THE LORD IS MY LIGHT AND MY SALVATION – WHOM SHALL I FEAR? THE LORD IS THE STRONGHOLD OF MY LIFE – OF WHOM SHALL I BE AFRAID? (Psalm 27: 1)
WELCOME TO OUR SUNDAY MORNING WEB-WORSHIP.
OPENING HYMN (CH-387): – THE LORD’S MY SHEPHERD, I’ll not want. He makes me down to lie in pastures green: He leadeth me the quiet waters by.
My soul He doth restore again; and me to walk doth make within the paths of righteousness, even for His own Name’s sake.
Yea, though I walk in death’s dark vale, yet will I fear none ill: for Thou art with me; and Thy rod and staff me comfort still.
My table Thou hast furnished in presence of my foes; my head Thou dost with oil anoint, and my cup overflows.
Goodness and mercy all my life shall surely follow me: and in God’s house for evermore my dwelling-place shall be.
To Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, The God whom we adore, be glory, as it was, and is, and shall be evermore. Amen.
LET US PRAY:
LOVING GOD, OUR GOOD SHEPHERD IN CHRIST, we come to bow our heads, to lift up our hearts, and to offer You our worship. We come to seek Your will, to hear Your voice, and follow You. We praise You for all You have done for us through Christ – His revelation of Your love, His obedience and faithfulness even to the Cross, His victory over death and exaltation to Your side, and His promise to be with us till the very end of the age. Help us, as we worship You, to recognise Christ here amongst us, help us to bear His name faithfully, and live each day to the glory of Your name. AMEN.
OLD TESTAMENT READING: – PSALM 23.
THE LORD IS MY SHEPHERD, I SHALL NOT BE IN WANT. HE MAKES ME LIE DOWN IN GREEN PASTURES, HE LEADS ME BESIDE QUIET WATERS, HE RESTORES MY SOUL. HE GUIDES ME IN PATHS OF RIGHTEOUSNESS FOR HIS NAME’S SAKE. EVEN THOUGH I WALK THROUGH THE VALLEY OF THE SHADOW OF DEATH, I WILL FEAR NO EVIL, FOR YOU ARE WITH ME; YOUR ROD AND YOUR STAFF, THEY COMFORT ME. YOU PREPARE A TABLE BEFORE ME IN THE PRESENCE OF MY ENEMIES. YOU ANOINT MY HEAD WITH OIL; MY CUP OVERFLOWS. SURELY GOODNESS AND LOVE WILL FOLLOW ME ALL THE DAYS OF MY LIFE, AND I WILL DWELL IN THE HOUSE OF THE LORD FOREVER.
NEW TESTAMENT READING: – JOHN 10: 1-11.
JESUS SAID, “I TELL YOU THE TRUTH, THE MAN WHO DOES NOT ENTER THE SHEEP PEN BY THE GATE, BUT CLIMBS IN BY SOME OTHER WAY, IS A THIEF AND A ROBBER. THE MAN WHO ENTERS BY THE GATE IS THE SHEPHERD OF HIS SHEEP. THE WATCHMAN 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 RECOGNIZE A STRANGER’S VOICE.” JESUS USED THIS FIGURE OF SPEECH, BUT THEY DID NOT UNDERSTAND WHAT HE WAS TELLING THEM. THEREFORE JESUS SAID AGAIN, “I TELL YOU THE TRUTH, I AM THE GATE FOR THE SHEEP. ALL WHO EVER CAME BEFORE ME WERE THIEVES AND ROBBERS, BUT THE SHEEP DID NOT LISTEN TO THEM. I AM THE GATE; WHOEVER ENTERS THROUGH ME WILL BE SAVED. HE 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. I AM THE GOOD SHEPHERD. THE GOOD SHEPHERD LAYS DOWN HIS LIFE FOR THE SHEEP.
