Sunday 25th April – Fourth Sunday of Easter

WHOLE SERVICE

INDIVIDUAL SECTIONS

Welcome

Hello and welcome to our service for the fourth Sunday of the Easter season. We are glad you are able to join us. You can watch the whole service run by clicking on the top playlist button. Alternatively, if you would rather follow all the words, scroll down a bit further and click on each section in turn as you come to them. We will start with a short organ piece to help us settle in for the service. You may join in the words or not as you like. Words in bold type are intended for everyone to say. You are also invited to say the Psalm with me, should you wish to, when we reach it in the service.

Call to worship

Let us worship God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
Amen.

The Lord be with you,
And also with you.

This is the day that the Lord has made.
We will rejoice and be glad in it.

Lord, direct our thoughts and teach us to pray.
Lift up our hearts to worship you in spirit and in truth,
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Hymn – Alleluia, alleluia, hearts to heaven and voices raise

Confession

Most merciful God,
Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,
we confess that we have sinned
in thought, word and deed.
We have not loved you with our whole heart.
We have not loved our neighbours as ourselves.
In your mercy
forgive what we have been,
help us to amend what we are,
and direct what we shall be;
that we may do justly,
love mercy,
and walk humbly with you, our God.
Amen.

Assurance of Forgiveness

May almighty God,
who sent his Son into the world to save sinners,
bring you his pardon and peace, now and for ever.
Amen.

Praise

Blessed is the Lord,
For he has heard the voice of our prayer;
therefore shall our hearts dance for joy,
and in our song we will praise our God.

Reading

Acts 4: 5-12

Psalm 23

1 The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
2     He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
3     he refreshes my soul.
He guides me along the right paths
    for his name’s sake.
4 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.
5 You prepare a table before me
    in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil;
    my cup overflows.
6 Surely your goodness and love will follow me
    all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord
    for ever

Reading

John 10: 11-18

Sermon

The Lord is my shepherd – I lack nothing.
Yes, there is nothing I lack – my needs as a sheep are quite simple.
Regular food, water, somewhere safe to chew the cud and to sleep, protection from predators would be good – oh, and new lambs every year.

Comparing that with human lifestyles, it makes life as a human look exhaustingly complex and difficult. No wonder so many of us get tense and worried so often.

So, what do sheep need?
Food is simple – grass, not too long.
Water? – any still water is fine. If it is bubbling and splashy it goes up our nostrils and we can’t cope with that and won’t drink it.
Space and time to chew the cud – fine if there are no predators around.
New lambs every year – most necessary – we don’t live for ever!
Protection from predators – that is REALLY useful. Middle eastern sheep have longish legs, but can’t kick or bite effectively. We need shepherds for help with this.

The shepherds need to be good ones, mind. The ones who desert us when mountain lions or bears appear are useless. They couldn’t care less about us, they only care for their wages. A good Shepherd will protect us. He is prepared to risk his own life tackling mountain lions. He will go the extra mile or three to search for missing lambs and the sheep who have got stuck or lost.

Let’s translate that into what the qualities of a good Shepherd would be for humans.

Firstly, we need to remember that, unlike sheep, people don’t only have bodies, they have a non-physical side usually referred to as spirits or souls, too. So good shepherding for humans means looking after our bodies and our spirits or souls.

I expect you remember that, at the beginning of the Bible, in Genesis, when God made Adam, He formed Adam’s body out of the physical material of the ‘dust of the earth’. Then, He then breathed His ‘Ruach’, the Hebrew word that means Wind, Breath, or Spirit according to its context. It might be described as something that is invisible, yet moves, often related to life.

Wind will bring clouds with life-giving water.

Breath and breathing are vital for animal life, including human life.

Spirit is vital for humans in various ways including being able to have an active relationship with God.

Jesus was born in the form of a human baby as a result of the Holy Spirit coming upon Mary, and the power of the Most High overshadowing her, as Luke describes it in his gospel account. The church was born as a result of the Spirit of God descending on the disciples at Pentecost. A good Shepherd will help us keep our spiritual life as well as our physical life alive, and will encourage its growth.

