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Reflection on Jesus call to ministry - Mathew 9 vs 35 to 10 vs 8

 

 

Our Gospel this morning is from Matthew,  Chapter 9 verse 35 to Chapter 10 verse 8

 

The Workers Are Few

 

35 Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. 

 

36 When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. 

 

37 Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. 

 

38 Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.

 

Jesus Sends Out the Twelve

 

10 Jesus called his twelve disciples to him and gave them authority to drive out impure spirits and to heal every disease and sickness.

 

These are the names of the twelve apostles: first, Simon (who is called Peter) and his brother Andrew; James son of Zebedee, and his brother John; 

 

Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; 

 

Simon the Zealot and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him.

 

These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions: “Do not go among the Gentiles or enter any town of the Samaritans. 

 

Go rather to the lost sheep of Israel! 

 

As you go, proclaim this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ 

 

Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received; freely give.

 

This is the Gospel of the Lord

 

Good morning. The intention was to record in Akeley Churchyard, but the wind was such we have had to move back to Maids Moreton

 

Let us first pray

 

Lord we thank you for bringing us together to worship you this morning.

 

Help us to listen and to learn from your word and to be encouraged by it to face with confidence the challenges that still lie before us.

 

Although physically apart, bring us ever closer into your family

 

In Jesus name we pray.

 

Amen 

 

As I was assembling my ideas for today I naturally thought about Covid 19. We have given a fancy name to it — a pandemic — but in earlier times we would have called it a plague. 

 

A plague can be defined as an epidemic disease causing a high rate of mortality : 

 

They can affect humans, animals or plant life.

 

Plagues are nothing new, but one difference is that now the we have it placed before us by the media all the time. Mostly from a negative point of view. 

 

How are you coping with Covid 19? It is hard isn’t it?

Separated from family and friends.

Young people not knowing how their educational opportunities will pan out or if they will find employment.

Vast numbers of people potentially out of work.

Parents anxious about there prospects, and how they will support their families 

Will things like sport, entertainment, restaurants, pubs, cafes, ever be the same. Can we go on holiday again?  When can we meet collectively in our churches again?

 

The list of negatives is endless.

 

But so are the positives but we only tend to find those in the bottom corner of an inside page in the newspaper.

 

Traffic and thus pollution greatly reduced

Time to stop and enjoy nature

Parents able to spend time with their kids!

Being able to step out of the rat race

The quiet

Time to reflect on what is really important in our lives.

 

One of the best things that has happened is that so many more people are helping others.Some doing big things but most showing little acts of human kindness to someone else. Do you notice how many more people acknowledge you as you pass. Showing the need for human contact!

 

Even as christians many of us have got out of the habit of such acts, being too self centred, too concerned about our own lives, and rather less about the charge that Jesus Christ has given us.

 

And so todays readings are a timely reminder 

 

Go rather to the lost sheep of Israel. 

 

As you go, proclaim this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ 

 

Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received; freely give.

 

We may not have the medical skills to heal the medical condition, Covid 19, but I foresee the greater medium to long term need being for the mental health of those around us. There we can help by our contact, by giving our time to listening to and reassuring people.

 

37 Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few.

 

This Gospel  passage describes a pivotal moment in Jesus ministry. Up until now,Mathew’s Gospel has all been about Jesus’ personal ministry. Jesus had been traveling all throughout Galilee, teaching and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom. Not only that, he’d been healing the sick, giving sight to the blind and raising the dead back to life.

 

Can you imagine what it would have been like to see this? It would have been extraordinary. 

 

But as we move into In Matthew chapter 10:1 we read, “Jesus called his twelve disciples to him and gave them authority to drive out evil spirits and to heal every disease and sickness.” 

 

We are right at the moment when Jesus makes the switch from preaching and teaching and healing himself, to commissioning his disciples to go out to preach and teach and heal. 

This is the moment when Jesus commissions his followers to do what he’s doing. So what does this tell us? It tells us that whatever happens, if we claim to be a follower of Jesus then we are charged with exercising the same type of ministry that Jesus had. 

 

We read in verse 36, “When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them.” 

 

The compassion of Jesus is a theme that keeps coming up in the book of Matthew.

because Compassion is at the heart of Jesus.

