Worship for Sunday 21st April 2024, by Rev. Ken Stokes


Call to worship

Come and worship as sheep of one-fold.
Come as those who are welcoming.
Come as those who are accepting;
as those who are called and united
by the protective love of the good shepherd.
Come and be shaped.
Come and be challenged.
Come and be changed.
Come and rejoice.
For Christ is your rod and your staff,
your hope and your Saviour, today and always.

Hymn: StF83 Praise my soul the King of Heaven

Praise, my soul, the King of heaven;

to his feet your tribute bring.

Ransomed, healed, restored, forgiven,

evermore his praises sing.

Alleluia, alleluia!

Praise the everlasting King!


Praise him for his grace and favour

to his people in distress.

Praise him, still the same as ever,

Slow to chide, and swift to bless.

Alleluia, alleluia!

Glorious in his faithfulness!

Fatherlike, he tends and spares us;

well our feeble frame he knows.

In his hand he gently bears us,

rescues us from all our foes.

Alleluia, alleluia!

Widely yet his mercy flows!

Angels, help us to adore him;

you behold him face to face.

Sun and moon, bow down before him,

dwellers all in time and space.

Alleluia, alleluia!

Praise with us the God of grace

Henry Francis Lyte (1793-1847)


The Lord rounds us up like a shepherd with his sheep, making sure that we want for nothing and rest in safety.
The Lord leads us where we need to go,
making our paths as smooth as they can be.
Whatever life throws at us, we have no reason to fear, for you, Lord, are with us and comfort us.
Whatever struggles we have to endure,
whatever opposition we face,
your goodness and mercy go with us,
and we will worship you, our God, for ever. Amen.

When we shut out those
who are different from us,
Refusing a welcome to the stranger,
God, whose love is without limits,
Forgive us and lead us in your ways.

When we ignore others because we think they are wrong,
Thinking that we are perfect,
God, whose love is without limits,
Forgive us and lead us in your ways.

When we are fearful of losing our own identity,
Clinging to outworn traditions and resisting new ways,
God, whose love is without limits,
Forgive us and lead us in your ways.

When we feel worthless and ashamed,
Doubting our power to live as your people,
God, whose love is without limits,
Forgive us and lead us in your ways.

Bible Reading: Gospel of John,
Chapter 10 verses 11-18

“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. The hired hand, who is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and runs away—and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. The hired hand runs away because a hired hand does not care for the sheep. I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father. And I lay down my life for the sheep

I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd. For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life in order to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it up again. I have received this command from my Father.”

Hymn: StF486 “Who would true valour see

  1. Who would true valour see
    let him come hither;
    one here will constant be
    come wind, come weather;
    there’s no discouragement
    shall make him once relent
    his first avowed intent
    to be a pilgrim.

  2. Whoso beset him round
    with dismal stories
    do but themselves confound:
    his strength the more is.
    No lion can him fright;
    he’ll with a giant fight;
    but he will have the right
    to be a pilgrim.

  3. Hobgoblin nor foul fiend
    can daunt his spirit;
    he knows he at the end
    shall life inherit.

          Then fancies fly away,
          he’ll fear not what men say;
          he’ll labour night and day
          to be a pilgrim.
John Bunyan (1628-1688)

Reflection: The Good Shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.

John tells us that Jesus is the good shepherd. Yet I am not sure that the English word “good” really encapsulates what is being said about Jesus. A good person is someone who you can rely on and who does what you might expect of someone who is fair and just. Yet the Greek word John uses kalos conveys something more than this.

Jesus is kalos  this means not just good but also winsome and gracious– there is an inner beauty, a genuineness, a charm, something lovely about Jesus.

Jesus is the Good Shepherd in this sense – not just because he follows all God’s rules for shepherding and is utterly reliable, but Jesus also has a beauty of good intent which can melt our hearts. Jesus is with us and is smiling at us, so we can know everything will be okay, we do not need to fear despite the howling of the ravenous wolves.

Some commentators say that when shepherds in Israel were wandering the hillside in search of best grass for their sheep to eat, they would have to establish a temporary sheep pen made out of whatever they could find in the undergrowth so they could protect their sheep at night. Clearly there would be no permanent gate on the temporary pen, so they would lie down at entrance. Any animal or human who wanted to take the sheep would have to get across the shepherd to get them.

