time to develop many skills including real accuracy with a sling-shot; combat
training with their staffs, clubs and shepherd “crook”; learning the behaviour of
sheep and their care; how water can be trapped to provide “still water” for their
sheep to drink; and treatment methods following accidents. He also had plenty of
time to grow spiritually in his worship of God; through the joy of music; and through
the learning of his heritage as a shepherd with its historical links to ancient royalty.
He would eventually have a few sheep of his own to care for and practice on, and
to learn how to call and identify them, and to properly ensure the sheep’s safety.
|Creative pause:||Are you a “good shepherd” to people you lead, mentor and guide?|
The Psalmist envisioned God’s generosity by likening it to a feast being prepared
in hostile circumstances. The life of ancient shepherds were often very lonely, and
so they were very cautious about accepting hospitality from strangers, who may
have ulterior motives. However, many of the nomadic Bedouin people who roamed
the remote area of those lands welcomed an opportunity for mutual companionship
with the shepherds, and were usually very hospitable people. A typical Bedouin
“feast” was simple food such as goat’s milk, butter and small round “flat” breads.
Meat to them was only for very special and usually religious celebrations, so would
not normally be part of such a feast. What a blessing these occasional feasts were
to those shepherds. My Generous God “....You prepare a feast for me... and you
welcome me as a guest, anointing my head with oil. My cup overflows with blessings...”
|Creative pause:||How do you respond to God’s generous hospitality?|
1 Opening sentence of Paragraph 18 “The Basis of Union” for the Uniting Church in Australia.
2 Shepherding, Reassuring, Rest-Giving, Comforting, Hospitable, Generous, Travel Guide,
Guiding, Welcoming, Understanding, Unshakeable, Anointing and Trustworthy God.
3 Matthew 22: 37 (NLT)
Unless stated otherwise, all Bible readings and extracts used in these weekly Prayers and
Meditations are from the ‘New Living Translation’, © 1996. Copyright. All rights reserved.
Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Wheaton, Illinois 60189 USA.
*Revised Indexing Scheme from 'Consultation on Church Union' (COCU).
I acknowledge and give heartfelt thanks for the theological inspiration available from the writings of Professor
Walter Brueggemann; and through the resources from the internet and “The Text this Week” (Textweek).
If the Prayers and/or Meditations are used in shared worship, please provide this acknowledgement:
© 2014 Joan Stott – ‘The Timeless Psalms’ RCL Psalms Year A. Used with permission.
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