 

You could think that the reason for that compassion would be because of the sicknesses that he’s encountered everywhere he goes.That is certainly worth his compassion. 

 

But what moves Jesus here isn’t the physical illnesses that he’s encountered. Verse 36 says, “When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” 

 

What moved Jesus was the great spiritual need of the people. Their lives had no centre, their existence seemed aimless, and their whole experience was one of futility. How many of us, if we are honest have experienced such moments in our Covid lockdown?

 

If we are to serve like Jesus served, we must have a heart that is like the heart of Jesus. This means that we must have compassion for those we encounter who have not yet found the great Shepherd Jesus Christ. It means that we look around us and see people the way Jesus does, and feel compassion for them the way that he does.

 

As we read this passage today, we, like the disciples,  are given something to believe and then something to do.

 

First, we’re given something to believe. Jesus says in verse 37, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few.” 

 

He tells us is that the harvest is ready. People are ready to receive the good news of the kingdom. The problem isn’t that people are unready to receive the good news; the problem is that we aren’t ready to tell them. 

 

One of our greatest challenges as Christians is that we can believe  that people aren’t interested, that it’s a waste of time to tell them. Jesus tells us that is not right.They are ready to hear. This is what he tells us to believe. Do you believe it?

 

Then he gives us something to do about it. 

 

You would expect Jesus to say, “ Get out there and tell them!” But that’s not what he says. Surprisingly, he says, “Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.” Jesus tells us to pray first instead of doing something? 

 

In the very next chapter, remember, he’s going to instruct his twelve disciples, and then send them out to preach and teach and do the things that he’s done. 

 

But he knows that before any can have the ministry that he has, they must have the same prayerful reliance on the Father that he does. Before we can have the compassion of Jesus, we must have the connection with the Father that Jesus has.

 

It’s one thing for us to go and do. It’s another thing altogether to plead with God that he would raise up people — either through conversion or growth — who are ready to go; to pray that God would give them a spirit for the work, call them to it, and give them wisdom and success.

 

When I think of the cross and I see the Shepherd willingly lay down his life for me so that I could become one of his sheep I know the least I can do is pray for others.

 

And when we start to believe that the harvest is plentiful and pray that he would send out workers, you never know if we may become the answer to our own prayers — that we could be the workers commissioned by the Lord of the harvest himself. 

 

What an inspiring thought!

 

Let us pray!

 

Lord, your harvest is your love;

A love sown in the hearts of all people;

Love that spreads out like the branches of a great tree covering all who seek its shelter;

Love that inspires and that recreates;

Love that is planted in the weak and the weary, the sick and the dying and those who spend their life in fear.

 

The harvest of your love is the life that reaches  to the sunlight of resurrection through the weeds of sin and death.

 

Lord, nurture our days with your love, water our souls with the dew of forgiveness, that the harvest of our lives may be your joy.

 

Amen

 

 

 

 

 

Trinity Sunday - the beginning of Summer

trinity-sunday-846x444

It was on the Sunday after Whit Sunday (Pentecost) in the year 1162, that Thomas Becket was consecrated as perhaps the most famous Archbishop of Canterbury. It was he who subsequently decreed that the day of his consecration should be instituted as a new festival, in honour of the Holy Trinity. This feast became so important that the Anglican church has always named the long season of summer Sundays – right through until Advent, in fact – as “Sundays After Trinity”: an observance that spread from Canterbury throughout the whole of the Christian world.

Interestingly, this is the one festival in the Christian year that does not relate to particular events. Other festivals – Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, Passiontide, Easter, Ascension, Pentecost – all of these relate to specific events in Christ’s life on earth. But Trinity Sunday is different. It refers instead to the faith that we profess, of a God who is the three-in-one creator, redeemer and sustainer.

For many Christians, however, Trinity Sunday is an annual reminder of the difficulty of our faith. How can three be one? But of course, when we are dealing with faith, we are always dealing with something more than we can fully grasp or define.

The early Christian Church, however, felt that definition had to be attempted. And so evolved what has been called Christianity’s ‘new mathematics’, whereby 1 + 1 + 1 = 1: one God, ‘Father, Son, and Holy Spirit’ – which we have heard in today’s gospel reading from Matthew – the so-called ‘Great Commission’: “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit”.

