May 8, 2022
WELCOME AND ANNOUNCEMENTS
Let me remind you quickly of our protocols for everyone’s safety.
· Attendance was taken by Ushers as you entered.
· masks are required by those not vaccinated as well as social distancing
· Offerings may be placed in the plate by the doors.
· Please write your prayer request on the Yellow cards. An usher will pick them up during the 1st hymn.
· Please join us after service for fellowship in Calvin Hall
Gary Iverson, Bob Bock, Joan Boyd, Wanda Hirl, Marilyn Neymeyer, Joan Pinkston, Maxine Wagner, Annette Conzett, Jo Lefleur, Dr Dyke, Harlan Marx ,Lois Seger, Jon Ryner, Abagail Niles, Helanah Niles, Werner& Kelly Families, Avis Severson (Kolleen’s Mom) Ukraine, Arlene Pawlik, Angela and Tristan ,Jake Pinkston and Karla Singer (Rich Lewis Niece)
*CALL TO WORSHIP Adapted from Revelations 7:11, 12
L: With the angels and elders, heavenly beings and a multitude of saints let us sing our praise.
Men: Blessing and glory and wisdom,
Women: Thanksgiving and honor and power and might,
ALL: Be to our God forever and ever! Amen
We come to worship this morning, Lord, asking the question that so many have pondered. Who are you in our lives? Help us, this day to hear your voice calling to us. Allow us to catch glimpses of your claim upon our hearts. Give us the words to sing praises to your glory. Amen.
*HYMN Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee # 464
Call to Confession
“I am the Good Shepherd,” Jesus proclaimed. He invites us to bring our true selves into his care, to confess our failings that he might lead us into new life. Let us consider our lives against the Psalmist’s words and confess our shortcomings before our Savior.
Prayer of Confession
L: The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want.
P: But Lord, we do want. We want more and more. Forgive our constant striving and our ever present hunger for things which do not enrich our lives.
L: He makes me lie down in green pastures.
P: But we don’t have time to lie down. We are constantly moving and working. Forgive our failure, O Lord, to heed your command for Sabbath rest.
L: He leads me beside still waters; he restores my soul.
P: Drama seems to be forever at our door, and our souls feel bruised and worn. Forgive us, Lord for engaging in petty disputes.
L: Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I fear no evil; for you are with me; your rod and your staff they comfort me.
P: In the darkness of the valley we are so terribly afraid. Forgive us for doubting your presence and your care for us.
L: Lord we seek your table of abundance. We want to dwell in your house our whole lives long.
P: Help us, Lord. Amen
WORDS OF ASSURANCE
All along the way our Good Shepherd seeks to guide us. When we are lost and bewildered, we need only listen for the voice that calls us home. Let us lie down in green pastures and walk beside the still waters. Christ’s gift upon the cross has washed away our sins, opening paths of abundant new life. I declare to you, in Jesus our Lord, you are forgiven.
PASSING THE PEACE (facing those across the aisle from you)
Left: May the peace of Christ be with you.
Right: And also with you. May the peace of Christ be with you.
Left: And also with you.
Prayer of Illumination
God of Love and Life, we want to be the sheep of your fold, the lambs of your keeping. Help us to listen for your voice as scripture is read and proclaimed. Allow us to hear that which will settle our hearts and our souls into your keeping
1The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
2 He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
3 he refreshes my soul.
He guides me along the right paths
for his name’s sake.
4 Even though I walk
through the darkest valley,[a]
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.
5 You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
6 Surely your goodness and love will follow me
all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord
John 10: 22-30
22 Then came the Festival of Dedication at Jerusalem. It was winter, 23 and Jesus was in the temple courts walking in Solomon’s Colonnade. 24 The Jews who were there gathered around him, saying, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly.”25 Jesus answered, “I did tell you, but you do not believe. The works I do in my Father’s name testify about me, 26 but you do not believe because you are not my sheep. 27 My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. 30 I and the Father are one.”
SERMON When the Shepherd Calls
Sheep, I believe, are one of the most vulnerable of God’s creatures. A sheep has this heavy coat of wool which one might imagine protects it, and I guess it does offer protection from cold and certain insects. But that wool also weighs them down so they can’t run from predators like wolves or coyote. If the wool gets wet—as in they fall into a river or lake, it will drag them down. Swimming is not a sheep skill! In addition, sheep panic easily, probably because they are so vulnerable and then they and run—OK, not fast enough to evade most predators, but enough so they can get lost serious very fast!
