EASTER 4

April 22, 2018
FOURTH SUNDAY OF EASTER

THOUGHT OF THE WEEK

Welcome to Good Shepherd Sunday.  We glimpse that shepherd image in the prayer (below), in Psalm 23, and in the Gospel.

Who has been a good shepherd in your life and how have they shepherded you?  Have you seen that shepherding as God’s care for you?

I have been very fortunate to have good parents and grandparents, who nurtured, fed, guided, corrected and ‘shepherded’ me.  I have had talented and personable teachers and professors who have challenged and broadened me.  I have had mentors who have directed and shaped me.  I have a spouse who shares her exceptional radar and wisdom with me.  This Sunday is her birthday.

I tend to see all these wonderful shepherds as God’s provision for this sheep, who otherwise might be too sheepish to behave well as a child of God.

Psalm 23 provides rich shepherding in itself re our lives as part of God’s flock: walking through the valley of the shadow of death, sharing in a God-prepared meal in the presence of our enemies, dwelling in God’s house.  That Psalm shepherds me because it touches some real parts of my life.  That image of a table in the presence of my enemies is a deeply spiritual guide teacher, and reminder.

We give thanks for THE Good Shepherd and for many good shepherds in our lives.   The new life we have received from that Good Shepherd leads us to respond to God’s call to BE good shepherds to others.

PRAYER OF THE DAY

O Lord Christ, good shepherd of the sheep, you seek the lost and guide us into your fold. Feed us, and we shall be satisfied; heal us, and we shall be whole. Make us one with you, for you live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

LESSONS AND PSALM
            Acts 4:5–12
                Psalm 23
            1 John 3:16–24

            John 10:11–18

CHILDREN’S SERMON:   “Hearts”
SERMON:  “A Knowing Love”
 
WORD OF THE WEEK –  from John 10
[Jesus said:] 11"I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.
 
FIRST LESSON from Acts 4:5–12
The next day [the] rulers, elders, and scribes assembled in Jerusalem, 6with Annas the high priest, Caiaphas, John, and Alexander, and all who were of the high-priestly family. 7When they had made the prisoners stand in their midst, they inquired, "By what power or by what name did you do this?" 8Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, "Rulers of the people and elders, 9if we are questioned today because of a good deed done to someone who was sick and are asked how this man has been healed, 10let it be known to all of you, and to all the people of Israel, that this man is standing before you in good health by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead. 11This Jesus is
            'the stone that was rejected by you, the builders;
            it has become the cornerstone.'
12There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among mortals by which we must be saved."

 

SECOND LESSON from 1 John 3:16–24
We know love by this, that [Jesus Christ] laid down his life for us—and we ought to lay down our lives for one another. 17How does God's love abide in anyone who has the world's goods and sees a brother or sister in need and yet refuses help?
            18Little children, let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action. 19And by this we will know that we are from the truth and will reassure our hearts before him 20whenever our hearts condemn us; for God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything. 21Beloved, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have boldness before God; 22and we receive from him whatever we ask, because we obey his commandments and do what pleases him.

            23And this is his commandment, that we should believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us. 24All who obey his commandments abide in him, and he abides in them. And by this we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit that he has given us.

THE HOLY GOSPEL according to John 10:11–18

[Jesus said:] 11"I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 12The 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. 13The hired hand runs away because a hired hand does not care for the sheep. 14I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, 15just as the Father knows me and I know the Father. And I lay down my life for the sheep. 16I 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. 17For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life in order to take it up again. 18No 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."

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

APRIL 29, 2018
FIFTH SUNDAY OF EASTER

THOUGHT OF THE WEEK

Different months of the year bring different awarenesses. 

Beyond the seasonal changes, October is fire prevention month.  April is the designated month to highlight the prevention of child abuse and sexual assault.  Such preventions we can all support.  Are there preventions we can not support?

A person in the gospel story today asks a question in an odd way that makes us think and reflect on our ways (beliefs, practices, rituals, culture) as a community of faith. 

The question about baptism is asked by an Ethiopian man who is a eunuch.  As Philip has read scripture to this man and explained some of the faith to this man, the man asks a question about belonging.  He does not ask if or how he can belong.  He asks a more cautionary, careful, perhaps even guarded and revealing question:  ‘what is to prevent me from being baptized?’

