SUNDAY 25 APRIL 2021 @ 9h30am
HYMN: # Be Still For The Presence of the Lord
PRAYERS PRAISE & CONFESSION
God, we thank you for revealing yourself to us in the Person of Christ. Before him, we were confused about your nature. We thought you might be ruthless, unquenchably angry. We thought we had to get on your good side.
But Christ cleared up our confusion, and showed us:
That all your sides are good; That the good news is good for all; That we can trust in your justice, and in your mercy.
We thought you were a tyrant king.
But you are really a Good Shepherd. You care for us. We are your sheep. You instruct us in your ways: The way of mercy, The way of generosity, The way of compassion, The way of friendship, The way of peace. And so, Good Shepherd, lead us Toward green pastures Alongside still waters Lead us, and restore our souls.
And may we offer the same goodness to others:
to feed the hungry; to welcome the stranger; to clothe the naked; to care for the sick; to befriend the prisoner.
Then everyone will know that we are your people
The sheep of your pasture; that you are our ruler;
and your law is love. Amen (with thanks to FranPratt.com)
HYMN: #591 The Lord’s My Shepherd – The Psalm
A good translation of the Hebrew: “By the pools of reflection, my soul remembers who I am.”
THE WORD OF GOD (a Heading for the three items below)
Prayer For Illumination
O God, who makes all things new, new stars, new dust, new life; take my heart, every hardened edge and measured beat, and create something new in me. I need your newness, God, the rough parts of me made smooth;
the stagnant, stirred;
the stuck, freed;
the unkind, forgiven.
And then, by the power of your Spirit,
I need to be turned toward Love again.
You are the Good Shepherd. Thank you that in you my soul remembers who I am. Open these reflections and speak to us your living word In Christ Jesus. Amen.
Scripture – (Psalm 23) John 10: 11-18
John 10:11-18 Contemporary English Version (CEV)
11 I am the good shepherd, and the good shepherd gives up his life for his sheep. 12 Hired workers are not like the shepherd. They don’t own the sheep, and when they see a wolf coming, they run off and leave the sheep. Then the wolf attacks and scatters the flock. 13 Hired workers run away because they don’t care about the sheep.
14 I am the good shepherd. I know my sheep, and they know me. 15 Just as the Father knows me, I know the Father, and I give up my life for my sheep. 16 I have other sheep that are not in this sheep pen. I must bring them together too, when they hear my voice. Then there will be one flock of sheep and one shepherd.
17 The Father loves me, because I give up my life, so that I may receive it back again. 18 No one takes my life from me. I give it up willingly! I have the power to give it up and the power to receive it back again, just as my Father commanded me to do.
Contemporary English Version (CEV) Copyright © 1995 by American Bible Society
Look around – what do you NOT see? Name
I don’t know if you have ever really realised that – or even know why we don’t have a cross in the church at St. Columba’s.
What we have is a stained-glass window of the resurrection scene. Ryan reminded us a few weeks ago in his Clerk’s Easter Epistle that we have this beautiful stained-glass window in the sanctuary.
The Resurrection – I like it!
Now if you think this is really weird – or even if you think this is wrong to have a church sanctuary with no cross then I have something to say about it.
It was only after the Church was made the official religion of the Roman Empire in the 4th Century that crosses began to be a feature.
In the 4th Century, Roman Emperor Constantine saw a vision of a burning cross, and made Christianity the official religion of the Empire. It still took another 600 years before crosses took hold as symbols of Christ.
In the catacombs under the city of Rome, a place where the early Christians sought refuge, and a safe meeting place, there are no crosses at all. In fact, for the first 1000 years of the Church, the cross wasn’t a significant feature.
Two scholars spent five years writing a book, Rebecca Ann Parker and Rita Kashima Brock. Saving Paradise: How Christianity traded love of this world for Crucifixion and Empire.
Parker and Brock declare that, “it took Jesus Christ a thousand years to die.”
What you will find in the catacombs are images of fish, loaves, chalice, and Jesus The Good Shepherd.
But no cross.
My, my. Isn’t that interesting?