This can be a very difficult concept to take in. And so we do one of two things: either we fall back on saying “it’s a mystery” or we attempt to define our faith in complex creeds – and whichever route we take, we are left open to criticism. It can be hard to find a way through. So as always, let’s look at what the Bible tells us. The Gospel of John is especially rich in Trinitarian language. In John 1: 29-36 we read how John the Baptist gave this testimony:

“I saw the Spirit come down from heaven as a dove and remain on him. 33 And I myself did not know him, but the one who sent me to baptise with water told me, ‘The man on whom you see the Spirit come down and remain is the one who will baptise with the Holy Spirit.’ 34 I have seen and I testify that this is the Son of God.”

In this one passage, the writer speaks of the Father (“the one who sent me”) the Spirit and the Son. Then, in John Chapter 14, Jesus tells his disciples: “the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you” (14:26). Finally, in John 16:13 we read:

13 But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth.”

At Pentecost, we heard about what Jesus told his disciples: that when he was gone, the Father would send this mysterious spirit that in Greek is called Parakletos, the advocate. We have to remember that the disciples, most of whom were destined to be dragged before the courts to explain their rebellious faith, would need all the help they could get when this happened. But this is not an educated lawyer that Jesus is talking about, when he says ‘advocate’: he is talking about the Holy Spirit.

So perhaps we can begin to see how the post-Pentecostal experience of the early Church eventually led to the formal doctrine of the Trinity. At this point, I’d like to quote, as I have done before, from a sermon given by Rowan Williams on Trinity Sunday back in 2009. In it, I think, he explains very powerfully how it was that the early church came to this understanding:

“…when the disciples have stood alongside Jesus, and then failed to stand alongside him at his crucifixion, but then were recalled to stand alongside him again in his resurrection, then the risen Lord says, 'Go and do the same'. ‘Go, baptise, go and draw people into the mystery of the threefold love. Go and draw people to stand in my place and pray with my prayer and breathe with my spirit.’ And they do.

And out of that, comes the teaching. Out of that experience … comes the doctrine. Because if you try long enough to stand in that place where Jesus is … sooner or later you'll begin to search for the words that might begin, just a little, to do justice to this mystery – and you will understand that you stand with the Son, crying out to the Father, borne up by the Holy Spirit. And bit by bit, the Church of God learns that language and begins to teach that doctrine.”

I think that Rowan Williams helps us here to understand how it was that the Church came to the conclusion that there is an inseparable link between God the Father, the creator-judge; Christ the redeemer; and the Holy Spirit, who gave the first Christians the power at Pentecost to take their faith out into the world.

This Holy Spirit is described by Paul (in Galatians Chapter 5) not in terms of fire and wind and speaking in tongues, but in terms of the “Fruit of the Spirit”: “Love, joy, peace, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control”. Whenever we seek meaning in our lives, a search for sense and grace, these are the qualities – the gifts of the Spirit – that help us to become more fully human. And when we fall short of our human potential, as we surely will - but still receive forgiveness and a renewed determination to live a more purposeful life; it is then we have an experience of salvation.

Creation, revelation, salvation: a powerful example of the Trinity made real.

So on this Trinity Sunday, let us pray:

Lord, we pray that day by day we might, little by little, become more Christ-like people:

People who praise God the Father, the creator, who gave us bodies to live in this created world;

People who praise God the Son, who through his incarnation, his life, teaching and suffering, brought us salvation;

People who praise God the Spirit, who leads us beyond this world – and into eternal life.

Amen.

 

 

 

 

June letter

The festivals on the church calendar have become quiet and events like Easter, Ascension Day and Pentecost have silently passed by, in the sense that our churches have remained empty.

In the month of June, the first Trinity Sunday appears on the calendar. This marks the beginning of the longest period of the church calendar, with about 20 more Trinity Sundays, before ending with the Advent Sundays, in the weeks leading up to Christmas.

The Trinity is a theology that developed over time and is not part of the beginnings of Christianity. It began in answer to questions that evolved over time and caused divisions and heated debates between different parties with different viewpoints.