Following Jesus and the Holy Spirit means protection from evil.

Just to be clear about the difference between good and evil in Hebrew thinking, let me explain a little. Pronouncing something as ‘Good’ in Hebrew terms means something that promotes life and healthy, positive relationships. Evil, or bad, refers to those things, thoughts or actions which promote anything from mildly damaging to decidedly destructive behaviour and relationships.

So, when we follow Jesus, as you probably all know, we are working towards healthy positive relationships with God, other people, AND, (this is often overlooked) an equally healthy relationship with ourselves, our inner being). In other words, as Jesus summed it up, we are to love our neighbours AS ourselves. In Jesus eyes this is as important as loving God with everything we’ve got.

And part of the Good News Jesus brought is that if we find we have damaged our relationship with our self, our neighbour or God, you will well know that if we repent, apologise, say “sorry “or in some way ask for forgiveness, God will respond. It is always good when our inner self or our neighbour respond too, so leaving us feeling forgiven straight away. It is also fair to say that sometimes our neighbour or our inner self may be slower to respond and we need to be patient.

If we find ourselves in such “dark places”, out of kilter with ourselves, other people or God, it really can feel like a dark place. But while we are aware that our good Shepherd is there, even though we can’t feel his presence as normal, just like the sheep in the Psalm, we need not FEAR the evil but be comfort in knowing that Jesus is with us and around us even when we cannot sense it very well or even at all. Sometimes it helps to ask someone we trust to pray for us or with us.

For sheep, the Shepherd in the Psalm has two tools at his disposal. There is the Staff. This is a long stick with a hook at the end to rescue sheep who have had a misadventure or need a helping lift out of trouble. The second one, commonly translated as ‘Rod’ is more like a sturdy mace with bits of stone and metal embedded into the business end of it, used to discourage or kill any would-be predators – in shepherding terms to see off any marauding mountain lions or bears.

Remembering that Jesus is able to rescue us and protect us when necessary is a comfort to us when we remember this.

Just as the sheep, despite having enemies around it, can appreciate the good Shepherd looking after it with physical food, we too can ‘feast’ on that sense of the good support that Jesus, our good Shepherd, came to give us.

As Peter says, at the end of our reading from Acts, “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved”.

So, as the Psalm points out, Jesus our Good Shepherd is willing and able to look after us in the good times and rescue us in the bad times. Sometimes the only thing getting in the way of that is our wrong sort of pride. Challenging our pride so Jesus can help us may feel like a step we would rather not take, but I, and many other people can tell you – it’s worth it.

Then we can come to realise more and more how much goodness and mercy will follow us all the days of our lives and ultimately realise the awareness of living in the house of the Lord for ever.

Affirmation of Faith

We believe in God the Father,
From whom every family in heaven and on earth is named.

We believe in God the Son,
who lives in our hearts through faith, and fills us with love.

We believe in God the Holy Spirit,
who strengthens us with power from on high.

We believe in one God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
Amen.

Hymn – Father, hear the prayer we offer

Prayers

Response at the end of each section:
Jesus, Lord of life,
In your mercy, hear us

Concluding with:
Merciful Father,
accept these prayers
for the sake of your Son,
our Saviour Jesus Christ.

Amen.

The Collect

Risen Christ,
Faithful shepherd of your Father’s sheep:
Teach us to hear your voice
And to follow your command,
That all your people may be gathered into one flock,
To the glory of God the Father.
Amen

The Lord’s Prayer

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,
the power and the glory,
for ever and ever.
Amen.

Offertory Prayer

Generous God, we thank you for all you have given us.
We thank you for all the ways that we can give to you in return.
We ask that through our gifts we will see your Kingdom grow
in our hearts and in our homes,
in our neighbourhoods and our nations;
to the glory of your name.
Amen.