On the farm where I grew up, we had a few sheep at different times. They did a good job of keeping a pasture trimmed down easily. Sheep often stray away from the flock, AND when a sheep gets sick or injured, that injury needs to be addressed quickly because sheep don’t have very good immune systems. A minor illness or injury can get very
. But it was essential that they be brought into the barn at night. We accomplished that with a bucket of oats –lamb candy, if you will. As the sun started to dip to the, the sheep would cluster at the gate because they knew oats were waiting for them. There might be some stragglers who had found a patch of especially sweet grass, but they came running when they heard us call. My call was usually “Come and get it!” Then just open the gate—get out of the way, and down the lane and into the barn they would fly—each racing the others to get to those oats first. Then we would close the gate, shut and latch the barn door, and that chore was accomplished for the day. The next morning they were happy to find grass again.
I think of those sheep when I read our passages for today. We weren’t shepherds like Biblical times. We didn’t stay out in the pasture with our sheep. That’s what fences were good for. But just like our sheep on the farm, those ancient wooly creatures listened for the voice calling them, and in the process they were kept safe.
Our passage for today uses the metaphor of sheep and Shepherd to teach us something about God, and most especially about Jesus.
It was so effective because the people of ancient Israel were very familiar with sheep and shepherds. The 23rd Psalm, still one of our favorites today, was used to both instruct and to offer praise to God. God’s people were the sheep—led to sweet grass and a safe place to lie down, protected from predators. They were led by still waters where they could get a good, long, refreshing drink of water where they weren’t at risk of being caught up in a fast current. They were led through valleys where the light of day couldn’t penetrate, and they were kept safe even in those moments of danger. Comforted and guided and accompanied. The sheep knew who to trust and who to obey.
But it seems the Shepherd metaphor wasn’t quite sufficient because in the next verses of the Psalm, God becomes a generous host who offers a banquet to that person who sits below him on the social ladder, and he does it in full view of that person’s adversary as a way of saying, “This individual has my protection—hands off!’
The gratitude of the psalmist is clear as he speaks of this host anointing him with oil, “My cup overflows,” he proclaims. “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord my whole life long.”
It’s a song that speaks of our rightful place as the sheep who rely upon the Shepherd-- of the lowly serf who is the loyal servant of an incredibly generous and powerful land owner. It resonates with us, showing a God who cares for us, provides for us, protects us and guides us along life’s ways.
In the early church people sang this psalm as they emerged from the waters of baptism and went into receive the Lord’s Supper for the first time. It lifted the perfect note of devotion, dependence, gratitude and pledge of obedience.
But then arrives our gospel lesson. Jesus is in conflict with the Jewish authorities. In one form or another they are asking, “WHO ARE YOU?” Some are saying he is the Messiah, that one who was sent by God to address the problems of the world. But the authorities have a problem with him. He has no formal education. He teaches some rather unorthodox ideas. He doesn’t seek out their endorsement. They know from where he originated and they know his family. (Surely one with such average, earthly upbringing could not possibly be the Anointed of God!) And the final straw that breaks the camel’s back for them is that he does his works, healings and exorcisms, on the Sabbath in clear disobedience to God’s law. How can he possibly be the Exalted One whom God sends?
It’s kind of like saying that the pimply teen who grew up next door and who used to play his music too loud and steal apples from your tree is the Messiah—NO Way!
But Jesus has a following. People flock to him. They hang on his every word. They seek out his healings. They give up their day jobs to follow him, to help provide for him and his disciples. These authorities are in a pickle. They have to be careful not to antagonize the crowds of followers. They need to challenge Jesus in a way that makes clear to all that he is a charlatan.
But so far it’s not worked. He keeps doing these amazing healings! And now. Now he’s using the ancient imagery of the 23rd Psalm to make a claim about his identity, and he’s doing it in a way that amplifies that claim many times over. I AM THE GOOD SHEPHERD! If we say it in English, it doesn’t raise any flags, but in Hebrew, suddenly, it does. “Ego Ami.”……. “ I AM” the Hebrew says.
“So what?” we might ask. But look at the story of Moses at the burning bush. Do you remember one of Moses objections when God told him that he was to lead his people out of slavery? “I don’t even know your name,” Moses said, “What will I tell the Hebrew people when they ask who sent me?” And God responds, “Ego Ami. I AM. Tell them that I AM sent you.”
And now here is Jesus using the exact name of God to tell the people who he is and what he’s all about. “I AM the Good Shepherd.” Same words. I AM—the name of God. And in case you miss it—Good Shepherd like in the 23rd Psalm!
Jesus is making a claim about who he is. It’s a bold claim. It’s a claim that is thinly veiled but which his followers fully get. But not those who are so skeptical. They want to know, “If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly.” They might also add, “tell us, so we can arrest you.”