It’s surprising to see the Church spending much of its time and energy on a subject they don’t understand and which has led to many controversies over the centuries. Perhaps it was to make a final statement to exclude further discussion. Whether all the infighting was ever worth it, is difficult to answer and the tide can’t be turned back anyway.

The earliest Creed, which probably can be found in Paul’s letter to the Philippians, chapter 2:5-11, doesn't mention the Trinity. It tells only Jesus Christ being found in the image of God humbling Himself and not taking His position as loot. Because of this, God exalted Him to be Lord (i.e. Saviour) of all.

When Luther (around the 15th Century) was asked to explain the Trinity from out of his Reformed theology, he described it as a stone thrown into a pond but all that is left to be seen are the ripples in the water.

It appears we’re living in a similar time period in which we experience the ripples of what we might call a bombshell dropped in the midst of our society. The ripples are still continuing and no one has a clue when the effects of this bombshell will come to an end.

Like with a theology of the Trinity, many experts are divided about how to interpret the signs and each country adopts its own ideas and policies based on what their own experts tell them do. Again as with the Trinity, the experts themselves don’t know for sure and make suggestions on how to interpret their data and insights into a matter they cannot fully grasp.

Above all our disputes and uncertainties, remains the desire for an unmoveable truth. Many had found this truth in what the sciences reveal, but this truth seems not to be as unmovable as it once did. Above all the questions humanity is faced with, we have never stopped questioning how to look for God and how God stands in relation to the world and the human beings in it.

At this times like this, this question has become even more apparent and people start to look for answers. As a church we can only point to the central message of the first creed about Jesus Christ as God’s chosen Instrument to be reconciled to Him and make sense of the world even when questions remain.

It is not the Trinity that brings us closer to God, but Christ alone and I hope that during the Trinity Sundays, the church and each one of us will not forget the core of the Christian message.

Hans

Pentecost John 20: 19 - 23

In our reading from John's gospel, Jesus stands up at the Jewish festival of Tabernacles. This is a festival of thanksgiving for God's provision, similar to our harvest festival, but also reminding the Jews of their history of the Exodus out of Egypt and slavery and their journey through the wilderness.

When I was in the Holy Land in October 1992, the festival of Tabernacles was being celebrated, many of the Jewish households built a makeshift shelter made from palm and other tree branches. Then the family would live in these shelters for the legth of the festival, to remind them of their nomadic history, whilst praising and thanking God for his guiding and provision then and now.

On the last day of this festival, we read, Jesus stood up and addressed the Jews, telling them that, "yes," God has been good to you in the past, but now God is doing a new thing through me, Jesus." Anyone who is thirsty," in other words, has needs,worries, concerns, etc, "come to me, believe in me and I will give you the Holy Spirit, We remember what the Holy Spirit did for the disciples, It broke their fear and gave them confidence to speak out the wonders of God. Everyone listening heard and understood what was being said, even though there were people from many different nations.

Jesus likens the result of the giving of the Holy Spirit to streams of living water. If you think of streams of fast running water particularly in mountainous areas, the water falls are very powerful, the streams are pure, clean, clear water. Jesus says: "this is what will flow from us when we receive the Holy Spirit. Although the Holy Spirit came upon the disciples in a particularly dramatic and powerful way on that day of Pentecost. The Holy Spirit is still around and available, with power but also a gentle, comforter and guide, now.

Just recently Lovell has had fibre optic wire laid round the whole village even to the out lying farms, to bring super-fast broadband and although it's been laid sometime ago, it's useless, due to the pandemic, until each household is connected to the fibre in the ground. This is similar to the Holy Spirit, it's available and ready especially since Jesus left the earth, but each person has to believe in Jesus and come to Him with their needs, worries and concerns, as well as their joys and thanks and we will receive the Holy Spirit. It may be in a powerful, dramatic way or it may be in a gentle, comforting or guiding way, alaying our fears, purifying, cooling refreshing us, giving us confidence to do right things and to speak to others about God. We may not feel confident but just do it and see how the Holy Spirit helps us and them.

 

Caring

In our Parish we video a service for every Sunday at one of our 5 churches. Without the enthusiasm, support and contributions of so many these services would never have been produced.

