Lord as we gather, we feel your arms surrounding us. You know us and we rejoice in knowing you.
Singing the Faith 481
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.
Chorus: 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.
- 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.
- And though I walk 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.
The Lord will be Israel’s shepherd
34 The word of the Lord came to me: 2 ‘Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel; prophesy and say to them: “This is what the Sovereign Lord says: woe to you shepherds of Israel who only take care of yourselves! Should not shepherds take care of the flock? 3 You eat the curds, clothe yourselves with the wool and slaughter the choice animals, but you do not take care of the flock. 4 You have not strengthened the weak or healed those who are ill or bound up the injured. You have not brought back the strays or searched for the lost. You have ruled them harshly and brutally. 5 So they were scattered because there was no shepherd, and when they were scattered they became food for all the wild animals. 6 My sheep wandered over all the mountains and on every high hill. They were scattered over the whole earth, and no one searched or looked for them.
7 ‘“Therefore, you shepherds, hear the word of the Lord: 8 as surely as I live, declares the Sovereign Lord, because my flock lacks a shepherd and so has been plundered and has become food for all the wild animals, and because my shepherds did not search for my flock but cared for themselves rather than for my flock, 9 therefore, you shepherds, hear the word of the Lord: 10 this is what the Sovereign Lord says: I am against the shepherds and will hold them accountable for my flock. I will remove them from tending the flock so that the shepherds can no longer feed themselves. I will rescue my flock from their mouths, and it will no longer be food for them.
11 ‘“For this is what the Sovereign Lord says: I myself will search for my sheep and look after them. 12 As a shepherd looks after his scattered flock when he is with them, so will I look after my sheep. I will rescue them from all the places where they were scattered on a day of clouds and darkness. 13 I will bring them out from the nations and gather them from the countries, and I will bring them into their own land. I will pasture them on the mountains of Israel, in the ravines and in all the settlements in the land. 14 I will tend them in a good pasture, and the mountain heights of Israel will be their grazing land. There they will lie down in good grazing land, and there they will feed in a rich pasture on the mountains of Israel. 15 I myself will tend my sheep and make them lie down, declares the Sovereign Lord. 16 I will search for the lost and bring back the strays. I will bind up the injured and strengthen the weak, but the sleek and the strong I will destroy. I will shepherd the flock with justice.
17 ‘“As for you, my flock, this is what the Sovereign Lord says: I will judge between one sheep and another, and between rams and goats. 18 Is it not enough for you to feed on the good pasture? Must you also trample the rest of your pasture with your feet? Is it not enough for you to drink clear water? Must you also muddy the rest with your feet? 19 Must my flock feed on what you have trampled and drink what you have muddied with your feet?
20 ‘“Therefore this is what the Sovereign Lord says to them: see, I myself will judge between the fat sheep and the lean sheep. 21 Because you shove with flank and shoulder, butting all the weak sheep with your horns until you have driven them away, 22 I will save my flock, and they will no longer be plundered. I will judge between one sheep and another. 23 I will place over them one shepherd, my servant David, and he will tend them; he will tend them and be their shepherd. 24 I the Lord will be their God, and my servant David will be prince among them. I the Lord have spoken.
25 ‘“I will make a covenant of peace with them and rid the land of savage beasts so that they may live in the wilderness and sleep in the forests in safety. 26 I will make them and the places surrounding my hill a blessing. I will send down showers in season; there will be showers of blessing. 27 The trees will yield their fruit and the ground will yield its crops; the people will be secure in their land. They will know that I am the Lord, when I break the bars of their yoke and rescue them from the hands of those who enslaved them. 28 They will no longer be plundered by the nations, nor will wild animals devour them. They will live in safety, and no one will make them afraid. 29 I will provide for them a land renowned for its crops, and they will no longer be victims of famine in the land or bear the scorn of the nations. 30 Then they will know that I, the Lord their God, am with them and that they, the Israelites, are my people, declares the Sovereign Lord. 31 You are my sheep, the sheep of my pasture, and I am your God, declares the Sovereign Lord.”’
The good shepherd and his sheep
10 ‘Very truly I tell you Pharisees, anyone who does not enter the sheepfold by the gate, but climbs in by some other way, is a thief and a robber. 2 The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. 3 The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 4 When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. 5 But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognise a stranger’s voice.’ 6 Jesus used this figure of speech, but the Pharisees did not understand what he was telling them.
7 Therefore Jesus said again, ‘Very truly I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. 8 All who have come before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep have not listened to them. 9 I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. They will come in and go out, and find pasture. 10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.
11 ‘I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 12 The hired hand is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it. 13 The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep.
