April 30, 2023
Fourth Sunday of Easter
· We continue to receive the One Great Hour of Sharing Offering today.
· Please join us in Calvin Hall following worship today for a time of fellowship.
· PNC will meet today at 10:45
· Please see bulletin insert for items needed for Senior Hospitality Center.
· Find the address for Rich and Lois Lewis posted on the bulletin board.
· Please sign up for the Ladies Lunch Bunch for Wed. May 10—Going to Homer’s Deli at 11:30!
JoAnn Grimm who struggles with health problems.
The family of Maxine Wagner who grieve for their aunt.
Arlene Pawlik who is recovering from a broken leg.
Joan Pinkston, on hospice.
Kolleen Klemmedson who is recovering at home.
*CALL TO WORSHIP
Hearing the call of our Good Shepherd, we come to listen for his voice.
We hear him call our names. We are led out, and we follow where he leads.
We come to be saved in his love.
We come to offer our praise and sing to his glory.
Let us worship our God. Amen.
Through Christ, our Loving Shepherd, we have been led to trust in you, O God. You call us by name, lead us, protect us and offer new life. As we come to worship this day, may we place our lives and our hearts into your hands. Amen.
*HYMN Love Divine, All Loves Excelling #376
(You may be seated.)
CALL TO CONFESSION
We are invited into God’s heart. Let us accept the invitation by laying our failings before our Lord.
PRAYER OF CONFESSION (Psalm 23)
“The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want.”
Forgive us, Lord, because we do want, and the wanting eats away at our peace.
“He makes me lie down in green pastures.”
Lie down? We don’t have time to lie down! There is too much to do. Forgive
“He leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in right paths
for his name’s sake.”
But the paths are not clearly marked, and too often we fail to discern you
leading us. Our souls cry out with loneliness and confusion. For failing to
seek your guidance, forgive us, Lord.
“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.”
Are you with us, Lord? We have run ahead, trying to escape the darkness.
Where are you? Your rod and staff sometimes feel like tools of punishment
rather than care. Forgive us, Lord.
“You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head
with oil, my cup overflows.”
Forgive us for the times we have refused your invitation to the banquet. Forgive
us for not giving you credit for the abundance of our blessings, and for our
cup which does, indeed, overflow.
WORDS OF ASSURANCE
Hear the conclusion of this psalm—“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.”--- Goodness and mercy are the attributes of our God. With these, God sent his Son to take our sins upon himself that we might, indeed, dwell in the house of the Lord our whole lives long. Be assured, my Friends. We are forgiven and brought close the heart of our God.
SONG OF PRAISE Gloria Patri #579
PASSING THE PEACE
May the peace of Christ be with you.
And also with you.
PRAYER FOR ILLUMINATION
O Christ, You are the Gate that we seek. This morning as scripture is read and proclaimed, may we find this entrance and discover a fuller understanding of your call upon our lives. May we be the lambs who recognize the voice of our Shepherd and follow with you into the green pastures of our world. Amen.
Acts 2: 42-47
[Those who received Christ and were baptized that day] devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. 43 Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. 44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need 46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47 praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.
John 10: 1-10
10 1“Very truly I tell you anyone who does not enter the sheep pen by the gate, but climbs in by some other way, is a thief and a robber. 2 The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. 3 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. 4 When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. 5 But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice.” 6 Jesus used this figure of speech, but they did not understand what he was telling them. 7 Therefore Jesus said again, “Very truly I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. 8 All who have come before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep have not listened to them. 9 I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. They will come in and go out, and find pasture. 10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life and have it to the full.
