Prayers, Readings and Reflections for Easter 4, 3 May 2020

The Good Shepherd

Readings

John 10:1-10; Psalm 23

Reflection

I seem to have been spending quite a bit of time in the company of sheep recently. As some of you know, we’re spending lock-down with our 15 month old grand-daughter Maria while her parents work from our home. Her prescribed daily exercise is a walk to visit the sheep and she loves nothing better than to get out of her push-chair and walk gently towards a lamb who seems equally interested in her, until they are face to face. But a step too close and the ewes will raise the alarm and the lambs scamper away. Sheep tend to scatter at the sight of a stranger but come to know and trust the voice of the shepherds who care for them. 

Shepherd with sheep We’re accustomed to think of Jesus as the Good Shepherd and this Sunday is marked in the calendar as Good Shepherd Sunday, though Jesus doesn’t speak of himself as shepherd in this part of John 10.  Rather he identifies himself as the gate for the sheep.

The gates that Maria and I find on our walks are generally closed for the sheep’s protection and to keep the flock together. On other days, we find them open with the sheep moved to another pasture nearby. Sometimes we have seen the farmers tending the flock, who cluster noisily at the gate as they approach.

All of which speaks to us of Jesus, not only as the Good Shepherd but as the gate for the sheep. It’s a curious image but makes more sense when you learn that Middle Eastern sheep were kept in a pen with just three sides. The ‘gate’ was provided by the shepherd himself who slept across the entrance. The sheep wouldn’t step over his body and no wolf or thief could get past him.

So, this is a life-giving image – wolves, thieves and bandits harm and destroy – they take life away. But Jesus as the gate and as the Good Shepherd protects life in the darkness of the night and leads his sheep into green pastures in the day to find food and nourishment.

It is the image of protection and provision and restored life with which we’re familiar from the much-loved Psalm 23. And Jesus underlines that as he proclaims,

‘I have come that they may have life and have it abundantly.’

My first response on reading this passage was ‘How do we live life abundantly, to the full in the Covid-19 pandemic, when so much that we may find life-giving is simply not available to us?

Because Jesus isn’t just talking about the life in the presence of God for eternity which is promised to us beyond death; he is talking about the quality of life which is available to us now. That life is about knowing, trusting and following the shepherd’s voice, about finding security and nourishment as part of his flock. To me, that translates into discovering the meaning and value and joy of life in community – both the community of the church and the wider community. It’s about caring for and being cared for by friend and stranger. Somehow, that we can only do that at a prescribed distance, yet still achieve it, makes it even more meaningful at the moment.

The way in which our Colwall community and the community of the church within it has responded in this crisis is nothing short of inspirational. Formal and informal arrangements between neighbours and members of the community work to ensure that no-one who needs it is left without provision, that isolation needn’t mean loneliness and that the vulnerable are not forgotten. This is life in all its abundance for all, not for some at the expense of others.

One day we will be free once again to meet with friends and family and do the things we enjoy. May that not distract us from the voice of the shepherd who is always calling us to abundant life in deeper fellowship with him and one another.

Prayer suggestion

Words from hymn inscribed on treeFrom St. Patrick’s breastplate

Christ be with me,
Christ within me,
Christ behind me and before me.
Christ beside me, Christ to win me,
Christ to comfort and restore me.
Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ in quiet, Christ in danger
Christ in hearts of all that love me.
Christ in mouth of friend and stranger.

Notices

A request for the Sunday evenings act of worship - Every Sunday at 6.30pm

We shall need volunteers for the psalm reading, the bible reading (liaise with Anne), and intercessions so that an order of service can be circulated.
Please contact Marian & Mike (540108)

Lent Collection for People in Motion

Our speaker at the beginning of Lent so clearly presented the valuable work of People in Motion and so it is regretful that we have not been able to support them during Lockdown as they cannot sort donations at present , or to perform the Requiem for Aleppo from which additional contributions would have been made for the Charity. However, as soon as we resume our gatherings in body as well as in mind or on Zoom, the project can be resumed, and in the meantime the choir continues to rehearse, something to look forward to!
Sue Bienkowska – Charity Group

Message from Melanie

Dear all,
It was so lovely to see so many faces on Sunday evening. And whilst I, like many of you I’m sure, have been worshipping alongside the televised acts of worship and with Bishop Richards message on YouTube I had missed feeling like I was worshipping with others in real time and missed seeing all of you. I’d very much like to thank Mike and Marian for setting up our zoom facility, I’m sure our acuity with the Technology will improve the more we use it. I would also like to thank Anne for leading us in worship. It can’t be easy to do that across this sort of medium and she and all those of us who took part with readings, Psalms, and intercessions did it beautifully.

Until I get the all clear to return to work, which will be managed through an occupational health assessment, I am grateful to Anne for looking after our worship and to Joy for being the central point of contact in the office.

With love and prayers
Melanie