I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me (John 14: 6). Jesus gave this answer to Thomas, who honestly confessed that he did not know where Jesus was going; he did not know the way or how things would evolve with the disciples and their Lord. Through this well-known saying Jesus wanted to make it clear once and for all, that a life led by Him, and following Him as sheep follow their shepherd, is a life that has a precise direction and destination. This godly role of Salvation is fulfilled in Jesus, as the Good Shepherd. The Shepherd-theme is widely spread throughout the Scriptures. It is not only in Psalm 23 and in the Gospel of John, Chapter 10, that we find that God has been so gracious that he allowed Himself, the High and Holy One, to be compared to a Shepherd-of-His-Sheep. We find it as far back as the Book of Genesis, in a prayer of Jacob: – May the God before whom my fathers Abraham and Isaac walked, the God who has been my shepherd all my life to this day, – … may He bless these boys (Genesis 48: 15-16). Interestingly, in the original Hebrew, the word SHEPHERD is the same as the verb “to feed.” This is the central task of a shepherd: – to feed his sheep. Physically, and spiritually, as our Good Shepherd does; in response to our prayers. We find this theme right through Psalms 74, 78, 80, in Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and through the Minor Prophets, and many times in the New Testament. As I have already mentioned, Shepherd is a key biblical word used in prayer, a demand to be fed by the God in whom we believe. Today, I invite you to join me to meditate and pray through Psalm 23 and John 10: 1-11. Prayer is communication with our Shepherd. The poet said: – More things are wrought by prayer than this world dreams of (Alfred Lord Tennyson, – Idylls of the King). Indeed, many more things still need to be born from prayer within these troubled times of our twenty-first century. The world needs our prayers. We need our prayers, both because of this pandemic, and further beyond it.
PSALM 23 CAN CALM, PROTECT, AND GUIDE US. – The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not be in want. The Psalm begins with a note of personal assurance. David knows the Shepherd, and he knows that his Shepherd knows him. It is not enough to know that there is a Shepherd; we should know that I am His and He is mine. God is the resting place for our souls. Bringing our fears to the Shepherd, places us in the care of the One who holds together our lives and our universe. We must always stay near to our Shepherd. – He makes me lie down in green pastures, He leads me beside quiet waters, He restores my soul. We absorb the shocks of life through prayer, through worship, through still moments alone with God. Our grief works itself out through the comforting power of God’s Holy Spirit, and the peace our soul is restored. – He guides me in paths of righteousness for His name’s sake. God does not leave us alone in uncertainty. We are not left adrift. Aimless is not our direction. God calls us to action through His righteousness. Many say during this pandemic, – “Life will never be the same again.” They mean their lost routines; – But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint (Isaiah 40: 31). – Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff they comfort me. Putting one foot in front of the other is the key to getting through this valley of the shadow of death. Trusting God means that the Shepherd, not evil, will see us through. Fear paralyzes people in the grip of that shadow, but faith frees us to walk, see, and feel God’s guiding and protecting Rod and Staff. – You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Visible and invisible enemies win by frightening people. Jesus, the Good Shepherd said to fear only those who can harm our souls, so we are freed from our enemies’ threats by a prayerful life, as we walk our blessed path along with our Shepherd.– Surely goodness and love (MERCY, in the Scottish Psalter, 1650), will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. I will always remember a Sunday evening service I was attending long ago, somewhere in the Uists. An old minister in a worn-out, faded gown was preaching on Psalm 23. Out on the road, for whatever reason, some people were walking sheep with two dogs behind the flock. Instantly, the old man pointed out to the windows and said, – “Watch the shepherd outside, ahead of his sheep: at his back the sheep try to sneak off the road to get back to the pasture and to the hills, because they are what they are, but the two dogs, running in circles around the flock, keep on turning the wandering sheep back. They are two lovely dogs; I would call them Goodness and Mercy, because this is a very true picture of our Psalm”. Indeed, for me this will remain the best vivid message ever heard from the last verse of Psalm 23.
WHAT DOES THE GOOD SHEPHERD DO?
In the well-known parable the apostle John presents Jesus Christ as the WAY, the TRUTH, and the LIFE for those who belong to His flock through FAITH, and regard Him, Him alone, as their GOOD SHEPHERD. Let us try to summarise why is Jesus our Good Shepherd? – The Good Shepherd calls His sheep by name and knows them best. Consider this personally for yourselves. The Lord knows us thoroughly. By our Christian name. We are of people of His Flock. – The Good Shepherd leads them together out on to green pastures, in contrast to false shepherds, who lead people astray. – The Good Shepherd is recognized by the sheep; known by His voice. – The Good Shepherd provides access to every blessings of God. – The Good Shepherd guides to sustenance of life in abundance. We as sheep are at the mercy of the elements. We must have absolute dependence on the shepherd to be protected and provided. – The Good Shepherd lays down His life for the sheep. This is the best news, this is the GOSPEL in a nutshell. – The Good Shepherd leads and guides His sheep, gathering them, so that all become one flock with one shepherd. – The Good Shepherd is loved by God the Father, and through Him God loves us more than anything. He brought us in through the door of Jesus Christ who shepherds us each and every moment of our lives, to be saved for all eternity.