SERMON Listening for The Shepherd’s VoiceListening for the Shepherd’s Voice
Diane hates to clean house! She will put off that hateful chore as long as she possibly can. But when she does clean, boy do things sparkle! Diane dislikes cleaning so much because her mother INSISTED that it be done thoroughly—every time. Every item must be removed from the self to dust it and then wiped clean before being replaced. Door jams, the top of doors, base boards and picture frames must be wiped clean. Floors must be mopped or vacuumed completely. That means moving anything that is capable of being moved. Under beds needed attention. Don’t let the dust bunnies get away! Sinks not only cleaned, but wiped clean, appliances polished and windows washed—at least on the inside if there was any speck to be seen. Cleaning house took all weekend. It totally understand Diane’s dislike for the chore.
By comparison, Debbie was a good-enough kind of gal when it came to cleaning house. She cleaned with the eyeball test. If it didn’t look dusty, why dust? And when she did dust, she either went around things or moved them slightly out of the way so she could get the job done. Floors got the spot treatment unless they were obviously dirty throughout, and why move things? Who looks under the bed anyway? A quick wipe up here, a little vacuum there, throw some things in the closet or drawer and it’s all good. If anyone wanted to do a white glove test, then shame on them!
So there you have 2 extremes in the art of cleaning. I think most of us would agree that there’s a sweet spot in the middle right? But at the same time, it’s tempting to fall into the Debbie category.
Sometimes in all the things we do, we, as humans get a little lazy. We try to find short cuts. We question the value of taking those extra steps, we procrastinate and then rush through things without taking the time to review or put in that extra effort.
I believe our scripture for today—both of them—argue that short cuts and sloppy processes just don’t cut it in our relationship with God—or for that matter in our relationships with one another.
Jesus is our Good Shepherd. But how did he get there? Sure, God had a hand it it—Born of the Virgin Mary, given the Holy Spirit at his baptism, issued instructions and the power to heal. But don’t we also notice that this Jesus puts himself out there? Wouldn’t it have been easier and a lot more comfortable for him to set up shop, like say in Nazareth and had people coming to him for healing or for lessons from God? Wouldn’t it have been easier to show up in Jerusalem and present himself to the Pharisees, show them the power of God, done some healing on days other than the Sabbath and worked within the system? Wouldn’t it have been easier to at very least avoid confronting and antagonizing those in power?
Those would have some of the possible short cuts. But God didn’t call Jesus to short cuts or to easy, safe solutions. He didn’t call his Son to love those who first loved him. He didn’t call him to look the other way when injustices were being enacted around him. If he had done some of those things he probably could have avoided the cross, but God had placed that cross squarely in Jesus’ path. There would be no avoiding it.
Jesus is reminding his listener—you and me—that the true Messiah is to be like that loving shepherd who doesn’t take short cuts or avoid the difficult things in order to care for his sheep. Those who do take those short cuts, who do look out for their own skin are thieves and bandits—and they should NOT be trusted.
We are the sheep of God’s pastures. We, too, have some responsibility here. We are called to listen for the call of our Shepherd. We need to be present and aware and
ready to differentiate between the Shepherd’s voice and that of the thief. If we are overly involved in our day to day lives, if we are fixated on our phones or in getting to our next fun activity, if we have turned off our ear for God’s voice or plopped ourselves in front of a blaring TV, then we won’t hear, or if we do hear, we won’t recognize the call.
Or maybe we hear any call and because we haven’t done our homework, we run to follow whomever gets through to us in that moment—much to our peril. Sometimes the bandit or the thief’s voice is smooth and silky. It promises such beautiful things and doesn’t require much of us in the process. It’s sort of like, “just send me your bank account information so I can transfer $300,000 into your account before I have to flee Nigeria!” Sounds good right? But then disaster strikes.
Jesus is painting a picture of his efforts and care for God’s people. It’s because he doesn’t take short cuts that we can trust him.
When Jesus offers these words, those listening don’t get it, so Jesus starts over again. This time he tells them that he is the gate. We get confused because we ask, “How can Jesus be both the Shepherd who is granted entrance through the gate AND the gate?” I think those are two completely separate, even if similar, metaphors.