This would be a risky position to take. The Shepherd would be making themselves vulnerable to care for the sheep.

Like the shepherds, Jesus lay down life and was prepared to die for us. Yet he was not just risking his life, because by being willing to die on the cross he was giving it up, handing it over for us.

Yet that is not the end of the story because God’s love cannot be defeated, and Jesus says that though he has laid down his life he also has the power to take it up again which is what we celebrate Easter Sunday when God raised Jesus from the dead.

Following Jesus involves sacrifice for we have to be prepared to lay ourselves down for others just as Jesus has done for us!

Some questions to reflect on

  1. Who do you put first in your life?
  2. Is there anyone that would you be prepared to risk your life for?
  3. What sort of risks have you taken to show other people God’s love?

Hymn: StF 481 “The Lord’s my Shepherd I’ll not want”

  1. The Lord’s my Shepherd, I’ll not want
    he makes me lie in pastures green,
    he leads me by the still, still waters
    his goodness restores my soul.

         And I will trust in you alone,
        and I will trust in you alone,
        for your endless mercy follows me,
       your goodness will lead me home.

  1. He guides my ways in righteousness
    and he anoints my head with oil;
    and my cup – it overflows with joy,
    I feast on his pure delights.

  2. And though I walk though the darkest path –
    I will not fear the evil one,
    for you are with me, and your rod and staff
    are the comfort I need to know.

Stuart Townend (b.1963)

Prayers of Intercession

Loving God good shepherd of the sheep
you lead us with tender, loving care.
We pray for those who must wander, trying to find their way forward in difficult times:
for those who struggle in the cost-of-living crisis with not enough money to get by.
for those who haven’t even a guaranteed roof over their heads at night.
Lord our shepherd, guide us.

We pray for those who are
passing though dark valleys:
the sick, the dying, the depressed and anxious, the hungry,
those who have lost their land,
and those whose land is a wilderness of warfare where no one is safe.
Lord our shepherd, guide us.

We pray for those who are anointed with the task of leadership:
for the leaders of nations,
the leaders of local communities,
the leaders of religious communities.
We pray for those who must negotiate to bring an end to conflict and violence.
and we pray for those who seem lost and don’t know what to do or which way to go.
Lord our shepherd, guide us.

We pray for ourselves, that we may set a table of hospitality before all who need our help,
that our overflowing cup will be shared with others.
Lord our shepherd, guide us.

We pray for the dying,
that they will come to dwell in your house
and know your comfort in their final days.
Lord our shepherd, guide us.

All this we ask in the name of the Good Shepherd,
Jesus, our master, and our friend. Amen.

Hymn: StF 351 “In Christ alone”

  1. In Christ alone my hope is found,
    he is my light, my strength, my song;
    this Cornerstone, this solid ground,
    firm through the fiercest droughts and storm.
    What heights of love, what depths of peace,
    when fears are stilled and strivings cease!
    My Comforter, My All in All,
    here in the love of Christ I stand.

  2. In Christ alone! – who took on flesh,
    fullness of God in helpless babe!
    This gift of love and righteousness,
    scorned by the ones he came to save:
    till on the cross as Jesus died,
    the love of God was glorified!
    For every sin on him was laid;
    here in the death of Christ I live.

  3. There in the ground his body lay,
    light of the world by darkness slain:
    the bursting forth in glorious Day
    up from the grave he rose again!
    And as he stands in victory,
    sin’s curse has lost its grip on me,
    for I am his and he is mine –
    bought with the precious blood of Christ.

  4. No guilt in life, no fear in death,
    this is the power of Christ in me;
    form life’s first cry to final breath,
    Jesus commands my destiny.
    No powers of hell, no scheme of man,
    can ever pluck me from his hand;
    till he returns or calls me home
    here in the power of Christ I’ll stand!


Closing Prayer

Be the waters quiet, and the pastures green,
be there with us, Good Shepherd.
Be the valleys dark and filled with foes,
wherever we are, wherever we go;
be there with us, Good Shepherd.