Hymn – In heavenly love abiding

Blessing

The God of peace,
who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus,
that great shepherd of the sheep,
make you perfect in every good work to do his will;
and the blessing of God almighty,
the Father, the Son, and the Holy spirit,
be among you and remain with you always.
Amen

Sending Out

We are raised to new life with Christ.
Go in his peace. Alleluia, alleluia.
Thanks be to God. Alleluia, alleluia.

Recessional – The Lord’s my Shepherd, I’ll not want

Copyright Notices

Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Common Worship, material from which is included in this service, is copyright © The Archbishops’ Council.

Sunday 28th February: Second Sunday of Lent

Welcome

Welcome to this month’s online worship in Lent.
For those of you who are watching this service on Sunday morning, a reminder that there will be Zoom Coffee at 11.00 am. Log in details for this are in the weekly notice sheet. We would be delighted if you could join us.

As usual, there is a playlist with the whole service in as the first video or you can scroll down and select which to watch and which to read. We start with some organ music, played by Ian, to help us settle in to the service.

WHOLE SERVICE:

INDIVIDUAL SECTIONS:

In the name of the Father,
and of the Son,
and of the Holy Spirit.
Amen.

Grace, mercy and peace
from God our Father
and the Lord Jesus Christ be with you.
And also with you.

Hymn – Forty Days and Forty Nights

Prayer of preparation

Almighty God,
to whom all hearts are open,
all desires known,
and from whom no secrets are hidden:
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 Christ our Lord.
Amen.

Prayers of Penitence

Introduction to Confession

The sacrifice of God is a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart God will not despise.
Let us come to the Lord, who is full of compassion,
and acknowledge our transgressions in penitence and faith.

Silence

Confession

Wash away all my iniquity
and cleanse me from my sin:

Lord, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.

Against you, you only have I sinned
and done what is evil in your sight:

Christ, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy.

Create in me a pure heart, O God,

and renew a steadfast spirit within me
Lord, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.

Absolution

Almighty God, who forgives all who truly repent,
have mercy upon us,
pardon and deliver us from all our sins,
confirm and strengthen us in all goodness,
and keep us in life eternal;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen

Collect – Prayer for the week

Almighty God,
you show to those who are in error the light of your truth,
that they may return to the way of righteousness:
grant to all those who are admitted
into the fellowship of Christ’s religion,
that they may reject those things
that are contrary to their profession,
and follow all such things as are agreeable to the same;
through our Lord Jesus Christ,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever. Amen

Readings

Genesis 17: 1-7, 15-16

Psalm 22: 23-31

23  Praise the Lord, you that fear him;  ♦
O seed of Jacob, glorify him;
stand in awe of him, O seed of Israel.

24  For he has not despised nor abhorred the suffering of the poor;
neither has he hidden his face from them;  ♦
but when they cried to him he heard them.

25  From you comes my praise in the great congregation;  ♦
I will perform my vows
in the presence of those that fear you.

26  The poor shall eat and be satisfied;  ♦
those who seek the Lord shall praise him;
their hearts shall live for ever.

27  All the ends of the earth
shall remember and turn to the Lord,  ♦
and all the families of the nations shall bow before him.

28  For the kingdom is the Lord’s  ♦
and he rules over the nations.

29  How can those who sleep in the earth
bow down in worship,  ♦
or those who go down to the dust kneel before him?

30  He has saved my life for himself;
my descendants shall serve him;  ♦
this shall be told of the Lord for generations to come.

31  They shall come and make known his salvation,
to a people yet unborn,  ♦
declaring that he, the Lord, has done it. 

Hymn – The God of Abraham praise

Gospel reading

Praise to you, O Christ, King of eternal glory.
The Lord is a great God, O that today you would listen to his voice.
Harden not your hearts.
Praise to you, O Christ, King of eternal glory.

Hear the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ according to Mark.
Glory to you, O Lord.

Mark 8: 31-38

This is the Gospel of the Lord.
Praise to you, O Christ.

