CALL TO WORSHIP: (Based on Psalm 100)
ONE: Shout with joy to the Lord! Worship the Lord with gladness. Come before Him, singing with joy! Know that the Lord is God!
ALL: He made us and we are His. We are His people, the sheep of His pasture.
ONE: Enter His gates with thanksgiving, go into His courts with praise. Give thanks to Him and bless His name.
ALL: For the Lord is good. His unfailing love continues forever, and His faithfulness continues to each generation.
WELCOME: This is what the Lord God says: I, myself, will search for my sheep. I will take care of them. A shepherd will take care of his scattered flock when it is found. In the same way I will take care of my sheep. I will save them from all the places where they are scattered. (Ezekiel 34:11-12)
PRAYER TO THE GOOD SHEPHERD & THE LORD'S PRAYER: Lord of the 23rd Psalm,
I have known death, and You have refreshed my soul. I have known fear, and You have comforted me. I have known hunger, and You have set a feast before me. In the darkest valley no calamity of humankind or nature has separated us.
Teach me to walk as You walk, beside those in mourning, so they will know joy. Beside those in fear that they will know comfort. Beside those in hunger that they will feast until their cup overflows. As Your goodness and love follow me, may mine follow my neighbour that the threat of the worst terrors may turn to the knowledge of the comforts of the house of the Lord, where You have invited us to dwell forever. And so let me strive to help build on earth what You have promised us in heaven. In the face of all calamity, present and yet to come, let me lead my neighbour beside quiet waters, the quiet waters of the Good Shepherd.
Now let us pray together the prayer Jesus 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 debts, as we forgive our debtors, and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil, for Thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory, forever and ever. Amen.
As followers of Jesus, the Good Shepherd, we like to help His work of taking care of others. We give You this offering today and with it we worship You and give our whole selves to You. Please take it and use it for Your kingdom and Your glory. Extend and multiply its reach and influence we pray. May it be a great blessing to many. We ask all this in the name of Jesus. Amen.
PRAYER OF INTERCESSION:
Confident that the Lord's love for us has no end, we bring forward our needs and the needs of others, all over the world. We pray for those who serve and lead in the Church, that they may follow the example of Christ, the Good Shepherd. (pause for silent prayer) we pray for all members of the caring professions, that the Lord's compassion may be visible in them. (pause) We pray for young people deciding how they will spend their lives, that they may consider serving God's people. (pause) We pray for farmers and those who work on the land, that they may show respect for all God's creation. (pause) We pray for people who call on the name of the Lord Jesus in their sufferings, that they may experience God's healing power. (pause) We pray for all who have gone on before us in faith, that they may see God, face to face. (pause)
God of beauty and compassion, You love us as a shepherd loves all the flock. Continue to support Your people with Your grace, we pray, through Christ our Lord. Amen.
SPECIAL MUSIC: "The Silence Of The Lambs" - Norm
MEDITATION: The Good Shepherd
The Good Shepherd
When I was preparing this morning's meditation, I was reminded of a story. Kevin and Ryan, ages five and three, were waiting for breakfast one Saturday morning. As their mother was preparing some pancakes, the boys began to argue loudly over who would get the first one from the griddle. Their mother saw the opportunity for a moral lesson and said, "If Jesus were sitting here, he would say, 'Let my brother have the first pancake — I can wait.'" Kevin immediately turned to his younger brother and said, "Okay, Ryan, you be Jesus."
This little story is about sacrifice and for some it's not an easy thing to do. Jesus made the ultimate sacrifice by giving His life for us. He paid the ultimate price to save all of us from sin. I guess by now you've figured out that this Sunday has been devoted to the Good Shepherd.
Typically, Good Shepherd Sunday is celebrated on the fourth Sunday of Easter, but since we're breaking for summer vacation and will be separated from each other for a while, I thought today would be a good day to talk about the Good Shepherd.
We all know who the Good Shepherd is, right? I learned 'way back when I was a little girl in Sunday School that Jesus was the Good Shepherd. But it wasn't until much later that I really understood all that the name stood for.
Let's start with Jesus himself. In the Bible, there are well over 2000 different titles and names used to describe Jesus Christ. Many of these are how Jesus described himself. He was called Lamb of God, Bread of Life, Light of the World, The Way, The Word, The Truth, The Door and the Son Of Man, just to name a few.
