Worship for Sunday 25th April, by Rev. Ken Stokes

Hymn StF 304 “Jesus is risen, Alleluia”

1   Jesus is risen, alleluia!
     Worship and praise him, alleluia!
     Now our redeemer bursts from the grave;
     lost to the tomb, Christ rises to save.
           Come, let us worship him,
           endlessly sing;
           Christ is alive and death loses its sting.
           Sins are forgiven, alleluia!
           Jesus is risen, alleluia!

2   Buried for three days, destined for death,
     now he returns to breathe with our breath.
     Blest are the ears alert to his voice,
     blest are the hearts which for him rejoice.

3   ‘Don’t be afraid!’ the angel had said,
     ‘Why seek the living here with the dead?
     Look, where he lay, his body is gone,
     risen and vibrant, warm with the sun.’

4   ‘Go and tell others, Christ is alive.’
     Love is eternal, faith and hope thrive.
     What God intended, Jesus fulfilled;
     what God conceives can never be killed.

5   Christ has arisen!  Now all can see
     how humankind is meant to be free.
     Though powers of darkness threaten their worst,
     through every barrier Jesus has burst.

6   Let heaven echo, let the earth sing:
     Jesus is saviour of everything.
     All those who trust him, Christ will receive;
     therefore rejoice, obey and believe!

Bernard Kyamanywa (b. 1938) English version John L. Bell (b. 1949)

Reproduced from Singing the Faith Electronic Words Edition, number 304
Words: From Courage To Say No English version © 1996, WGRG, Iona Community, Glasgow G2 3DH Scotland.  www.wgrg.co.uk


Great God, we join with countless millions
to worship you as your people do,
each and every day.
Grant to each one of us
the peace and the security,
the comfort and the courage
that your presence brings.

You are the Creator, maker of the universe, from you come earth and star.
Praise be to your name!
You are the Saviour, guiding all history, you are Redeemer of old and new.
Praise be to your name!
You are the Spirit, the great connector, binding us to you, to one another and to all that is.
Praise be to your name!
You are one God, the Trinity in majesty.
Praise be to your name!

Reading Psalm 23 NRSV

(1) A Psalm of David. The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want.  (2)  He makes me lie down in green pastures; he leads me beside still waters;  (3)  he restores my soul. He leads me in right paths for his name’s sake.  (4)  Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I 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 goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD my whole life long.

A Prayer of Confession

We often wander away,
We often stray,
in our minds and words and deeds.
Yet it is never your desire that any be damaged or harmed,
So we give thanks that
you never turn your face away from us, loving God,
even when we have wronged you,
and hurt others on the way.
Though we have no claim upon you we ask that you will be done
and that your blessings will overflow upon all people.
Where our choices and actions get in the way of such blessing,
for ourselves and for our neighbours,
please find us
and lead us back to your path of righteousness.

A Song for meditation

Hymn “When circumstances make my life”

(play through twice)

   1    When circumstances make my life
        too hard to understand,
        no doubt or fear, no pain or strife,
        can snatch me from God’s hand.

   2    In valleys where the path is steep,
        with shadows dark and long,
        I know the Shepherd leads his sheep —
        his grace will keep me strong.

   3    Though sorrow and perplexity
        are often what I feel,
        Gethsemane and Calvary
        affirm God’s love is real.

   4    It is enough for me to know
        God’s promise and God’s care:
        wherever on life’s path I go
        my Saviour will be there.

Martin Leckebusch (b. 1962)

Reproduced from Singing the Faith Electronic Words Edition, number 641 Words: © 1999, Kevin Mayhew Ltd, Buxhall, Stowmarket, Suffolk IP14 3BW  Used by permission.

Reading: Gospel of John Chapter 10 verses 1 to 18 NRSV

 (11)  “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.  (12)  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.  (13)  The hired hand runs away because a hired hand does not care for the sheep.  (14)  I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me,  (15)  just as the Father knows me and I know the Father. And I lay down my life for the sheep.  (16)  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.  (17)  For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life in order to take it up again.  (18)  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.”

 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 (Kalos)conveys something more than this.

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

Recently my almost one year old granddaughter Mia has started coming to our home while her mother and father go to work. Sometimes she is asleep when she arrives and when she wakes up, she finds that mamma is not there, and neither is daddy.