We see a the same so often in our own society and probably everywhere else in this world, so much is done by groups of dedicated volunteers what is often not noticed. And even worse, is sometimes not even appreciated, but only receives negative criticism.

Every Thursday night we single out many of our carers, but we should not forget so many others who keep our society going by their continuing support for each other.

Without all those people serving behind the scene our society would not exist as it is. 

The Bible readings from last Sunday’s service on Acts 1 is often seen of being the origin of the church in Jerusalem. A community wherein people shared the same faith and congregated together. But, was this church as shown to us in Acts in reality the church as God intended it to be? If so, why then disappeared this Church after about 35 years? Already during the writing of the New Testament many other churches appeared and as it seems, none of them followed the example of the Jerusalem church.  

Wherever the church people gather into a close knit community sharing everything and turning into a secluded group of like-minded people, God seem to demolish those ideals.

God doesn’t want His people to be a select or elect group of people who have escaped the world, but instead He wants His Church to be in the middle of the world.  Serving the mission of the Gospel and caring for the people of the community wherein it stands. This is what the history of the Church has shown us; it is thriving where it is focussed on its calling to proclaim the message of salvation through faith in Christ Jesus and where it cares for its community.

What care actually means is difficult to transcribe or explain. The root of the original Greek word is nearly identical to our word for melody. We often hear from people how music, or a particular song or melody, moves their heart. And perhaps that is the reason why the Greek word for care relates to what moves the heart.

The care the Bible speaks about is not caring in the sense of performing a duty or doing your job, but because the heart is moved to do something for somebody else.

The Bible is asking us to do this, because God did is first for us. By sending Christ Jesus into the world God showed His ultimate love and care for us. Jesus did not came into this world because it was duty or His job, but because He kept us at His heart. Christ was moved by love and care for us.  It is for this reason, Jesus didn’t call the disciples His servants, but His friends.

It is by putting our trust in Jesus Christ and into His ministry to reconcile us with God, which overflows in caring with our heart for others as much as God cares for us.

Ascension Day

‘Partir, c'est mourir un peu’ (saying goodbye is to die a little); the French poet Edmond Haraucourt wrote about a 100 years ago.

At Ascension Day, the disciples who were with Jesus were in a similar situation. For more than a month Jesus had met and instructed them on certain occasions, which are not further detailed in the Bible. But, now the time had come to leave them to their own and Jesus asked them to wait a few more weeks before they would receive particular strength to start their mission.

When Jesus left them, He disappeared in a cloud. The cloud resembles with a similar cloud mentioned in the Old Testament, when Moses went into the cloud to meet God. You can read the story in Exodus 19 to 24. After Moses returned from the cloud he held in his arms the two tablets containing the 10 commandments.

When Jesus disappeared in the cloud He promised to come back to His disciples through the power of the Holy Spirit and so that happened at Pentecost.

When Moses returned from the cloud to meet God he came back with the law, but with Jesus Christ the law is no longer a book or a set of rules to be obeyed, mainly for one particular nation to be followed.

In Jesus Christ God meets with each one of us and His parting from us is not to die a little but to receive life in its fullness.

The strength and encouragement to share this message arrived at Pentecost, so may this Ascension Day help us to remember how Christ made God known to us and look at Pentecost as the moment when the Holy Spirit gave us the power to be a witness of this to others.

Hans

"The Blessing"

I thought it would be good to share this song - "The Blessing" (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PUtll3mNj5U) which has been put together by over 65 churches and movements (representing hundreds of others), who have come together online to sing.

The Blessing image

Technically accomplished, it is also a beautiful piece of worship music. In the words of the publishers:

"Standing together as one, our desire is that this song will fill you with hope and encourage you. But the church is not simply singing a blessing, each day we're looking to practically be a blessing. Many of the churches included in this song have assisted with supplying over 400,000 meals to the most vulnerable and isolated in our nation since COVID-19 lockdown began. This alongside phone calls to the isolated, pharmacy delivery drops and hot meals to the NHS frontline hospital staff.

Our buildings may be closed but the church is very much alive!"