In this morning's scripture reading from John 10, Jesus said "I am the Gate (or Door)" and "I am the Good Shepherd." I've talked about this passage before, but I'm talking a slightly different direction this time.
In the time of Jesus, the shepherd was very important. Sheep are totally defenseless and absolutely dependent on the shepherd. Even the sound of running water can frighten them. There were many kinds of dangers and it was really important for the shepherd to keep a watchful eye on his flock. Heavy rains could cause flash floods and sweep the sheep away. Robbers were a constant threat, coming in the night to steal the sheep. Wolves could attack the
flock at any given moment. Remember the story of David, a young shepherd boy, who killed a bear and a lion while watching his father's flock.
Weather also played a part in the shepherd's care of his flock. Driving winter snow and blowing and burning sand in summer. A shepherd's hours were long and lonely, but a good shepherd's main focus was the care of his flock. In fact, many shepherds gave up their lives in face of grave danger just to protect their sheep.
Jesus tells us that a good shepherd does three things: 1) He cares for his sheep; 2) he makes sure the sheep know him and know his voice; and 3) he lays down his life for his flock.
Jesus compares 'caring for his sheep' with the shepherd who is not so caring the one who abandons his sheep when a wild animal comes to prey; the one who abandons his sheep at the first sign of any danger. Jesus tells us that a good shepherd is the one who takes care of his flock even when he is put in harm's way. This is what the Good Shepherd does.
Jesus tells us that a good shepherd is known by his flock. Jesus repeats this several times, emphasizing its importance. This is the point when it should become clear that Jesus isn't talking about actual sheep or actual shepherds. Jesus is talking about himself and each one of us. Jesus is telling us that He has given His life for us so that we may be brought closer to God and truly know and follow His ways.
Jesus gave his life on the cross as the Good Shepherd. Through His willing sacrifice, Jesus made salvation possible for all who come to Him in faith. It is only through Him that we can receive salvation. "I am the Good Shepherd. I know my sheep and they know me."
I'm going to hold up a couple of pictures. First, this is a picture of what? (a crutch). What is a crutch used for? It provides support under the arm to help someone walk if his leg is injured or weak. It can assist a person with balance problems and help him to perform daily activities more easily.
Now, this is a picture of a___________ ? (ladder) What are ladders used for?
Ladders are used for reaching high places: for putting things away in storage; for changing a light bulb; for painting or cleaning walls and ceilings; for cleaning out the eaves troughs, cutting tree branches, and many other uses.
So crutches are used by the lame, injured and weak, and ladders are used by stronger, healthier people to gain access to higher places. Did you ever realize that some people use God as a crutch and others think of God as a ladder? Those who think of God as a crutch go limping through life. However, those who think of Him as a ladder climb up to higher things.
Don't get me wrong. We need crutches. People are always getting hurt and some will never walk like the rest of us do. But we need ladders to do the work of the world. How do you think of God: as a crutch to help you out of trouble, or to lean on when you're hurt; or are you a strong person who regards God as a ladder to climb in order that you may reach the best in life?
God will be a crutch for you to lean on if you should hurt yourself, but you don't want to be a lame Christian all your life and go limping into heaven. We are always answering God's call to walk a great life journey of faith. A journey that will enable our love for God and others to grow. Let God strengthen us and nourish us as we take that journey. It's an easy journey if we follow the Good Shepherd.
I always go back to that part of Jesus' story where He tells us the sheep know him and know His voice. The sheep hear the shepherd's voice and are comforted by it. A voice to which they are irresistibly and powerfully drawn.
God calls to us, too, each one of us. But sometimes we don't hear His voice or even recognize it. No matter what we've done, or how far we've strayed, God calls to us. He wants us to climb the ladder, step by step, as He climbs with us.
We are the sheep and Jesus is the Good Shepherd. He loves us, He takes care of us, He makes sure we have everything we need. He was even willing to give His life so that you and I could live with Him forever. There is no doubt in my mind that Jesus really loves His sheep.
