I am the Good Shepherd

If the links don’t work for you, here is Chris’s video presentation Harvest, Counting on God and This is Amazing Grace.

Todays reading is John 10:11-30Open Link in New Window.

Here is today’s reflection by Amber.

There will be a video version of the service and a podcast of the sermon.

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I Am the Gate for the Sheep

If the links don’t work for you, here is Nick’s video presentation I Am the Gate, Hosanna Rock, You’ll Never Walk Alone and the Craft template Sheep craft

Todays reading is John 10:1-10Open Link in New Window

Here is today’s reflection by Gaby.

A few years ago as a family we went to the Kew Gardens Christmas light display. We drove there in the dark and as we were going straight on to my parents in law for Christmas we had all our bags for a whole week packed and in the boot.

We had a lovely evening walking through Kew and the various light displays and when we returned with our children at about 8pm we discovered our car had been broken into and Sean and my overnight bag, Sean’s rucksack with iPad in and his washbag with electric toothbrush, electric razer etc had all been stolen and my irreplaceable collection of novelty Christmas earrings all gone! The back window of our car was smashed but the worst thing that happened that night was the security we felt as people was taken. It affected us and meant that it was hard to feel safe any longer as this thief had killed our sense of security in the world when he broke into our car.

This passage ends with the famous verses John 10:10Open Link in New Window about the thief coming to steal, kill and destroy and we experienced a little of this in our car break in.

In this passage, Jesus talks about how he is the gate. He is the one who keeps us safe and protects us from the thief.

We have a large Guinea Pig called David. I can’t tell you his full name for reasons of privacy but he is the most equivalent thing we have to represent this story that Jesus tells.

David has a run and when he is in his run he is very safe from the cat. Our cat is called Shadow and she doesn’t know what to make of Dave. He is too big to be a rodent she can eat but she still wants to chase him. So she sits outside his run and eyes him up, perhaps wondering what sauce is best served with Guinea Pig.

Dave is oblivious. He just eats dandelions and wanders around. We control his safety by checking that the gate is bolted to the run so that Shadow may not get in. If she does mange to get in it would have to be over the top but as our passage tells us anyone that climbs in some other way is a thief or a robber. The one who enters the pen by the gate is the shepherd or in this case person who owns the Pig.

We are compared to the silly creatures that live in the pen. Jesus keeps us safe because he is the door and we know his voice.
I wonder if we always do know his voice?

Do we sometimes listen to other voices and mistake them for Jesus?
Do we let the thief speak to us, the devil and warp our minds with his half truths and blatant lies that we don’t always see as clearly as others see, perhaps wrong things we believe about ourselves.

I often hear ladies who are educated and highly competent running themselves down and saying how they can’t do this or that, you have a piece of their delicious cake and they confidently tell you they aren’t good at baking…or perhaps they are in a role where a promotion is ahead and they are scared to apply because they have imposter syndrome, they think they’re only good enough for what they’re doing and their boss is confused why such a competent person should doubt why they can do the job they’re already doing so well with responsibility they already take….might as well be paid for what they’re doing…

Or perhaps you’re the man who believes you always need to do better, that you can’t serve God unless you do better or more. These are just two but there are a whole host of other lies that the enemy tells all with the same effect to steal, kill or destroy.

What lies is it the devil, the thief is telling you and you’re believing?

In our passage Jesus calls his sheep by name. Jesus knows each one of us by name and he knows all the things you are capable of. He is the only one who can shut the door because he is the door. He said in Isaiah 22:22Open Link in New Window and Revelation 3:7Open Link in New Window that he will open doors no man can shut. If Jesus is opening a door for you why not walk forward into it because he will help you. I often feel inadequate as a parent but I have 5 children and God has given them to me so he must have given me the resources to parent them well. If I can’t handle it I need to ask him for help. If things are particularly exciting in our home I will often say to God “Please help me to handle and love those children you gave me!”

Jesus says I am the gate. We will be saved when we pass through him. Dave is safe when he goes through the gate because we keep out the cat…but the cat still sits outside the cage planning her menu. Does it sometimes feel like the enemy, the devil does that with you? No matter how scary it is Jesus can keep us safe from this thief. The next verse is one that I have never noticed before vs 9 “They will come in and go out, and find pasture.” This is what I want for you today. I want you to be safe to come in and go out and find pasture. I want you to be happy, to feel safe and to go and find good things to help you to prosper and flourish. Dave likes dandelions and by putting him out in his run he is able to find and eat loads of dandelions safe away from the thief.

What would this look like for you? What is it the thief is trying to steal from you? Kill of yours and completely destroy?

Jesus said he came that we could have life in all it’s fullness. Take a long hard look at your life. Is THIS life in all it’s fullness? If not why not? What is it that the thief is stealing from you and how can get back through the gate where you are safe?

Jesus is the gate and when we walk through the gate, commit our lives to him he will protect us from the thief. But we often listen to the wrong voice and mistake the thief for Jesus. Jesus would never tell you that you were incompetent or ugly or stupid or not good enough. Jesus would tell you how to find the pasture and how much he loves you. Jesus came for us to have life in all it’s fullness and it is the thief who comes to steal, kill and destroy.

Perhaps this week you can think about your life. What areas are you being stolen from? Where is the thief killing things in your life and where is there destruction?

Jesus came to bring life in all it’s fullness and it’s about time we the church started enjoying this a bit more and showing what it looks like to have life in all it’s fullness! If we don’t know then it’s time to learn. Jesus wants you to have it so he will show you the way.

Let’s pray.

Lord Jesus,
We thank you so much that you came to give us life in all it’s fullness. We repent now of the times when we let the enemy steal this from us. We give ourselves to you once again and I pray we can walk through the gate that you opened for us. Please protect us from the enemy and help us to recognise his lies, protect our hearts from where he tries to steal, kill and destroy in our lives and help us to be able to come in and go out, and find pasture.

Holy Spirit please came now and give us life in all it’s fullness once more.

Amen.

There will be a video version of the service and a podcast of the sermon.

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I am the Light of the World

If the links don’t work for you, here is John’s video presentation Light of the World, Our Lighthouse and Glow.

Todays reading is John 8:12-20Open Link in New Window

Here is today’s reflection by Richard.

Good morning, it is good to be with you. Today we are continuing with our sermon series on the ‘I am’ sayings of Jesus. Last week Ian spoke about Jesus words from John 6Open Link in New Window, ‘I am the bread of life’ and if you want to revisit that talk do go to our You Tube channel.

There is a very famous painting in St Paul’s cathedral entitled ‘the Light of the World’, painted by William Holman Hunt around 1904 which many of you will know and have seen. The picture depicts Jesus with a lantern knocking at a door which has not been open for a long time—it is overgrown with weeds and has rusty hinges. The lantern represents a person’s conscience, the door which opens from the inside is a person’s soul and Jesus’ halo represents Salvation. The words at the foot of the painting on the frame are from Revelation 3:20Open Link in New Window: ‘Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.’ This picture went on tour in the early part of the 20th Century and became the most travelled painting ever in the history of art. William Holman Hunt was a Christian and he said that felt that God had commanded him to paint it. It is described as a ‘sermon in a frame’ and has been seen by millions of people.

It might not be to everyone’s taste but I find it deeply evocative of the love and compassion of Jesus and I feel quite emotional when I look at it. Jesus’ face is open and inviting and it makes me want to join him.

Which leads us nicely to this week’s sermon title, Jesus words from John 8.12-20Open Link in New Window: ‘I am the light of the world’. In a sense William Holman Hunt’s picture says it all, but you may feel a bit cheated if I finish here!

To put today’s passage in context Jesus was teaching in the temple courts during the feast of Tabernacles. As part of this festival there was a great ceremony called the “Illumination of the Temple,” This involved the ritual lighting of four golden oil-fed lamps in the Court of Women. These lamps were about seventy-five feet high and lit the Temple at night to remind the people of the pillar of fire that had guided Israel in their wilderness journey. All night long the light shone and the holiest of men would dance until dawn beneath the light. It was said, the lights illuminated the entire city of Jerusalem. Commentators say it is likely that this was the backdrop to Jesus words ‘ I am the light of the world’.

He was in effect saying that you see all this light and brilliance well…it will be gone in the morning. However, I am a light that will never fade and whoever follows me will have that life of light forever. Last week when Ian talked about Jesus being the bread of life, he said Jesus was revealing his divinity. Likewise in this passage today, Jesus is revealing that he is God—it is only God who can give us eternal life.

Jesus was fulfilling the prophecy in Isaiah 9:2Open Link in New Window and quoted in Matthew 4Open Link in New Window about a future saviour, the Messiah:

The people walking in darkness
have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of deep darkness
a light has dawned.

Jesus is the Messiah and he offers an invitation to anyone who will listen: Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life. This is an open invitation—if you follow me I promise you eternal life.

But there is a choice, we can choose to accept the light of Christ or reject it.

If we accept Jesus offer and follow Him what does this mean? The Greek word for follow means a number of things, but is perhaps expressed well as a Master/Servant relationship, where the master goes, the servant goes. In the words of one commentator ‘To follow Christ is to give oneself, body, soul and spirit into the obedience of the Master’. This is not an onerous thing, it is a joy and through it our lives become transformed.

I am a Manchester United supporter and although I have not waivered since childhood, in reality, I am an armchair follower. I have a friend who is a Bristol Rovers supporter, they are not glamorous, lolloping around in the lower divisions, but come whatever he is at their football matches at home and where possible, away. He is a proper fan, he is dedicated and his reward is a sense of belonging to the Rovers tribe. As followers of Jesus we need to be like this—home or away in sunshine and rain we follow His every move.

And what are we leaving behind?—Jesus promises us that we are leaving the darkness behind. The darkness of death has been overcome by the Light of Jesus, what a great image that is. There is a lovely passage in Revelation where John describes the vision of a new city, a new Jerusalem that one day we will be part of:

I did not see a temple in the city, because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp. The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their splendour into it.

The city does not need the light of the sun, Jesus and God the Father are the light—the light of a new heaven and earth. It is an outstanding image.

But the darkness of this world, is also overcome by the light of Jesus. We only have to look at a newspaper or switch on a TV to see how dark the world can be. The news is invariably bad, because bad news sells airtime or newsprint. As Christians, however, even in these challenging and uncertain Covid ridden times we can have hope, that our lives are in Jesus hands. I find this gives me comfort and I hope it does you too.

It does not stop at Jesus being the light of the world, He says that we too are the light of the world.

In Matthew 5:14-16Open Link in New Window Jesus says this

“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”

We can bring the light of Jesus and hope to others. When I read this passage I often imagine a disco ball. The light shines on the ball and the hundreds of tiny mirrors reflect all around. We become reflections of the love of Jesus and can bring light and life to others.

My prayer for each of us today is that we become dedicated followers of the Light of the World.

There will be a video version of the service and a podcast of the sermon.

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