Lyrics:

Verse — 

The Lord bless you

And keep you

Make His face shine upon you

And be gracious to you

The Lord turn His Face toward you

And give you peace

As we receive, we agree, amen

Chorus —  Amen, amen, amen

Bridge — 

May His favour be upon you

And a thousand generations

And your family and your children

And their children, and their children

May His presence go before you

And behind you, and beside you

All around you, and within you

He is with you, He is with you

Original Song “The Blessing” by Cody Carnes, Kari Jobe and Elevation Worship.

Written by Chris Brown, Cody Carnes, Kari Jobe and Steven Furtick

Audio produced by Trevor Michael

Video edited by Level Creative

For questions and more information please contact theukblessing@gmail.com

How Ecclesiastes speaks during Covid-19

 

Guest column from Georgie C.

In the last weeks the well-known passage from Ecclesiastes has repeatedly come into my mind. It starts at the beginning of Chapter 3 with these words:

Everything that happens in this world happens at a time God chooses.

He sets the time for birth and the time for death

A time for planting and a time for pulling up

A time for killing and a time for healing

…and so it goes on.

If nothing else in these past weeks, we have all been given time to reflect.  For me, these reflections have brought both sad memories and some very happy ones. Sometimes the reflections made me feel guilty about missed opportunities and sometimes I have felt proud of past achievements.

For all of us I believe this time has enabled us to concentrate in a more focussed way about the things in life that really matter.

For most this time has heightened the awareness of how important other people are to us.  This includes not only family and friends but all those who touch our lives without our really being aware of them - our neighbours in a biblical sense.  The importance of other people in our lives matters not only to the most extrovert of characters but also to the shyest recluse.

Fighting the pandemic has been likened to fighting an enemy.  As in any war, there are usually a large number of heart-breaking casualties.  As a mark of respect to those who have tragically died in this pandemic, let us try to improve on some of our old ways.  We have been given time to reflect on better ways of doing things (including being more considerate to planet Earth).  In our hearts we all know what these ‘ways’ are. 

The writer of Ecclesiastes believed in God but did not have the privilege that we have of knowing that Jesus came to restore our hope in a brighter future.  Christianity is very simple (although others may tell you differently). Follow the teaching of Jesus and believe and all will be well with you.

We are living through an extraordinary time.

Georgie C.

 

May letter

Because of all the restrictions put onto the churches and their services, as a Parish we have continued our church services on our Youtube channel, which is easy accessible via this website.

During the restrictions may we remind ourselves that whatever restrictions authorities or others put on us, even with the best options, it will not hinder God to be accessible.

It depends on our own attitude whether we continue communication between God and us. On quite a few places the Bible tells us that God is not away from us.

In the Old Testament for example in Psalm 9:10 it says that ‘those who know You will put their trust in You, for You Lord, have not forsaken those who seek You’. IN the New Testament in James 4:8 we are reminded to ‘Draw near to God and He will draw near to you’.

May the current situation not deter us from seeking God, or let slip our relationship with Him. And even in times of being reluctant to keep our eyes on God for whatever reason, let us remember how He will never leave us. Jesus spoke to His friends in the Gospel of Matthew 28:20, ‘I am with you always even to the end of the age’. Through Jesus Christ, God will be always there for us.

Gospel reading for 3rd May and some reflections on it for the service from Lillingstone Daryell on that date.

 

 

John 10:1-10 The Good Shepherd and His Sheep

 

“Very truly I tell you Pharisees, anyone who does not enter the sheep pen by the gate, but climbs in by some other way, is a thief and a robber.  

 

The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. 

 

The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 

 

 When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. 

 

But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognise a stranger’s voice.” 

 

Jesus used this figure of speech, but the Pharisees did not understand what he was telling them.

 

Therefore Jesus said again, “Very truly I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. 

 

All who have come before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep have not listened to them. 

 

I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. They will come in and go out, and find pasture. 

 

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.

------------------------------

Hello. It is good to be writing to you even if rfom my isolation at home.

 

As I prepared my thoughts for today, a number of things crossed my mind.

 

I now wake up each morning to the sound of silence, apart from the birds. No traffic noise. I have no feeling that I have to rush to get on with one of the many tasks that are normally there.

 

All I can hear is the sound of the wind in the trees and of the birds. Particularly pigeons, a pair of which are nesting in our back garden.

