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.

Did anyone here have a part time job when they are in high school?

PART TIME JOB

One of my first part time jobs and was helping out in a pharmacy. Now if I’m honest this was a terrible first part time job for me! Firstly, I had no qualifications, so I couldn’t help any customers with their prescriptions. So all I do is I wander around the shop, and slightly tweak the cleaning supplies or toothpaste display. FOR HOURS ON END!

So one day I was finally bumped up from just rearranging to filling in the little PRESCRIPTION PILL packets. (you know the ones, that are set out for each day of the week.)

Now I tried my hardest at this job, but it was hard as I wasn’t familiar with the medications. I had no training and no experience. I would be given a list of the pills for each person and I would try my best to find the right ones and pop them in to the weekly pill packet but with no training I was basically winging it. And at the end of the day I would pack up my things, say a quick prayer and go home. And not give it a second thought.

Now I can see some worried looks. But don’t worry when I came back the next day my manager, the son of the family who owned the pharmacy, had done his job. He had stayed back after the shop had closed and checked the pill packets and sorted them to make sure they were correct. He cared. This was his family’s business and he was fully committed to his work and the people in his care.

In contrast I was only part time and when things got tough I went home and this is what we read about in our passage:

GOD IS THE GOOD SHEPHERD.

In Verse 12 it says: the hired hand is not the shepherd, it’s says the hired hand cares nothing for the sheep. They are not his responsibility.

I’m not going to pretend to know lots about farming, but it’s my understanding the hired hands were often those who were paid to look after the sheep in the evenings. After the shepherd had spent the day tending the sheep, caring for the sheep, taking them to lush pastures, feed them giving them water, he then takes them back to the safe pen.

It’s then the hired hands job to keep them safe overnight.

The shepherd has done the hard work, they just have to guard the sheep while he sleeps. But even this is too much for them. When the wolves circle, they run. When it get tough they are out of there. And what happens? The sheep scatter, they are unsafe and uncared for.

But Jesus states that he is the good shepherd, that he is committed. He is full-time. He’s not going anywhere. When the attack comes, he is our protector. It says he knows his sheep and his sheep know him. There’s a relationship here, trust between the sheep and the shepherd.

UNPACK THE SCENE: BLIND MAN

But lets unpack what going on around this verse and why Jesus is saying this.

In the chapter just before we have the story of Jesus healing a blind man.

Now at this point Jesus is being hounded by the religious leaders, in fact they are in such an uproar they were picking up stones to hit him. But he walks away, and on his way he meets a blind man.

This story is one of incredible faith. God sees this man amongst what must have been this crazy moment. Like: if I’m about to get hit with stones I’m running away, but he stops. He tends to the man’s needs and heals his sight.

The blind man is then beaming for the rest of the chapter, going around telling everyone about the amazing Jesus who healed him.

There is a simplicity and boldness to this chapter. This man knew it was a miracle and there’s this excitement that he can’t contain. He’s like: yes I know it’s amazing, my life has changed! And the religious leaders are trying to trick him and ask him all these questions and he’s like: guys, what more do you want? I was blind and now I see! It’s that simple, are you asking because you want to follow him also? What a bold statement!

In fact this man makes such a commotion about Jesus he is cast out of the city. But Jesus in his kindness goes out and finds him. He sits with him, the Pharisees are following, and in the presence of the man’s enemies, the ones who have cast him out, Jesus explains who he is, to the one who so desperately wants to hear. Sharing that he is the good shepherd.

He speaks to this man and says you see those people, the religious leaders behind me, the ones who cast you out, don’t worry about them, look at me, I am the good shepherd. I love you, I care for you.

When Jesus states he is the good shepherd, this isn’t a fluffy statement, it is a strong and powerful word about who Jesus is.

So GOOD

So, what does this teach us about who Jesus is? why is he so good?

Because he laid down his life for his sheep.

The amazing thing about this is that this isn’t done out of obligation, he wasn’t a robot who was programmed to do this. Jesus questioned it in the garden and chose to stay on the cross.

In these verses we see some awareness that Jesus has of what is coming. Verse 17. “I lay down my life that I may take it up again’. He knows that in order to be the good shepherd, the shepherd we so desperately need, there will be a cost and he is prepared to pay it.

Because you see, even the greatest shepherd here on earth will take care of their sheep, they will guide them and care for them, but in the end when its time to eat, even the most caring shepherd sends his sheep to be killed.

But the good shepherd, he sends himself. Taking our place, he becomes the lamb which is slain.

It’s this amazing picture of God loving humanity, and saying “I want you”, and then Jesus saying “I love you too, let me die for you. Not because God says I have to, but because I want to, because I am your shepherd and I love you!”

And then the father looks at the love Jesus has for us and is like: WOW! I love you for loving them like I love them. And it’s just this amazing relationship and circle of love. Jesus chooses to give up his life because he cares.

And all he invites us to do is to be the sheep

RESPONSE

So what is our response to this love, to the good shepherd?

Be the sheep.

If there is one thing I want you to take away for today it’s that Jesus is the good, kind, loving, trustworthy shepherd, and we are the sheep.

How often do we live our lives trying to lead, trying to make things happen. We get so used to leading and caring for others don’t we.

Do you feel like that, that duty to care for others? Perhaps a friend, a child, a relative.

But are we that quick to let our selves be helped?

I’ve realised this is something I really struggle with. Lately I’ve found myself lifting lots of heavy things, chairs, tables etc. And people often ask “do you want help with that.” And with out even thinking about it I go: I’m good, I’ve got this?

Maybe you’re the same. Or maybe you love accepting help!

But for most of us, why do we find it so hard to accept help? Is it our own pride. Not wanting to admit we need help? Or maybe it’s the desire to not burden others. We think: oh they didn’t really mean to offer help, I don’t want to put them out.

When was the last time you let yourself be cared for? Because guess what, you’re the sheep not the shepherd!

Thinking to Psalm 23Open Link in New Window, the famous psalm about shepherds,

When was the last time you let yourself lay by the clear waters, stretched out on the green grass and just enjoying the company of God.

Stripping away the to-do list, the musts and shoulds. When was the last time you were simply a sheep spending time with the good shepherd?

He’s so good that it says even in the midst of our enemies, of panic and chaos, Gods like: don’t worry, look at me, I’ve got you, look here I’m laying you a table, maybe he’s got some nice napkins, matching cutlery. And its not just a little quick picnic, no its this feast. Then after anointing your head with oil, he’s on your right, filling your cup, but it’s not just full, its overflowing.

This is how much care he has for you when you are his sheep.

Because Jesus isn’t a part time Jesus. He is the perfect shepherd, the shepherd that lavishes his love, his care on us. We just need to follow.

Are you following, are you letting yourself be led, do you let yourself be cared for? Because Jesus wants to lead you through and to these places of rest.

You are the sheep and he is the good shepherd

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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