14 ‘I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep 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 are not of this sheepfold. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd. 17 The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life – only to take it up again. 18 No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father.’
Singing the Faith 272
- From heaven you came, helpless babe,
Entered our world, your glory veiled,
Not to be served, but to serve,
And give your life that we might live.
Chorus: This is our God, the servant King, he calls us now to follow Him, to bring our lives as a daily offering of worship to the servant king.
- There in the garden of tears my heavy load he chose to bear: his heart with sorrow was torn, yet not my will but your he said.
- Come see his hands and his feet, the scars that speak of sacrifice, hands that flung stars into space to cruel nails surrendered.
- So let us learn how to serve and in our lives enthrone him, each other’s needs to prefer, for it is Christ we are serving.
God of all, help us to understand what you mean to us and what we mean to you; what you have done in our lives.
Though we may not be gifted with words, help us to talk to those we know about you. May our actions also speak of grace and love.
When we get things wrong, help us to recognise that and say sorry, where possible.
We hold in our minds those we love and cherish who are struggling at this time. We ask that they may know your love.
Thank you God that in you we have the safety of your abundant forgiveness.
The Lord's Prayer
Please use the version that you prefer
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.
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.
The image of God as a shepherd is a very ancient and powerful one. The Ezekiel reading summarises a number of the times God speaks through the prophets, using shepherding as a metaphor for his relationship with the people of Israel. In a pastoral society where most people were subsistence farmers, this would have made a lot of sense to those who spoke and those who listened. We live in a world where most of us have nothing to do with the care and management of sheep – we are just consumers of meat and wool. Because this was such an embedded metaphor within the people Jesus lived alongside, it’s not surprising that he uses it often. No explanation is needed. However, in the reading from John’s gospel, clearly those listening didn’t understand what he was telling them.
Perhaps not because the metaphor was unfamiliar, but because the person saying these things looked like an ordinary man – not a great ruler/king/ Messiah – or at least not what Jesus’ listeners thought of as Messiah.
Sometimes we can miss important information because it comes to us in a way we’re not expecting – or from a source that feels out of context.
John’s gospel is written in such a way that he has gathered together parables and sayings of Jesus around themes and this chapter is all about shepherding. Perhaps so that we don’t fail to understand its significance.
In the first 5 verses Jesus doesn’t name himself, he is reflecting on the “true shepherd”. This phrase is also in the Ezekiel reading, as a comparison to those who should be leading the people, but are looking after themselves instead. Those listening to Jesus don’t seem to be making that connection, so he goes on to explain in verses 11-18 “I am the Good Shepherd”, also refuting claims that he is “mad”.
The western European art tradition gives the image of Jesus as Good Shepherd a very sugary gloss – lots of flowers, grass, children and lambs playing. In reality Jesus words were troubling to all in authority; claiming to be the Good Shepherd put Jesus in opposition to everyone else who claimed authority over the people – religious and secular. Chapter 10 ends with Jesus having to leave in a hurry because people were threatening to stone him
Sometimes it is important for us to recognise the radical nature of Jesus message. Love for all is his commandment and we will often find fulfilling that a difficult path to tread. Our strength comes from knowing the power of his spirit with us.
Singing the Faith 322
How sweet the name of Jesus sounds, in a believer’s ear! It soothes our sorrows, heals our wounds and drives away our fear.
It makes the wounded spirit whole, and calms the troubled breast; tis manna to the hungry soul and to the weary, rest.
Dear name- the rock on which I build, my shield, my hiding place, my never failing treasury, filled with boundless stores of grace
Jesus! My Shepherd, Brother, Friend, my Prophet, Priest and King, my Lord, my Life, my Way, my End, accept the praise I bring.
Weak is the effort of my heart, and cold my warmest thought, but when I see thee as thou art, I’ll praise thee as I ought.
Till then I would thy love proclaim with every fleeting breath; and may the music of thy name refresh my soul in death.
I offer this poem as a reflective prayer on the theme of Jesus as the Good Shepherd and the Gate of the sheepfold. The writer is Malcolm Guite and comes from a collection called Parable and Paradox, published by Canterbury press.
I AM the Door of the Sheepfold
Not one that’s gently hinged or deftly hung,
Not like the ones you planed at Joseph’s place
Not like the well-oiled openings that swung so easily for Pilates practised pace,
Not like the ones that closed in Mary’s face
From house to house in brimming Bethlehem, Not like the one that no man may assail, that waits your breaking in Jerusalem.
Not one you made, but one you have become: Load bearing, balancing, a weighted beam to bridge the gap, to bring us within reach of your high pasture. Calling us by name, you lay your body down across the breach, yourself the door that opens into home.