If you sit quietly and watch them, you see their anxiety in everything they do. Always stopping and checking that it is safe to enter the nest. Always out and about seeking nesting materials and food! A bit like all of us at the moment in lockdown! Anxious about what is to happen next!

 

If we do nothing else different at this difficult time, let us stop and observe the beauty of nature and the rhythms of life all around us which we are usually to busy to look for and observe. It reminds us how wonderful creation is. Watching the pigeons I feel closer to nature and I feel closer to God, 

 

Our Gospel reading today reflects that there is a right way and a wrong way to do things.

 

In the old testament the concept of the shepherd was often used to symbolise a caretaker of God’s people. Have a look at Ezekiel 34! It tells us that God had given great responsibility to the leaders, the shepherds of Israel to care for the people of Israel. This they hadn’t done. And so he promised to provide a true Shepherd, Jesus, to care for the sheep. 

 

In our reading, Jesus is speaking to those who were supposed to be the guardians of the holy law. The moral leaders! To be the shepherds! But as we read too often in the bible, they were hidebound by their misguided perception of the law, without basic understanding and humanity.

 

There are two images in this text.  In 10:1-5 Jesus simply speaks a truth that his hearers would have known and relied upon.  Because Judean's highly valued their sheep as a main source of their food and their clothing  they would have known each one of them and they would have protected them with their lives. There are also a couple of interesting things about the shepherd with whom Jesus identifies himself. 

 

First, this shepherd has the well-being of the sheep at heart, rather than his own well-being.  This shepherd is neither thief nor bandit who would steal sheep, considered a profoundly anti-social act and one in which the sheep would only come to a bad end.  Jesus emphasises the difference between the bandit and shepherd:  the shepherd enters rightly, properly, and openly into the sheepfold. All is open and above board, a cooperative effort with an obliging doorkeeper and sheep who respond to the sound of their name.  

 

There is a relationship of trust among all parties here.  Notice that the sheep are not presented as stupid.  They "know" whom they can trust. In verse 4, their trust is validated and emphasised by another piece of the shepherd's behaviour: He brings the sheep out of the fold and then goes before them. The sheep do not simply escape some confinement or hasten out of the fold to brave the larger world on their own.  Their shepherd leads them out and then goes in front of them, to lead them.  The sheep are not abandoned.

 

The text tells us that the audience didn’t understand this analogy so Jesus tries again to contrast himself with thieving leaders.  He becomes very specific about those who had come before him as the thieves and bandits that he had mentioned in verse 1 and were described in Ezekiel,  from whom the sheep rightly fled. 

 

Jesus says I am the gate, the proper way, the right way, the only way into the sheep fold.  Pasture, that is life, is through me, the gate.  Those who enter are being saved, brought into pasture and life rather than for their destruction. Jesus speaks of the gate to help clarify the image of shepherd.  In both cases it is about the trustworthy one. Whether the one who leads or the one who sets the right path that will lead his followers into ample pasture. 

 

All of us need to follow a good path that leads to good spiritual sustenance.. It is easy to be sidetracked. At the start of the epidemic much good was seen, in caring for those less able. 

Whether it be by simple telephone calls or bringing food and medicines.

 

We did it because it was the right thing to do. Something that instinctively we knew, Jesus would have wanted us to do. He had shown us at this moment in time the right gate to pass through and encouraged us to follow him through it and so many people did. 

 

We must not let that care and compassion fall away.

 

Remember the gate which Jesus wants us to pass through, and do so with confidence and with the certainty that only he can give us, that it is the right thing to do and that he will be there before us to lead us, not just in the current emergency but in everything that we do.

 

This is his promise to us. I will show you the right path and I will open the gate and lead you through it.

 

Let us pray

 

O Lord open my eyes so that I can see the needs of others.

Open my ears so that I may hear their cries.

Open my heart so that they need not be without succour.

Show me where love and faith and hope are needed, and use me to bring them to these places.

Open my eyes and ears that I may this coming day be able to do some work of peace for you.

 

I also pray that we may soon meet again in fellowship within our churches and community.

 

In Jesus name I pray Amen

 

Ian

 

 

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