To me that sounds like the voice of one who was experienced in being not included because . . . . . .

He was African.  He was ‘not whole’.  Therefore, . . . . . . . not included – by some, many.

But Philip stopped everything to baptize this man.  This man, so often not included by others, does belong in the Kingdom of God.

This story is a timely reminder for us in this time and for people of every time re belonging in the Kingdom of God.

Many people are put off by the prevention messages they receive about belonging to a faith community.  Those ‘messages’ come from the community of faith.  Such messages are not always verbalized, but they can be communicated that ‘you are not our type’.  Various aspects of our type prevent your type from belonging. 

Many faith communities ponder the absence of younger people in their mix.  Might we ponder what we might be communicating that prevents such people from belonging?   And then can we lean into the model of Philip who stops everything immediately to baptize and mark this person as belonging.

 PRAYER OF THE DAY

O God, you give us your Son as the vine apart from whom we cannot live. Nourish our life in his resurrection, that we may bear the fruit of love and know the fullness of your joy, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.
 
LESSONS AND PSALM
            Acts 8:26–40
                 Psalm 22:25–31
            1 John 4:7–21
            John 15:1–8
 CHILDREN’S SERMON: “Disciples”
SERMON:  “What is to prevent people from becoming Christians?”
 
WORD OF THE WEEK –   from John 15
7"If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask for whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples."
 
FIRST LESSON from Acts 8:26–40
An angel of the Lord said to Philip, "Get up and go toward the south to the road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza." (This is a wilderness road.) 27So he got up and went. Now there was an Ethiopian eunuch, a court official of the Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, in charge of her entire treasury. He had come to Jerusalem to worship 28and was returning home; seated in his chariot, he was reading the prophet Isaiah. 29Then the Spirit said to Philip, "Go over to this chariot and join it." 30So Philip ran up to it and heard him reading the prophet Isaiah. He asked, "Do you understand what you are reading?" 31He replied, "How can I, unless someone guides me?" And he invited Philip to get in and sit beside him. 32Now the passage of the scripture that he was reading was this:
            "Like a sheep he was led to the slaughter,
                        and like a lamb silent before its shearer, so he does not open his mouth.
            33In his humiliation justice was denied him.
                        Who can describe his generation? For his life is taken away from the earth."
34The eunuch asked Philip, "About whom, may I ask you, does the prophet say this, about himself or about someone else?" 35Then Philip began to speak, and starting with this scripture, he proclaimed to him the good news about Jesus.
            36As they were going along the road, they came to some water; and the eunuch said, "Look, here is water! What is to prevent me from being baptized?" 38He commanded the chariot to stop, and both of them, Philip and the eunuch, went down into the water, and Philip baptized him.

            39When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord snatched Philip away; the eunuch saw him no more, and went on his way rejoicing. 40But Philip found himself at Azotus, and as he was passing through the region, he proclaimed the good news to all the towns until he came to Caesarea.

SECOND LESSON from 1 John 4:7–21
Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. 8Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love. 9God's love was revealed among us in this way: God sent his only Son into the world so that we might live through him. 10In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11Beloved, since God loved us so much, we also ought to love one another. 12No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God lives in us, and his love is perfected in us.
            13By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. 14And we have seen and do testify that the Father has sent his Son as the Savior of the world. 15God abides in those who confess that Jesus is the Son of God, and they abide in God. 16So we have known and believe the love that God has for us.

            God is love, and those who abide in love abide in God, and God abides in them. 17Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness on the day of judgment, because as he is, so are we in this world. 18There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear; for fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not reached perfection in love. 19We love because he first loved us. 20Those who say, "I love God," and hate their brothers or sisters, are liars; for those who do not love a brother or sister whom they have seen, cannot love God whom they have not seen. 21The commandment we have from him is this: those who love God must love their brothers and sisters also.

THE HOLY GOSPEL according to John 15:1–8
 [Jesus said:] "I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinegrower. 2He removes every branch in me that bears no fruit. Every branch that bears fruit he prunes to make it bear more fruit. 3You have already been cleansed by the word that I have spoken to you. 4Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me. 5I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing. 6Whoever does not abide in me is thrown away like a branch and withers; such branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned.

            7"If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask for whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples."