Saturday, 28 April 2012

Service for Sunday 29 April 2012 (Year B, Easter 4)

Call to worship
Like sheep we go astray – but Jesus is the good shepherd, who calls us safely home again.

Hymn Together in Song 10 The Lord’s my Shepherd

Prayer of Adoration and Confession
Loving God,
We thank you that you provide for our needs
That you do know and want what is best for us
And you carefully guide us in the paths of our lives.
We confess
That like sheep we wander astray
We get ourselves into trouble
We get lost.
We fail to listen to your voice and follow where you lead.
Forgive us our failings
And draw us back to you
In Jesus’ name.  Amen.

Declaration of Forgiveness
Jesus is the good shepherd, who seeks out and gathers together the lost sheep.
No matter how far we have strayed.
So I have confidence to say to you: “Our sins are forgiven.”
Thanks be to God.                                              
Kids’ Time

Hymn Together in Song 239 Jesus the Lord said

Psalm 23
John 10:11-18
This is the word of the Lord,
Thanks be to God!

A Queensland drover was grazing his herd on the long acre along a remote pasture in outback Queensland when suddenly a brand-new Range Rover emerged from the dust cloud towards him.

The driver, a young man in an Armani suit, Gucci shoes, Bolle sunglasses and Yves St Laurant silk tie, leans out the window and asks the drover, "If I can tell you exactly how many sheep and lambs you have in your herd, will you give me a lamb?"

The drover looks at the man, obviously a yuppie, then looks at his peacefully grazing herd and calmly answers, "Sure, why not?"

The yuppie parks his car, whips out his Dell notebook computer, connects it to his Nokia mobile phone, and surfs to a NASA page on the internet, where he calls up a GPS satellite navigation system to get an exact fix on his location which he then feeds to another NASA satellite that scans the area in an ultra-high-resolution photo.

The young man then opens the digital photo in Adobe Photoshop and exports it to an image processing facility in Hamburg, Germany.

Within seconds he receives and email on his Palm Pilot that the image has been processed and the data stored.

He then accesses a MS-SQL database through an ODBC connected Excel spreadsheet with email on his Blackberry and, after a few minutes, receives a response.

Finally, he prints out a full-colour, 150-page report on his high-tech, miniaturized HP Laser Jet printer and finally turns to the drover and says, "You have exactly 1,586 sheep and lambs."

"That's right. Well I guess you can take one of my lambs," says the drover.

He watches the young man select one of the animals and looks on amused as he stuffs it in the back of the car.

Then the drover says to the young man, "Hey, if I can tell you exactly what your business is, will you give me back my lamb?"

The young man things about it for a second then says, "Okay, why not?"

"You're a Parliamentarian from Canberra," says the drover.

"Wow! That's correct," says the yuppie, "but how did you know?"

"You showed up here even though nobody called you; you want to get paid for an answer I already know to a question I never asked.  You tried to show me how much smarter than me you are; and you don't know anything about sheep. Now give me back my dog!"

In the first century, the image of the shepherd caring for sheep was a good image. In first century Israel, sheep really did recognise the shepherd’s voice and follow him. People were familiar with it. No-one had to go far to see in real life the risks a good shepherd would take to protect the sheep.

In 21st Century Queensland, the image is distorted. We know sheep can cope without a shepherd in constant attendance.  They have fences to protect them from straying more than however many hectares they’re allowed to roam.  We see dirty brown sheep out in dusty paddocks by themselves. They’re not pampered or loved. No-one knows them by name. They don’t have names.  But they exist, they live, sometimes they even thrive.

In 21st Century Queensland, we’ve also seen our masses of dirty brown sheep starving through droughts – or hanging in barbed wire fences after floods.

So the shepherd, leading his flock, sacrificing his own comfort and risking his own safety – is an image that’s alien for us.

But perhaps we can gain more meaning, not less, from the difference.

The picture of Jesus as shepherd draws on an image from what’s almost a different world. It’s a world in which each sheep is precious; valued; in which each has a name; and in which each is sure of the constant care and protection of the shepherd.

Hardly surprising that in Scripture, the image of the shepherd was used for both God’s love for the people and for the responsibility kings had for the nation.

We could choose which kind of sheep we will be – in relationship to Jesus the Good Shepherd.

We can be like first Century sheep, following closely, listening for the shepherd’s voice, trusting the shepherd’s protection. We can be like 21st Century sheep and go it alone (or with a mob of other sheep, but no resident shepherd.) We can trust ourselves for our own means of strength.

For 21st Century sheep, when trouble arises, suddenly, they’re on their own.  The flood comes up in a rush, or the cyclone hits, no-one’s got time to muster hundreds of sheep.  It’s not that the grazier doesn’t care, it’s simply a matter that the job is impossibly large. The grazier doesn’t give his sheep names – they’re not individual s – he knows they belong to him because of their ear tags.

Jesus invites us into a close relationship – we can stay with him and he will stay with us. But it really is an invitation and we are free to choose whether to accept or reject it. We can be like the sheep who stay close to the shepherd – and know his love and care – or we can be like modern sheep who are alone most of the time.

Unlike sheep – God has given us free will – the freedom to choose.

Hymn Together in Song 223 How sweet the name of Jesus
Prayers of the People
Loving God,

We pray for all of the people who choose to stand alone,
who choose independence and not to follow Jesus.
Should a time come when they are not strong enough to stand alone,
We pray they will find you there waiting.

We pray for all of the people who have strayed away from you
Whether by accident or intention.
That each may be found safe
And brought back to your care.

We pray for all of the people who have never left you
May they never tire of following
And never fail to hear your voice
May they know your strength and peace
When the going gets rough.

We pray for ourselves, wherever we are in relationship with you
And however easy or difficult our path is right now.
May we always follow your lead
Always seek your wisdom
Always trust you in hard times.

In Jesus’ name. Amen.

The Lord’s Prayer
Hymn Together in Song 209 And can it be

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