Jesus responds that he HAS told them, but they can’t believe. They can’t believe because they are not among those to whom God has given the ability to hear and understand. Jesus’ followers—they get it. They hear his voice and they follow, and in the process Jesus will give them eternal life such that they will never perish. “I and the Father are One.” Jesus says.
I and the Father are One. That could mean several things. They are of the same mind. They have the same plans. They are made of the same spiritual substance or as we have come to proclaim, The Father IS the Son in human form. The Son and the Father share the same identity.
This passage brings us to the question—Do we hear the voice of the Good Shepherd calling? Do we offer our allegiance and devotion to Jesus? Do we trust and rely upon him, allowing him to lead us where we need to go? Do we know who he is in our hearts and in our lives?
And how do we open our ears so we CAN hear his voice calling us? How do we discern that the voice we think we hear belongs to Jesus, and not merely to our own wishes or wants or hopes? It’s a question of calling, of being open and available to being called, of discerning the identity of the voice that is rattling in our heads.
Here’s where I’m suppose to say something profound. Here’s where you’re waiting for a formula or a litmus test or a recipe to claim this amazing faith.-----I’m sorry to disappoint you, but I don’t really have a lots of answers. But here is what I do believe.
To ask the question—sincerely, deeply. To seek the answer is a really good start. To pray it is an even better start. Because to ask means we’re open to the answer. To ask means we have a deep desire to hear the voice of the Good Shepherd calling to us. We desire the guidance, accompaniment and support that only God can offer. Do you remember that verse that says “Seek and you will find. Knock and the door will be opened to you.”?
Those who feel like they have everything under control don’t ask those questions. Those who believe they are fully capable of handling anything that comes their way don’t seek assistance. Those who are fully confident that their avenue is the right one, their goals, the appropriate ones, their answers to the problems they face, sufficient—they don’t bother to ask for ears that can hear the Shepherd’s voice.
God gives to those who seek. God bends low to touch the hearts and the minds of those who reach up to feel his touch. God offers his gifts to those willing to receive them. These are the things I believe.
The Authorities in Jesus’ day didn’t want Jesus to proclaim himself Messiah so they could bow down and worship him. They had no intention of following where that voice directed them. They believed they had the answers, and that was good enough.
Do we have the answers? Are we so arrogant as to believe that we can navigate without the guidance of a wise and loving Shepherd? If we think that, then of course we won’t bother to ask for ears to hear and the ability to discern. If we think that we’re like those very vulnerable sheep who are the latest snack for wolves and coyotes.
The Good Shepherd comes for those who recognize their own vulnerability and who have the courage to seek God. In other words, the Good Shepherd finds us when we know we need him. Isn’t that why we’re here this morning—to seek and to listen, to find pathways of life and to let go of our sins. The Good Shepherd offers all of that, but only to those who recognize that they need it—and to those lucky souls, he gives eternal life which is defined as knowing Jesus in a deep and abiding way, walking in his ways for life and for joy and for meaning and hope—now and forever.
When the Shepherd calls, listen, come, obey, be guided and know the goodness of our God. For the Lord is our Shepherd. We shall not want. He makes us to lie down in green pastures and leads us beside the still waters. He restores our souls and leads us in right paths for his name sake. Even though we walk through the darkest valley, we fear no evil for God is with us. His rod and his staff comforts us.
Thank you, Good Shepherd Lord. Amen.
*HYMN Like a Shepherd Lead Us #387
PASTORAL PRAYER AND LORD’S PRAYER
Our Father which art in heaven,
Hallowed be thy name,
Thy kingdom come,
Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts,
as we forgive our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil:
For thine is the kingdom,
and the power, and the glory,
forever." -- Amen.
*AFFIRMATION Apostle’s Creed (Ecumenical) p. 14
I believe in God, the Father Almighty,
Creator of heaven and earth,
I believe in Jesus Christ, God’s only Son, our Lord,
who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
born of the Virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried.
He descended into hell.
On the third day He rose again.
He ascended into heaven
He is seated at the right hand of the Father,
And He will come to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and life everlasting. Amen.
*Prayer of Dedication:
Thank you, Good Shepherd, that in the quiet of our hearts we can hear your call and feel your grace. It compels us to generosity and sharing. It lifts in us a compassionate caring for others. May the gifts that we dedicate today offer your love and grace to those in need. Thank you, Lord. Amen.
*Hymn: Be Thou My Vision #339
*CHARGE & BLESSING
Let us go forth from this place listening, calming our hearts to hear the voice of our Good Shepherd. May we be led to lie down in green pastures, to drink deeply of still waters, knowing that when darkness does descend, we will be accompanied and loved. Let us dwell in the house of the Lord our whole lives long. Alleluia! Amen.
* Sections of the service preceded with * are times to stand if you are able to do so.
Bold text is to be read together aloud as a congregation.