Let us pray: Our dear Lord Jesus, the Good Shepherd, You count us to make sure we are all safe, secure and content. We can't go astray without You knowing and going out to look for us. What a wonderful feeling of security. You always go beyond what is expected in looking after Your children. You see to it that we are refreshed after a hectic day. You restore our emotions. Thank You for that kind of caring love. In Your name we pray, Amen.
SPECIAL MUSIC: "Goin' Up To Heaven To Live In Green Pastures" - Norm
BENEDICTION & CHORAL AMEN:
The Lord takes care of His people like a shepherd. He gathers the people like lambs in His arms. Jesus, our Good Shepherd, always loves us, always takes care of us and always listens to us when we pray to Him. Go now in His care. Trust Him, follow Him
Jesus in Blue Jeans
One of the great mysteries of our faith is the mystery of the Second Coming. There are many passages of scripture referring to it. There are equally as many interpretations of these passages. Will He come again? When will He come again? How will we recognize Him when He comes? Is the second coming a physical, full body representation, or is it to be a spiritual ‘gift’ from God?
Let’s look at some of these passages and think about their meanings:
"Truly I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all things take place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away." (NAS, Luke 21:32-33)
This generation will not pass away? This suggests that Christ will return within the lifetimes of the disciples. But in the very same paragraph it also says, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not.”
In the letters of Paul, it is very clear that the apostles expected Jesus’ imminent return, in full body form. After all, wasn’t this the Messiah who had performed a bounty of miracles, including raising his friend, Lazarus, from the dead? And did He not promise to do the same to Himself? Well, maybe…and maybe not. You see, Jesus also said this:
"No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Be on guard! Be alert! You do not know when that time will come." (NIV, Mark 13:32-33)
So, not only can we not know when this will be. We don’t even know how it will happen, since there is no description of it. Stranger still, Jesus says, not even the Son - meaning Jesus Himself - will know, not even the angels in heaven, but only the Father. Not even Jesus Himself will know when He will return? Certainly, these words are a superb mystery, and they can only have one ultimate meaning. Like everything else Christ has passed on to us, this is something we must accept not on the evidence of our senses. Not by what we have seen, or heard, or physically felt, but by virtue of our faith. We hear the words, or see them written, and we believe, because we have been given the power of the freedom of choice. We believe because we choose to believe. Or, we disbelieve for the same reason, because we choose to disbelieve.
But let’s assume for a moment that Jesus will come again as a complete human being. Let’s assume he came walking from the south across the mountains. Maybe he crossed the border below the First Concession and walked across the fields of Marilyn Partridge’s farm. Is that a serious challenge to your beliefs? Do you really think He will come descending from the sky, fully adult and wearing shining white robes? Or, will he wander into town as a stranger, wearing a denim shirt and blue jeans, with a wild black beard and a huge, heart-warming smile. Maybe he’ll wear a Montreal Canadiens hat? No, no. That’s going too far. Lord knows they need a Messiah, but he’ll have to wear skates.
But with all this speculation, added to a long list of speculations stretching back 2000 years, are we any closer to knowing the reality? Maybe not.
I am calling this message I decided to pass on to you, “Jesus in Blue Jeans.” The title is not mine. I took it from a book by author Laurie Beth Jones. In it, she responds to the question, “Who was Jesus and who would he be today?” I’ll approach it this way.
Since I live in Huntingdon, I’ll approach it from my familiar territory. I’m crossing the Walker Bridge one Sunday afternoon on my way to the Little Green Library to drop a book I borrowed into the return slot, when I see this lean stranger walking towards me from the direction of Athelstan. “Good afternoon,” I say. And I nod. “Hello,” he replies. Then as I’m about to get abreast of him, he stops and gazes deep into my eyes. I stop also and am mesmerized by this gaze. His eyes are a dark chocolate brown, his beard is somewhat wild and unruly, he has a tan worthy of an inhabitant of Calcutta, and his overall expression is that of a Buddhist monk, calm and serene, yet with a kind of underlying nonchalance and humour, as if anything going on around him just doesn’t matter much. He isn’t young, but then he isn’t old either.
“Can I help you?” I ask. “Yes,” he replies. “Come, follow me.”
