As the Good Shepherd of every flock, we come to worship you today.
A Call to Worship
Easter 4A 2017
God of infinite love: we come in response to your warm tenderness to us.
As the Compassionate Carer of all vulnerable people, we give you our thanks.
God of limitless mercy: we come to respond to your gentle nurturing of us.
As the Leader, Guide and Protector of every flock of “sheep” and “goats”—
we revere and praise you for your generous and gracious mercy to us all.
God of all peoples: we come to praise you in response to your welcoming and
generous care of all your people, which overflows with love and understanding. Amen.
A psalm of David.
1 The LORD is my shepherd;
I have all that 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 honour to his name.
4 Even when I walk
through the darkest valley, 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 honour me by 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 Trust
God of infinite love: we come today in response to your warm tenderness to us.
Easter 4A 2017
As the Good Shepherd of every flock, and of every tradition and culture, we come
to worship you and to revere you for your all-inclusive love and care of all that
you have created. In confident trust we gather together as your people in this
time and place to offer to you our praises of thanks for the way your love is seen
and experienced in all spheres of life – if we but take the time to look and see
God at work amongst us – blessing and surrounding us with grace and mercy.
The LORD is our shepherd; we have all that we need. You are close beside us.
God of limitless mercy: we come in response to your gentle nurturing of us as
we travel through life with all its challenges and blessings. Gracious God, as the
Compassionate Carer of all vulnerable people, we give our thanks and praises
for the way you support and strengthen us when we are at our weakest points in
life and living. There are many times when we are overwhelmed by the pressures
of life; and that is when we are most in need of our Good Shepherd, to nurture
us with your presence as you walk beside us, giving us the trust in you we need.
The LORD is our shepherd; we have all that we need. You renew our strength.
God of all peoples: we come to praise you in response your welcoming and
generous care of all your people, which overflows with love and understanding.
As the Leader, Guide and Protector of every flock of “sheep” and of “goats”—
so we revere and praise you for your generous and gracious mercy to us all.
We give to God our thanks and praises for the wonderful gift of trust, which
allows us to confidently come to God with our prayers, our praises and our
thanks. We are so blessed by the encouragement we receive in response to
that blessing of sure and certain trust that God is indeed our Good Shepherd.
The LORD is our shepherd; we have all that we need. You guide us in right way. Amen.
A Personal Meditation
Have you ever watched sheep jumping an imaginary obstacle, followed by all the
Easter 4A 2017
other sheep doing just the same? Have you ever watched how when one sheep is
separated from the flock to receive treatment, the first thing it does on release is run
to rejoin the flock? The instinct for sheep is to be with their flock, as it is a natural need
to seek to be part of a community of the same species. Whilst sheep and goats may
be grazed together, their needs are entirely different, as when in shelters, goats need
space to exist due to the texture of their hair coats, whilst sheep need a confined space
to keep warm, although their natural wool insulation and their eating habits produce
appropriate warmth for them. The only time I have seen sheep choose to be alone is
when they go off separately to give birth to their lambs, when they shelter amongst grass
tussocks. Who is the real subject of Psalm 23, is it about one sheep or a flock of sheep?
|Creative pause:||Who is the shepherd and who are the sheep?|
In biblical times, when it was customary for shepherds to take care of a flock of sheep
which belonged to a village, or a rich land owner; there was quite a different relationship
between their carer and the way sheep are bred in Australia, where flocks are often in
the hundreds or even thousands, rather than in tens or fifties. In those earlier times, it
was common for a personal relationship to develop between the shepherd and the sheep
in his care. Tradition even suggests that the shepherds named each sheep, and that
they responded to that name when called by their shepherd. Therefore, the shepherds
and their flock of sheep operated together as a unit. Why was Psalm 23 personalised
in terms and expressed as if in the singular – as if there were only one sheep with one
shepherd? In the seemingly natural course of things, would Psalm 23 read thus? “The
LORD is our shepherd; we have all that we need. He lets us rest in green meadows; he
leads us beside peaceful streams. He renews our strength. He guides us along right paths,
bringing honour to his name. Even when we walk through the darkest valley, we will not
be afraid, for you are close beside us. Your rod and your staff protect and comfort us....”
|Creative pause:||David, the former shepherd, knew that God was his Shepherd!|
The Old Testament has many references to Israel being like a flock with one shepherd—
either with God the Shepherd; or their king, who did or did not care for his flock! Even
earlier than that, we have Moses praying to God: “...O LORD, you are the God who gives
breath to all creatures. Please appoint a new man as leader for the community. Give
them someone who will guide them wherever they go and will lead them into battle, so the
community of the LORD will not be like sheep without a shepherd….Moses laid his hands
on [Joshua] and commissioned him to lead the people, just as the LORD had commanded...”1
In the New Testament we also have Jesus referring to himself as Israel’s “Good Shepherd”
who allows the sheep to come and go freely to find good pasture, with his purpose being
solely “…to give them a rich and satisfying life... I am the good shepherd; I know my own
sheep, and they know me, just as my Father knows me and I know the Father. So I sacrifice
my life for the sheep. I have other sheep, too, that are not in this sheepfold. I must bring
them also. They will listen to my voice, and there will be one flock with one shepherd…”2
|Creative pause:||Jesus said: “...I know my own sheep, and they know me…”|
1 Numbers 27: 15-17, 23 (NLT)
2 John 10: 10, 14-16 (NLT)
Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation,
copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007, 2013 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.
*Revised Indexing Scheme from 'Consultation on Church Union' (COCU).
I acknowledge and give heartfelt thanks for the theological help and inspiration so frequently available from the writings of Professor Walter Brueggemann and Professorial brothers Rolf and Karl Jacobson; and the resources from "The Text this Week" (Textweek).
If the Prayers and/or Meditation are used in shared worship, please provide this acknowledgement:
© 2017 Joan Stott –‘The Timeless Psalms’ RCL Psalms Year A. Based on verses from Psalm 23.
Used with permission.
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