Mia is not sure where she is. She is not yet sure about us, during the pandemic we have not been able to spend as much time as we would like with her. So, we just smile at her, and wait for her to respond. We don’t say too much because she is a bit overwhelmed, but a smile is universal, and it says it is all okay.

Eventually she responds and her smile will melt your heart. She knows it is all going to be alright.

She is not alone, nothing bad will happen.

Jesus is the Good Shepherd in this sense – not just follows all the rules and being reliable but Jesus 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 out of whatever they could find in the undergrowth at night so they could protect their sheep. 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, 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 that he did on Easter Sunday.

Some questions to think about?

Given we are each one of us made in the “image of God” who is the most “beautiful” person (i.e., a person with an inner beauty) you know? What do you think “beautiful” people can show you about the nature of God?

Is there anyone who you would be prepared to “lay down your life” for?

Why would you or wouldn’t you be prepared to do that?  Does your answer tell you anything about God?

Hymn StF 717 “We do not hope to ease our minds”

   1    We do not hope to ease our minds
        by simple answers, shifted blame,
        while Christ is homeless, hungry, poor,
        and we are rich who bear his name.
        As long as justice is a dream
        and human dignity denied,
        we stand with Christ; disturb us still
        till every need is satisfied.

   2    We cannot ask to live at peace
        in comfort and security
        while Christ is tried in Pilate’s hall
        and drags his cross to Calvary.
        As long as hatred stifles truth
        and freedom is betrayed by fear,
        we stand with Christ; give us no peace
        till his peace reigns in triumph here.

   3    We will not pray to be preserved
        from any depth of agony
        while Christ’s despairing cry rings out:
        God, why have you abandoned me?
        As long as we have hope to share
        of life renewed beyond the pain,
        we stand with Christ all through the night
        till Easter morning dawns again.

Marnie Barrell (b. 1952)

     The last line of each verse is repeated.

Reproduced from Singing the Faith Electronic Words Edition, number 717
Words: © Marnie Barrell

Prayers of intercession

Lord, our shepherd,
you lead us with tender, loving care.
We pray for those who must wander, trying to discern their way in these difficult times of pandemic:
for the unemployed, those seeking work and new directions, those disturbed by unexpected redundancy after years of prosperity.
Lord our shepherd, guide us.

We pray for those who are passing though dark valleys:
the sick, those who have lost loved ones, the depressed and anxious, the hungry, those who have lost their homes.
Lord our shepherd, guide us.

We pray for those who are anointed with the task of leadership:
for the leaders of all nations, the leaders of local communities, the leaders of religious communities.
We pray for those who must negotiate to bring an end to bitterness and violence.
Lord our shepherd, guide us.

We pray for ourselves, that we may set a table of hospitality before all who need our help,
that both the overflowing cup of love you have poured out for us,
and our groaning table laden with good things you have given to us,
might be shared with others.
Lord our shepherd, guide us.

We pray for the dying,
that they may know 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.

(Roots resources 2009 significant adapted)

The Lord’s Prayer

Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your Name,
your Kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins
as we forgive those who sin against us.
Save us from the time of trial
and deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom, the power and the glory are yours
now and for ever. Amen.

Hymn StF 503 Love divine

   1    Love divine, all loves excelling,
        joy of heaven to earth come down,
        fix in us thy humble dwelling,
        all thy faithful mercies crown.
        Jesu, thou art all compassion,
        pure, unbounded love thou art;
        visit us with thy salvation,
        enter every trembling heart.

   2    Come, almighty to deliver,
        let us all thy life receive;
        suddenly return, and never,
        never more thy temples leave.
        Thee we would be always blessing,
        serve thee as thy hosts above,
        pray, and praise thee, without ceasing,
        glory in thy perfect love.

   3    Finish then thy new creation,
        pure and spotless let us be;
        let us see thy great salvation,
        perfectly restored in thee:
        changed from glory into glory,
        till in heaven we take our place,
        till we cast our crowns before thee,
        lost in wonder, love, and praise!

Charles Wesley (1707–1788)

Reproduced from Singing the Faith Electronic Words Edition, number 503.


Loving Shepherd,
you gave everything for the good of the flock.
Lead us on to do your work of love.
And may we know that you our Saviour
are alive and with us:
night and day;
now and always.