Sunday Guided Tour - Fourth Sunday of Easter - May 3, 2020.

 

Here is the link to the U - Tube worship service 

Read the text below at your leisure or follow along with Rev. Jim and and Rick Young, Music Director

                                                                         

https://youtu.be/i1tLOnupU6M

You can also access this at Facebook : Friends of TrinityUnitedChurchThorold.

Feeling confined?  Before or after this worship time, listen to this music clip to lighten your spirit:

  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N7AsvmaSNU8

Good morning, everyone, and welcome to our Sunday Guided Tour here at Trinity.  I’m sure it seems a month of Sundays since we’ve all been together here, in the sanctuary.  Hopefully, though, you are well, and able to be in touch with the ones who love you, and whom you love so much.  In this service, we are together once again, and in touch with one another  -  in spirit and in soul, in heart and prayer, and in the love of Christ.

 

Please join with me as we begin with prayer:

Loving God, we come together here on Sunday, one in spirit, assured and reassured of the great gifts of your presence and your love.  Together, we are mindful of the pressures of these days.  Stress and strain impose themselves, and the worries of the world constrain our view.  But you are always there, within our view, and near us  -  loving where you love and healing where you heal.  You beckon us again to be with you, to make a difference for the better, life by life and day by day, and for your sake.  Help us know you with us now and every day, that we might live, with courage and conviction, the life you lived for us to save.  We pray in Jesus’ name.  Amen. 

 

How Sweet the Name of Jesus Sounds  Hymn #344

This morning’s readings speak to what might correctly be considered to be the Christian notion of community.  They tell of an inclusive community: one of generosity and caring; of being cared for as the sheep of the One who is known to us as holy; as being protected and understood and honoured by the one who is both gate and shepherd.  However, as I said last week, it seems the reading from 1st Peter is inconsistent with the message of the Gospel that’s Good News.  But we won’t allow that observation to get us off-track.  Our focus today will be the reading provided by the gospel-writer, John.

 

Please join with me in our prayer for illumination.  Let us pray:

Gracious Holy Spirit, lend to us new hearing and new thoughts, that the words we hear that might seem so familiar will make a difference in our lives, for Jesus’ sake.  We pray in Jesus’ name.  Amen.

 

In our guided tour today, although I will make some observations about all the readings, I am not going to walk us through each reading in any kind of detail, or read them through.  Today, we are going to focus mostly on the words of John, and share the psalm.  I will provide some responses to the readings from the Book of Acts, and from 1st Peter, but I will leave it up to you to read them.  All the readings are posted on this Trinity website.

 

So first we consider the reading from the Book of Acts (Acts 2:42-47).  The reading speaks of the early Christian community sharing everything in common.  I think there are a few things that help inform our deeper understanding of this reading.  First, the early Christian community thought the end of time, the end of the world, was right around the corner.  Their sharing was a sign of this assumption and surrender, and they were happy in their preparations!  In addition, the reality of the early Christian community was that they had been rejected by their former community of faith, and they had to come together in a new way to recoup the togetherness and mutual support that they had lost.  Through the years, and sadly, some Christian people have asserted that this sharing is an act to be confined to those within the community of Christians only  -  confined to those who are followers of Jesus, and the Way  -  people self-identified as “Church”. 

But the persistent and prevailing message of the Church itself is that this sharing is not confined to self-proclaiming members of the Church.  Rather, the promise of the Church is to the world  -  a call to empathy and caring and to follow Christ. “Follow me,” says Jesus, “into a world of hurt and need, offer all the help you can in my name, and make a difference that’s life-giving!”

 

The reading from 1st Peter enunciates the meaning and the holiness of suffering.  According to 1st Peter, to suffer is to enter into the suffering of Christ, and so a way to encounter what is holy.  But I believe he’s got it backwards.  The promise of the Gospel is: It’s God in Christ who enters into OUR suffering.  It’s God in Christ who understands, and aches, and worries with us; then lifts us up, in spirit and in soul, to strength and healing and new life.   We’re not alone nor are we lost.  The living Christ is with us in our pain and loss and worry.  It may be we’re there with him in his; but the Gospel promise is that Christ is there with us in ours!  This is the Gospel promise, and we need to hear 1st Peter in this way.

 

And then we have the psalm.  Today it is Psalm 23.  It’s the Shepherd’s Psalm: the one long-known for its sense of peace and strength and promise.  But to fully understand the depth and wonder of the psalm, we need to remember that it follows Psalm 22, the words of which were uttered by the Saviour on the cross:  My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?  And in answer, and in peace and trust and faith, the Saviour hears the promise that comes after:

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.

He maketh me to lie down in green pastures:

he leadeth me beside the still waters.

He restoreth my soul:

he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness

for his name's sake.

Yea, though I walk

through the valley of the shadow of death,

I will fear no evil: for thou art with me;

thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.

Thou preparest a table before me

in the presence of mine enemies:

thou anointest my head with oil;

my cup runneth over.

Surely goodness and mercy

shall follow me all the days of my life:

and I will dwell

in the house of the Lord for ever. 