Jesus is saying, “OK, let’s scrap that one. Let me try a different way. “I am the gate for the sheep.” In other words, “I am the one who will open new life and salvation for you. Before he had asserted that the true shepherd didn’t jump over the fence. Now he’s saying that we, as sheep can’t hope to find true life and well-being by following the thief, or for that matter, by breaking through the fence. “Whoever enters by me will be saved, and will come in and go out to find pasture.”
Finding pasture is well-being and life for the sheep. It’s being led to lie down in green pastures, to be led beside the still waters, to be accompanied and guided through the darkest of valleys. It’s not winning the lottery or becoming rich and famous. It’s not gaining positions of great power or living in the lap of luxury. It’s everyday life where we go about our routines in peace, where we have friends and family around us, where we don’t worry about whether bombs will drop on our heads or if we will have enough to eat or heat for the winter winds. It’s serenity, satisfaction, calm and joy.
The portrait of the early church is a picture of what that life in Christ looks like. We’re told that “they devoted themselves to the apostles teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and prayers.” In other words, they continued to grow in their understanding of the faith. They spent time together, working to know one another. They actively prayed, probably together and individually, as well. They practiced communion by taking the Lord’s Supper and just eating their meals together.
The description goes on, “All who believed were together and had all things in common. They would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need.”
It’s an idealized version of what was happening at that time. I don’t think they probably held EVERYTHING together in common. Many person items would be exempt. Clothing and shoes, tools with which they did their work. The family business would continue to operate, maybe with hiring some of the members from the community, and part of the profit would be shared.
Later in Acts we hear of Ananias and Sapphira who sold some land but gave only a portion of the proceeds to the community. In Peter’s rebuke, they were scolded, not for saving some back, but for not being truthful about that. That tells me that this community was exceedingly generous and caring with one another. They were willing to sell and share as it was needed and they were fully engaged in their new community of faith.
Do you hear both the effort and the positive results? They prioritized their new faith and one another. They put in the time. They actively cared for one another and used their own personal resources to make that happen. We are human and our capacity to get hurt feelings, to have our egos get in the way, to be stubbornly focused on our desired path for doing something. We get angry. All these things would have still be present for that early group of Christians. But in spite of these things, they largely worked!
These scriptures invite us to recognize that a life of faith isn’t without requirements upon each of us. Just like Jesus didn’t get to skate through things or jump the fence to become Messiah the easy way, we are required to devote time and energy to our relationship with Christ. We’re required to listen for his call and to be willing to follow, even when it might seem difficult or scary. We’re required to love one another—and let’s be clear, that doesn’t mean we like everybody. It means we offer to all the same respect and consideration. We work to make sure that everybody has the opportunity to know goodness and joy.
We need a Good Shepherd. Our world needs the peace and the hope and the serenity that he brings. Let’s learn and grow together as a congregation. Let’s be in fellowship together and learn about one another. Let’s offer our gifts to this faith community. That means our presence, our prayers, our efforts and our dollars.
We can’t recreate that early church reality, but we can keep that image as a model into which we can grow, at least in part.
Our Good Shepherd is calling. Can you hear it? Let’s go. Together let’s follow.
*HYMN Savior, Like a Shepherd Lead Us #387
(you may be seated.)
Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name,
thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
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, now and forever. Amen.
OFFERING OUR GIFTS TO GOD
*DOXOLOGY Praise God from Whom All Blessings Flow #592
PRAYER OF DEDICATION
*AFFIRMATION OF FAITH (from Isaiah 40: 10-11, paraphrased)
See, the Lord God comes with power and might,
and he’s ready for whatever will come.
He will deal with his enemies and bless those who have followed him.
Like a shepherd, he will care for his flock,
gathering the lambs into his arms,
Hugging them as he carries them along,
leading the nursing mothers to good sweet pasture.
*HYMN Precious Lord, Take My Hand #404
(You may be seated.)
*CHARGE & BLESSING
* 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.