Sermon

If we’d had a service on Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent, we would have had for the Gospel reading, the story of the woman caught in adultery and taken by the Jewish teachers of the law to Jesus to find out what action he recommended. According to the Law given by God to Moses, the penalty was death by stoning. What would Jesus say?

Jesus said “Let him who is without sin cast the first stone.” The teachers of the law were in full public view – they knew they weren’t qualified to cast that first stone, so they filed out one by one.

Jesus, who had been looking at the ground, writing in the dust with his finger during this time, asked the woman where those Teachers were. Had anyone condemned her?

“No one, sir”, was her reply. Then Jesus said that no more would he condemn her. Then he told her to “Go, and sin no more”

While the teachers of the law were confounded because while they were looking to condemn, Jesus was looking to be merciful.

Last Sunday was the first Sunday of Lent. The gospel reading would have been the story of the Temptations of Jesus by the devil. Jesus has been fasting in the wilderness for 40 days and is hungry. He will also have been physically weakened by his lack of sustenance. Can the devil get him to act in ways contrary to the Law God had laid down for His people? Three times the devil tried, three times he failed, as Jesus quoted words from the Old Testament scriptures – two quotes from the repeat of the law in Deuteronomy, and once from a Psalm.

The devil was confounded because he seems to have thought that Jesus in his weakened state could be bought, Jesus was prepared to pay the full price so that His people could have freedom from their guilt and sin.

This Sunday we have heard the story of Jesus being tempted again, but this time by his leading disciple, Peter.

Jesus, after calling his disciples to become what He called ‘fishers of men’, was training them to teach the ways of the Kingdom of God. Jesus would also perform miracles of healing, so people’s bodies could be restored; their limbs or other body parts could work harmoniously together again, a great parable of how He wanted his people to work harmoniously together as God had originally intended for Adam and Eve and their descendants.

The disciples seemed to have loved this, but now Jesus had a new lesson to teach them – all this would come at a cost, starting with a cost to Himself, and the disciples needed to learn about this in advance from him.

It came very bluntly and very clearly in our reading.

“Jesus began to teach his disciples that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priest and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and after three days rise again.”

Talk about blunt. Peter couldn’t take it.

He did have enough self-control to take Jesus aside before rebuking Him, but I wonder if he listened to the whole sentence Jesus said.

Jesus had said he must suffer, be rejected (by the religious leaders), be killed…… and after three days rise again. If Peter did hear the ‘and after three days rise again’ it didn’t stop him launching into Jesus.

Jesus had to rebuke Peter. He wasn’t thinking the way God thinks, he was thinking the way fallen, unredeemed man thinks.

The teachers of the law were confounded because while they were looking to condemn, Jesus was looking to be merciful.

The devil was confounded because he assumed God could be coerced or deceived, while Jesus, filled with His Father’s love, was into rescuing broken relationships so harmony could prevail again.

Peter was confounded because he hadn’t thought about the cost of it all. He only knew of death as being the end. So he couldn’t register the significance of Jesus’ words “and after three days rise again”.

However, a week later, Peter, with two other disciples, James and John, would be taken to see Jesus transfigured in all His glory while He was talking to Moses and Elijah. Then they would hear a voice from heaven repeat what it had said at the time of Jesus’ baptism, authorising the start of His ministry – “This is my Son, whom I love”, this time adding the words “Listen to Him”.

God would be reintroducing Jesus, adding the command to listen to Him. Listen to ALL the words Jesus says.

Do you, like me, get a sense of a hint here, as in ‘even the uncomfortable ones’?

How does this relate to us in Lent?

Giving something up for Lent used to be a common topic when I was younger. But no one ever told me what it was supposed to achieve, unless it was for the feel good factor from having been successful in not having any chocolate for forty days.

Could it be this year we risk engaging with any words God is hinting at us, in case they might turn out to be uncomfortable? Or, do we believe that God knows how much we can take and won’t overstretch us?

If you have already chosen and are working on your Lent practice for this year, you may want to continue it. That’s fine. If you aren’t doing something for Lent, or can’t decide what to do, here are a couple of thoughts.