Ministry of Music  -  What a Friend We Have In Jesus 

The Gospel message for today is trust, and strength and promise.  The Gospel message for today is God among is and within us and around us.  And the gospel-writer, John, in the love and heart and spirit of his soul, tells us what it is.  This is what he says:

 

Gospel Reading:  John 10:1-10 (New Revised Standard Version)

Jesus, as gate for the sheep

       “Very truly, I tell you,” says Jesus, “anyone who does not enter the sheepfold by

the gate but climbs in by another way is a thief and a bandit.

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 hear his voice.  He

      calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.

4    When he has brought out all his own, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow

       him because they know his voice.

5    They will not follow a stranger, but they will run from him because they do not know the voice of

      strangers.”

6    Jesus used this figure of speech with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them.

7    So again Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep.

8    All who came before me are thieves and bandits; but the sheep did not listen to them.

9    I am the gate.  Whoever enters by me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture.

10   The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy.  I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly. 

The Lord’s My Shepherd. Hymn #747

 

So many parts of what we hear in the gospel-writer’s words stand out; and so many parts are missed because we’re absent to the language and the times.

 

We don’t see the sheepfold as a square marked off on a hillside by stone walls; or a yard in front of a house surrounded by a stone wall which was probably topped with briars.

 

We probably don’t hear the word “bandit” in the sense of insurrectionist.  But John’s early listeners would have.  Barabbas was a “bandit” in that sense.

 

He calls his sheep by name and leads them out, the gospel tells us; and we may not know that Palestinian shepherds had pet names for their favourite sheep:  Long-ears, White-nose, Teardrop, Stumbles .. by name, and each endeared ..

 

I am the gate for the sheep, quotes John of Jesus; the sheepgate  -  an image of the way the sheep go in and out  -  an image of the shepherd lying across the entrance to the fold, to protect and save and keep secure ..

 

And then, life in abundance.  I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly, says Jesus in John’s gospel.  It is the statement of the living Christ that John remembers; the strong assurance John has known, that he has lived; the one he longs to share with all the world!

 

The reading that we hear from John this morning might at first seem confusing and disjointed.  As people of the faith, we want so much to hear about Jesus as Good Shepherd.  It’s where the reading seems to be leading us; and it’s the identification we so readily and easily can make.  But in the gospel here this morning, John doesn’t tell us for a moment ABOUT a Jesus identifying as Good Shepherd.  In fact (in fact, in fact) if we take a moment and just breathe, we realize that Jesus speaks of himself as “gate”.  “I am the gate,” he says. “I am the gate for the sheep.”

 

To be sure, there are some who would argue that the meaning of the statement is that Jesus is the only way by which someone can become part of the people of God.  That the gate is a protection and impediment and bar.  But that could not be right.  It could not at all be true.  Because Jesus, in his earthly life, was always overcoming impediments and barriers and bars.  What the gospel-writer John is telling us is that Jesus is the way, the route, the Christ to overcoming everything that keeps us separated from each other and from life and from the living God who loves us.  For John, the beloved disciple, Jesus is the way, the invitation, the reality, who has revealed to him the God of love and life.  It is through Jesus that John’s life has been transformed, and his mission is to share this life renewed with all the world.  He just can’t hold it in!

I am the gate, says Jesus.  Jesus says, I am.  In our modern context, the words I am could hardly stop us as being especially important.  However, in biblical times, and for John’s audience especially, these words would be heard as the same words Moses hears declared from the burning bush.  When they ask who sends you, says the voice from in the bush, Say, I am.  It is I am who sends you.  For John’s listeners, it is the living, breathing God of all and of all life.  And in John’s gospel, and only in John’s gospel, Jesus says, “I am”, not once, but seven times:  

I am: the bread of life

I am: the light of the world

I am: the gate for the sheep

I am: the good shepherd

I am: the resurrection and the life

I am: the way, the truth, and the life

I am: the true vine

 

For John, beloved disciple, the Living Christ is all these things, and so, the Living God.

 

I am, says Jesus in John’s gospel.  But it’s not these words that come as our assurance.  It’s the heartfelt, loving, totally committed assurance of the gospel-writer John that stands to change and to transform our faith and our belief.  John, the beloved disciple, has lost his life and hope and promise in the death of Christ.  But in the resurrection, he’s restored, renewed, redeemed; and here, this morning, he reclaims for us the living hope of Christ (and so the Living God) within our midst.  Christ Jesus is the gate  -  the way to strength and life and living hope amidst the darkness of our days.  The dark just doesn’t disappear and go away (that’s for sure), but for sure the darkness cannot overwhelm  -  deciding what the days to come will be.  Christ is with us: bread of life, the light, the resurrection and the life, the gate to hope and life made real, restored, renewed, and life in its abundance.

 

Today, despite the darkness, we proclaim the promise that is life in Christ, and life renewed, for us and all the world.  Thanks be to God!

 

Commissioning and Benediction:

       Oh Lord, open the windows of our mind

       and fill us full of light.

       Open wide the door of our heart

       that you may come in and abide with us forever.