The awesome truth of Christianity is that the Crucified Jesus Christ declares that man is incapable of saving himself. John Calvin said: – in vain do they wander about who leave the Shepherd to go to God by themselves, because there is but one open door through Jesus Christ, and all approach in any other way is prohibited by God. It declares the supremacy that Jesus alone is able to make Atonement for our sins, and because of that fact He is the only WAY OF SALVATION. The Cross of Christ is the turning point in life, and what we do at that point determines our eternal destiny. In the Gospels we read of a man born blind. He was a beggar. He was a “nobody”; people pushed him out of the synagogue. But this was the very man Jesus called, and he heard His voice and responded. The man whom everyone despised was the man Jesus saved. He passed through the Door to eternal life, because the Good Shepherd cares of His Sheep. Amen.
LET US PRAY:
LORD OUR GOD, GREAT SHEPHERD OF YOUR SHEEP. In reverence and humility, awe and wonder we come before You at this worship. Be with us now, meet with us always, and hear our prayers. We bring ourselves to You– our strengths and weaknesses, our faith and doubts, our hopes and fears. We bring our families, our friends and neighbours – those we love, those we know, and those we simply pass in the street. We bring our congregation, our town, our country and our world – places near and far, part of our lives or far removed from our experiences. In quiet confidence we entrust all into Your care, knowing that Your love is more powerful and Your power more loving than we can ever know or imagine. We praise You that we can put our hands into Yours, knowing that You will lead, support and hold us throughout our lives, that You will supply all our needs and far more besides, because You are our Good Shepherd. We praise You for our experience of that truth across the years – the way You have always held firm to us despite our faults and faithlessness, never letting us go even when we wanted to wander away from You. Forgive us that we have let go so often on our own way; clinging to what ultimately can never satisfy. Forgive us doubting You when times are hard, questioning Your ability to lead us safely through. Forgive us for reaching out only when we have need of You, expecting You to lift us up from trouble of our own making, and set us on our feet again. You have touched our lives over and over again through Your Goodness and Mercy. Help us to come out of this Pandemic with strengthened faith and trust in You, knowing that wherever and in whatever we may find ourselves, You will never leave us, nor forsake us. Bless Your Christian Church here and everywhere; all Your children: the sheep of Your Flock. Assure us of Your goodness and mercy. Set us once more upon Your way, and help us to follow Your will, so that we may truly be Your people and You may truly be our Good Shepherd and Lord: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, Holy Trinity, One, Eternal God. AMEN.
THE LORD’S PRAYER: – OUR FATHER, WHO ART IN HEAVEN …
CLOSING HYMN (CH-388) – THE KING OF LOVE MY SHEPHERD IS, whose goodness faileth never; I nothing lack if I am His and He is mine for ever.
Where streams of living water flow my ransomed soul he leadeth, and where the verdant pastures grow with food celestial feedeth.
Perverse and foolish oft I strayed; but yet in love He sought me, and on His shoulder gently laid, and home rejoicing brought me.
In death’s dark vale I fear no ill, with Thee, dear Lord, beside me; Thy rod and staff my comfort still, Thy Cross before to guide me.
Thou spread’st a table in my sight; Thy unction grace bestoweth; and O what transport of delight from Thy pure chalice floweth!
And so through all the length of days Thy goodness faileth never; Good Shepherd, may I sing Thy praise within Thy house for ever!
MAY THE GOD OF PEACE, WHO THROUGH THE BLOOD OF THE ETERNAL COVENANT BROUGHT BACK FROM THE DEAD OUR LORD JESUS, THAT GREAT SHEPHERD OF THE SHEEP, EQUIP YOU WITH EVERYTHING GOOD FOR DOING HIS WILL, AND MAY HE WORK IN US WHAT IS PLEASING TO HIM, THROUGH JESUS CHRIST, TO WHOM BE GLORY FOR EVER AND EVER. AMEN. (Hebrews 13: 20-21)