Lent is an opportunity to grow closer to God. If there are uncomfortable things or habits in your life that get in the way of growing closer to God, then working on giving them up sounds good.

On the other hand, learning something new may sound uncomfortable. Yet it may be that to help you grow closer to God, he wants you to discover something new and helpful about Himself. He may be wanting to open up new gifts or opportunities you for to enjoy in your life.

If so, a suggestion. You make a present to God of a realistic number of minutes to spend with Him on a regular basis. It could be sitting with a cup or mug of something, or perhaps going for a safe walk. Talk to God, listen for a response. Whole conversations may develop. Remember, God is not in a hurry. You may find what He wants to reveal takes several gentle stages. I find making a few discrete notes is often helpful.

And over the five weeks to Easter you may discover you have more than the Resurrection to celebrate. There may be something new about you and your relationship with Jesus to celebrate too.

Nicene Creed

We believe in one God, the Father, the Almighty,
maker of heaven and earth, of all that is,
seen and unseen.
We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ,
the only Son of God,
eternally begotten of the Father,
God from God, Light from Light,
true God from true God, begotten, not made,
of one Being with the Father;
through him all things were made.
For us and for our salvation he came down from heaven, was incarnate from the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary and was made man.
For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate;
he suffered death and was buried.
On the third day he rose again
in accordance with the Scriptures;
he ascended into heaven
and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again in glory to judge
the living and the dead,
and his kingdom will have no end.
We believe in the Holy Spirit,
the Lord, the giver of life,
who proceeds from the Father and the Son,
who with the Father and the Son is
worshipped and glorified,
who has spoken through the prophets.
We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church.
We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.
We look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come.
Amen.

Intercessions

Merciful Father,
accept these prayers
for the sake of your Son,
our Saviour Jesus Christ.

Amen.

Hymn – O for a closer walk with God

Offertory Prayer

Our giving is a response to God’s generosity to us, and enables us to fulfil God’s mission in our church. I and all the PCCs would like to encourage you to give by Standing Order or Direct Debit, which is the most reliable and sustainable form of regular giving, and is the most efficient and cost-effective method for us. Although for many of us, money is not abundant this year, if you are able to increase your giving at this time, we will have more resources to serve our community and to channel into mission.
Thank you for all that you are able to give.

God of abundance,
the author and giver of all good things,
grant us a gracious and humble heart,
that we may give you glory
through offering the first fruits of our lives,
and grow more into the likeness of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. Amen.

The Peace

Since we are justified by faith,
we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ
who has given us access to his grace.
The peace of the Lord be always with you
and also with you.

Today I will read the institution narrative from St Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, then offer a time of silence, finishing with the prayer for spiritual communion, which you are invited to join me in saying, and the Lord’s prayer.

1 Corinthians 11:23-26 (NIVUK)

23 For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: the Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, 24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, ‘This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.’ 25 In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.’ 26 For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.

Thanks be to you, Lord Jesus Christ,
for all the benefits you have given me,
for all the pains and insults you have borne for me.
Since I cannot now receive you sacramentally,
I ask you to come spiritually into my heart.
O most merciful redeemer,
friend and brother,
may I know you more clearly,
love you more dearly,
and follow you more nearly,
day by day.

Amen.

The Lord’s Prayer

Today, we have printed the traditional language version of Lord’s prayer, but please feel free to pray in whichever language or version you prefer.

Let us pray with confidence as our Saviour has taught us
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,
the power and the glory,
for ever and ever. Amen.

Hymn – Will you come and follow me

Blessing and Dismissal

Christ, give you grace to grow in holiness;
to deny yourselves, take up your cross, and follow him;
and the blessing of God almighty,
the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit,
be among you and remain with you always.
Amen

Go in peace, to love and serve the Lord
In the name of Christ, Amen.

Copyright Notices

Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Common Worship, material from which is included in this service, is copyright © The Archbishops’ Council.