       Oh Lord, shine upon our minds as the sun shines upon the trees;

       and as they lift up their branches to your light

       so may we lift up our hearts to your love.

       May the love of the Lord Jesus

       draw you closer to himself and to one another.

       May the power of the Lord Jesus

        make you better able to serve him day by day.

       May the joy of the Lord Jesus ever fill your heart.

       And may the blessing of God  -  the Father, Son and Holy Spirit  -

       abide with you forever.  Amen.

 

Creating God, We Give You Thanks.  Hymn #292

Bible Readings for May 3, 2020:

Reading from Acts:  Acts 2:42-47  (New International Version)

The believers share everything in common

The believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.  Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles.  All the believers were together and had everything in common.  They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need.  Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts.  They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favour of all the people.  And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.

 

Reading from Psalms:  Psalm 23  (King James Version)

      The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.

      He maketh me to lie down in green pastures:

      he leadeth me beside the still waters.

      He restoreth my soul:

      he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake.

      Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,

       I will fear no evil: for thou art with me;

      thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.

      Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies:

       thou anointest my head with oil;

       my cup runneth over.

       Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life:

       and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.

 

1 Peter 2:19-25  (New Revised Standard Version)

Christ’s example in suffering

19   For it is a credit to you if, being aware of God, you endure pain while suffering unjustly. 20 If you endure when you        are beaten for doing wrong, what credit is that?   But if you endure when you do right and suffer for it, you have           God’s approval. 21 For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so        that you should follow in his steps.

22  “He committed no sin,
      and no deceit was found in his mouth.”[a]

23   When he was abused, he did not return abuse; when he suffered, he did not threaten; but he entrusted himself to          the one who judges justly. 24 He himself bore our sins in his body on the cross,[b] so that, free from sins, we might       live for righteousness; by his wounds[c] you have been healed. 25 For “you were going astray like sheep,”[d], but              now you have returned to the shepherd and guardian of your souls.

 

Footnotes

  1. 1 Peter 2:22 Isaiah. 53:9

  2. 1 Peter 2:24 Or carried up our sins in his body to the tree

  3. 1 Peter 2:24 Gk bruise

  4. 1 Peter 2:25 Isaiah 53:4, 5, 6 (see Septuagint*)

 

*Greek version of the Hebrew Bible (or Old Testament), including the Apocrypha, made for Greek-speaking Jews in Egypt in the 3rd and 2nd centuries BC and adopted by the early Christian Churches.

 

 

Gospel Reading:  John 10:1-10  (New Revised Standard Version)

Jesus, as gate for the sheep

      “Very truly, I tell you [says Jesus], anyone who does not enter the

       sheepfold by the gate but climbs in by another way is a thief and a bandit.

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 hear his voice.

       He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.

4     When he has brought out all his own, he goes ahead of them, and

       the sheep follow him because they know his voice.

5     They will not follow a stranger, but they will run from him because they do not

       know the voice of strangers.”

6     Jesus used this figure of speech with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them.

7      So again Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep.

8     All who came before me are thieves and bandits; but the sheep did not listen to them.

9     I am the gate.  Whoever enters by me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture. 10 The

       thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy.  I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.

 

Pastoral Prayer for May 3

Prayer in these critical times, by Bishop Reuel Marigza, General Secretary of the National Council of Churches in the Philippines (alt.)

 

Merciful God in this day of crisis and of love

       when our world is in turmoil,

       faced with an unseen foe

       where thousands fall by the wayside

       when there seems to be no end in sight

       with mounting infection, more deaths, no cure.

Where can we turn to, but to you, our God

       who had been our help in ages past,

       our refuge, our comfort, and our strength?

And we hear you say:

      “As my people, who are called by my name,

       humble themselves and pray,

       seek my face and turn from their divisive ways;

       I will hear from heaven,

       enfold them in my love and heal their land.”

We confess that we have taken so many things for granted:

       in our human relationships

       in the interaction of nations

       in our relationship with the rest of Creation.

We have not done what you required:

       to do justice, to love mercy,

       and to walk humbly with you.

We implore your mercy and lovingkindness;

       turn your eyes once more toward us

       that in your compassion

      there may be healing

      and restoration to wholeness.

There are those more unfortunate than we,

       with no resources on their own.

May a cup of water given in Jesus’ name

       and bread broken to be shared,

       become channels of your grace

       to our neighbours

       and to a world in dire need.

May your blessing and protection be with those

       in the front lines who have chosen to serve,

       putting their lives at risk

       so that others may live.

 

Restore us, O God, that we may be restored.

Heal us, that we may be healed from COVID-19 and its devastating effects.

In the name of Jesus, who by his wounds we are healed, and who overcame death. 

      Amen.

 

Written by Bishop Reuel Marigza, General Secretary of the National Council of Churches in the Philippines, a United Church Mission & Service partner. Bishop Marigza previously served as General Secretary of The United Church of Christ in the Philippines, with whom the United Church shares in mutual recognition of ministry. Bishop Marigza also served as a member of the United Church’s Partners Council.

Trinity United Church Thorold 

905-227-4644  /  tuc@vaxxine.ca