“During the first millennium, Christians filled their sanctuaries with images of Christ as a living presence in a vibrant world. He appears as a shepherd, a teacher, a healer, an enthroned god; he is an infant, a youth, and a bearded elder.
But he is never dead. When he appears with the cross, he stands in front of it, serene, resurrected. The world around him is ablaze with beauty. These are images of paradise—paradise in this world, permeated and blessed by the presence of God.”
The first Christians used the symbol of a fish.
The reason is that in Greek, the word for fish is an acronym. The Greek letters stand for “Jesus Christ, God’s Son, Saviour.” – Ixthus.
And so for well over 300 years, a humble fish was a symbol for Christ and Christianity.
It was after the Great Schism of the Church into Greek Orthodox and the Western Rite (Catholicism) in 1054 that crosses began to feature in the West.
It is furthermore interesting that the Hindu-Arabic numbering system came into use in the West around the 12th Century.
(I’ll discuss this in a few weeks).
In summary, it was only after the first Millennium that the cross began to feature strongly in the Christian West. That is why I insist that the Protestant cross is empty. We are Easter People!
Sometimes, people say that Christians view life through the cross. In fact, it is more correct to say that Christians view life through Easter.
We are Easter People!
It is Easter that informs the hope Christians have.
Christians view life through the Easter story.
Furthermore, one of the earliest and consistent Christian symbols is the Good Shepherd. John 10 calls Jesus the Good Shepherd.
We understand that Jesus cares for us.
He protects us.
He searches for us when we are lost.
He finds us when we get stuck in the mire.
He rescues us from death.
He is the Good Shepherd.
Friends, in these COVID-19 times, our world is disrupted. Hunger is present everywhere. Fear is pervasive. Our mental health is under pressure as never before.
But Jesus cares for us.
At one time in my life, when things were very difficult, a Christian friend counselled me. He said to me, “God is not done with you yet!”
When the disciples of Jesus laid his body in the tomb, God said, “Jesus, I’m not done with you yet.”
When the disciples were scared and afraid of tomorrow, Jesus said to them, “I’m not done with you yet. Meet me in Galilee.”
When the messengers met the women in the tomb, the message was, “The Lord is risen.”
In other words, “there’s still more.”
Let me say to you today, my friends, “the Lord is not done with you yet; there’s still more.”
Jesus is the Good Shepherd. He cares for you. And there’s still more!
A woman was diagnosed with a terminal condition. The priest visited with her. One day she said to him, give everyone at my funeral a plastic spoon. The priest looked puzzled, and so she explained it to him.
A few months later, at the same woman’s funeral service, the priest handed out plastic spoons. At an appropriate moment the priest referred to the spoon that each person had been given.
He said that this was Mary’s request. He explained that whenever Mary had been to a church dinner, they always handed out plastic spoons. Mary said this was symbolic. It was a sign that dessert was about to be served.
So even after the wonderful meals served in the church from time to time, when the plastic spoons were given out, you knew there was more to come. Dessert was about to be served. Mary wanted every person coming to her funeral to know that, “here is a plastic spoon; there is something more to come.”
More than cross people; we are Easter people. There is something more to come! God is not done with you yet!
Thoughts on Sermon
Testimony to share
Something you need prayer for?
1. Bless The Lord, Oh My Soul
2. Hum. (read)
Bless the Lord, my soul
And bless God’s holy name.
Bless the Lord, my soul
He rescues me from death
3/5. Bless the Lord, my soul
And bless God’s holy name.
Bless the Lord, my soul
Who leads me into life
 Forget not my soul, all God’s good deeds
The Lord is forgiveness and redeems our life from the grave. The Lord is compassionate and gracious, abounding in love.
It is God who forgives all your guilt, who heals every one of your ills, who redeems your life from the grave, who crowns you with love and compassion.
 The Lord is compassion and love; the Lord is patient and rich in mercy. God does not treat us according to our sins; God does not repay us according to our faults.
As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has mercy on those who revere him; for God knows of what we are made, and remembers that we are dust.
OFFERTORY: Thanksgiving Prayer
THE PRAYER FOR AFRICA
God bless Africa
God bless Africa
Guard her children
Guide her leaders,
And give us peace. Amen
Stay Here With Me;
Remain here with me;
Watch and Pray