And with these words, I forget about the library and I go with him. Thus begins a journey I have often formed in my own mind as I attempt to answer the group question, What if Jesus comes again in my lifetime? What if he shows up in Huntingdon? How would he look? What would he wear? Would he come as depicted by artists, wearing a long white robe and descending from the clouds? Or, will he come as he always came, dressed like a common man and mingling with us all. In that scenario, he’d maybe still have a beard, maybe wear sandals or Nikes, maybe be dressed in blue jeans, a bit faded, a bit worn.
So, I turn and walk with him crossing the bridge and talking. And I’m reminded of the song,
“And he walks with me, and he talks with me, and he tells me I am his own. And the joy we share, as we tarry there, none other has ever known.”
As we hit Chateauguay street, he looks up and sees the United Church in front of us. “What building is that?” he enquiries. “Why that’s the United Church, a house of God,” I reply.
“So it is,” he agrees. “Let’s go inside.”
“I’m afraid we can’t.”
“Well, Sunday service is over and the door is locked. I don’t know who has a key.”
“Will I have to wait until the Sabbath?” he asks.
“Today is the Sabbath.”
He looks at me kind of sternly and says. “No. Saturday is the Sabbath.”
That stops me cold and I ask, “What did you say your name was?”
And he says, “Yeshua, or, in your language, Jesus.”
All kinds of crazy thoughts rush through my head. They culminate in this one huge question, “Is this really him?” Nooo way. That’s just crazy. That gaze hits me again. And then he asks, “Still having doubts, Thomas?” And I am crushed.
But wouldn’t you have doubts? Would you refuse to accept the obvious, that this stranger beside you is just that? Just a stranger, just a man? What would it take to convince you that this is Jesus Christ, the son of God, come down to earth again? He sees my confusion and he asks, “Would it take a miracle? Should I walk across your river and back? Would that do it?”
I deflect the question and ask, “Are you hungry?”
“Sure am,” he smiles, “I haven’t eaten for a while.”
I suggest we get a hot dog and continue our conversation, and he agrees. And as we walk towards Pivin’s he looks at the stores and restaurants we pass and he questions me, “I thought this day, Sunday, was your holy day.”
“It is, at least it is to some of us.”
“And yet your stores are open?” He says this more as a question, one he would like me to answer.
“You see, not everyone views this as the day of the Lord. Some people work all week and need the time to buy provisions.”
“But it wasn’t always like this, and people still bought provisions.”
“Yes, that’s true.” I’m floundering, and wishing he wouldn’t carry on in this vein. I’m feeling uncomfortable with all this talk of the Lord’s day, his day.
But he persists. “Has everyone forgotten the ten? 2, do not have idols before me. Isn’t your hungry pursuit of material things much the same as the worship of idols?”
“Some would see it that way.”
I’m getting defensive because we have also participated in Sunday shopping at times.
“And what about 4, remember to keep holy the Lord’s Day?”
“Yes, but you see our governments don’t support religions and their practices.”
“And who said anything about governments or religions. Have you all forgotten how to pray?”
“We, er, tend to do that in church.”
“You mean once a week…for an hour? And from what you’ve been telling me, very few people even attend church…or pray at all.”
“That is a shame,” I admit.
But maybe this isn’t the way it would go at all. Maybe when he does come, it will be in sounds and sights of glory, and it would be such a large, shining event that no one could possible deny him. Do you think it might happen that way? I suppose it could. I don’t know for sure, no one does. After all, he said no one could guess the hour when he would return. It’s even possible that he’s come and gone already. It’s not as if his followers have disappeared. It’s not as if no one understands his message, love God and love your neighbour. He may have come in some unfathomable way.
He may have decided that it’s up to us to keep on track, to carry on with social programs that follow his lead, to show our love by helping kids and the elderly, by providing clothes and housing to our community and to foreign communities. By welcoming strangers in our midst. By forgiving known and perceived slights against us. Yes, his message transcends millenniums. He sends us transmissions daily, if we would just pause long enough to listen, to tune in to his channel, not the hundred or more channels that brainwash us into trading real experience for vicarious experience or, in other words, experience we live through the lives or fantasies of others.
So, we stop at Leblanc’s to enjoy a Pivin hot dog and fries.
And he asks, “Can you tell me why the place where you eat is called Leblanc, but the hot dogs you eat are Pivin’s?”
“It’s a devilish long story,” I say.
“That’s all right,” he says, “I have an eternity of time.”
And so, I begin……
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.