Sunday sermon 17 April, Easter 4 – Sheep and shepherds

Family Service Readings: Psalm 23; John 10:22-30;

FAMILY QUIZ – for all ages.

  1. Who wrote the Psalm “The lord is my shepherd?” (David)
  2. What is the number of that Psalm? (23)
  3. Who had the first sheep dogs in the bible? (David – Surely, goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life – “Surely” or a dog called “Shirley”). [This is a joke by the way :-)]
  4. What part of a bible days sheep was very fat? Was it the tummy or the tail? (Tail)
  5. Which way did bible shepherds may their sheep move. Did they drive them from behind or lead them from in front? (in front)
  6. If a sheep was injured say scratched by a sharp thorn bush or sunburned – what did the shepherd use to heal them? (olive oil)
  7. What would a shepherd carry the oil in back in bible days? (a ram’s horn).
  8. What was the name of the shelters made for sheep to be sheltered in/ (sheepfold)
  9. What material was a permanent sheepfold made of? (stone)
  10. What was used to guard the door of a sheepfold? (a watchman or shepherd).
  11. When David was a shepherd boy what animals did he protect his sheep from? (lion and bear. 1 Sam 17)
  12. Did shepherds really know their sheep by name? (yes)

And then two key questions:

  1. Does Jesus know you by name?
  2. Do you REALLY listen to Him?

MESSAGE FOR ADULTS AND KIDS

As this is a family service, here are some questions to discuss with someone younger or older than you in church today:

  • When do you feel the most unsafe?
  • Who are the people you should be safe with?
  • Have you ever been abandoned?
  • Do you remember being lost? In danger?
  • Have you ever been left behind?

When you’ve been left behind, perhaps after school,  and no one came to fetch you. How did you feel? Scared? (not really/maybe).  Unloved? (toughen up kid –  or maybe you felt terrible unloved?)  Angry? (probably – because you’re a kiwi kid and have a sense of entitlement?)

We watched a presentation about children in Romania being abandoned totally by parents – children who lie in hospital cots for years. It’s a great story though of a kiwi woman who started an orphanage there – and eventually a whole organisation to rescue children.

The bible has a lot of ways of describing God’s love for us as God’s children. The Good Shepherd is a great one – this Sunday Easter 4 is always Good Shepherd Sunday. He really does care for us as part of his flock. And of course he speaks of “lost sheep” in another place, describing how we get separated from Him. Here’s a great video telling that story:

 

Thankfully we are found by Jesus – and part of our work is to help lost people get reconnected to Him too.

Here’s one way of looking at Psalm 23 which is one of those passages that are our bread and butter – like 2 Corinthians 5:17 (if anyone is in Christ they are a new creation) and John 3: 16 (God so love the world). It’s by Ben Witvoet.

_______________________________________________

Dialogue with Scripture:

This has been another busy week. I don’t know whether I can focus on worship this morning. Something is nagging at my feelings.

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want.
Life is busy. There seems to be no end to work. I can’t relax.

He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters.
I have bad, painful memories.

I am hurting inside.

He restores my soul.

I struggle with sin. The good I want to do I cannot do. The evil I do I do not want to do. Who will rescue me from this body of death?

He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. 

I am getting older and may soon die. Someone I love may soon die.

Even though I walk though 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.

My fellow workers look down on me. My boss gives me a hard time.  have few friends at school.

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.

Life is full of troubles. My health is not as it should be. Where can I find meaningful work?

You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.

I am worried about the future. Will I meet a partner? Can I repay my debts? Is my business going to fail? Will my marriage last?

Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life.

Lord, I believe. Help me in my unbelief.

And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

________________________________________________

John 10 – the good shepherd.

The Gospel reading has a number of great things that are a strength to us as well.

The whole of John 10 is worth reading. It doesn’t all take place at the same time. This last part is at the Feast of Dedication (Hanukkah) in winter and takes place on the east side of the temple where pronouncements and judgments took place.

The Jewish leaders are eager to pin Jesus down on his claims. In fact, there’s only one verse in the whole of John’s gospel where the question is asked directly? They encircle him, corner him and ask: “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.” (John 10:24).

He answers in sheep and shepherd language. They would pick that up quickly – because they would have known Psalm 23 too (The LORD- YAHWEH – GOD -is the shepherd) – and that there and in other places God is the shepherd of the flock. Jesus is making a claim to be this shepherd. Here is his reply:  Joh 10:25  Jesus answered, “I did tell you, but you do not believe. The miracles I do in my Father’s name speak for me, Joh 10:26  but you do not believe because you are not my sheep. Joh 10:27  My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. Joh 10:28  I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. 

Importantly, eternal life – in John 17:3 – is described as a relationship – knowing God. And Jesus is claiming here that we are safe in his hand.

Just in case they don’t get it he spells it out further: Joh 10:29  My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. Joh 10:30  I and the Father are one.”

The moment he claims to be God – the next verse in fact – they want to stone him!

There is nothing worse than a closed mind. They could not get their heads around that possibility that he was “the Word made flesh” (John 1:14). Of course in John 1:11 John writes: He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him.

Jesus challenges us too – to really believe in Him – not just who he is but that he really is the good shepherd.

I suspect often we live the opposite – as if we had been abandoned by God – that he forgot to fetch us at the school of life.

Here’s Psalm 23 again – with some key words to describe God and Jesus:

Psalm 23 -a Litany

The Lord is my Shepherd That’s Relationship!

I shall not want That’s Supply!

He maketh me to lie down in green pastures. That’s Rest!

He leadeth me beside still waters. That’s Refreshment!

He restoreth my soul. That’s Healing!

He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness That’s Guidance!

For His Name’s sake That’s Purpose!

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death That’s Testing!

I will fear no evil That’s Protection!

For Thou art with me That’s Faithfulness

Thy rod and Thy staff they comfort me That’s Discipline!

Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies That’s Hope!

Thou anointest my head with oil That’s Consecration!

My cup runneth over That’s Abundance!

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life That’s Blessing!

And I will dwell in the house of the Lord That’s Security!

Forever That’s Eternity!

May he bless you today with the knowledge of how good He is.

Amen.

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About robinpalmer

I am a Presbyterian Pastor living and working in Browns Bay on the North Shore of Auckland in New Zealand. We moved here at the end of March 2011 after spending five years in Wellington the capital city. I am passionate about what I do - about communicating and writing. I also enjoy my counselling work, especially with young people.

Posted on April 19, 2016, in Sunday Morning Sermons and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. What a fun little animation! haha, love it. I wrote a blog about this topic, The Good Shepherd, recently. Feel free to give it a look 🙂 https://jonathancamac.wordpress.com/2016/03/16/the-good-shepherd/

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