On Sunday May 7th I led worship at Pannal Chapel. Before I started a prayer for peace was said and a candle lit. We began worship by reading Psalm 23 responsively before we sang, ‘In heavenly love abiding.’ I led the opening prayers and the Lord’s Prayer. John 10.1-10 was read before I talked to the children.
I talked about hearing and listening properly with a radio as an illustration. Do we really listen to radio or is it just on? I listen more intently to speech channels like radio 4, whereas my beloved listens more intently to Radio 3 or music CDs. Piper, who has excellent but selective hearing, in his bids to escape, wilfully ignores my call if he is intent on pursuit of a scent. Jesus is the Good Shepherd and he calls us and knows us by name, but do we always listen to him? Is it more exciting to do something wrong, rather than listen to his voice? Jesus is patient and has his crook to reach out and pull us back out of trouble. Let us listen to our friend Jesus so we can become the people He knows we can be.
We sang the song of fellowship ‘Father I place into your hands’ before I said the blessing to the children going to their classes. Acts 2.42-47 was read and a dramatised reading on 1 Peter2. 19-25 before we sang ‘I know that my Redeemer lives’. I was very grateful to the congregation for doing the readings, as I was concerned my voice would not hold out for the service; I had a very sore throat, but I managed as I drank copious water and did not sing the hymns!
I began preaching by sharing a Native American translation of Psalm 23; with phrases such as; The Great Spirit above is a Shepherd chief; I am His and with Him I want not. He throws me a rope and the name of the rope is love; and He draws me tenderly to where the grass is green, and the water not dangerous, and I eat and lie down satisfied. There are many things in the world which make us ask God, why there should be hunger and hatred, violence and death, illness and pain. In 1 Peter 2 he explained that we suffer as Jesus suffered and died on the cross. He said that Jesus came to love and serve us, to reveal God’s love to us as he saw us as sheep that had lost our way; He brought us back to follow the shepherd and keeper of our souls. Christians whether slave or free are to follow the example of Jesus as they are under the care of the Shepherd and must act as he did. Undeserved suffering must be quietly endured. In Acts the characteristics of the early church were that they learnt from the apostles, shared fellowship and prayed together. Their shining faith in the risen Lord made them a worshipping, caring and sharing group and many new people came to know Jesus and joined the community of faith.
A shepherd’s life was very hard as he was never off duty; there was very little grass and no boundary walls, so sheep were bound to wander. He also had to protect the flock against wild animals like wolves and also thieves and robbers who were ready to steal the sheep. God was often pictured as a shepherd in the Old Testament and the people as his flock in a number of psalms and the prophets.
The Palestinian shepherd had a sling with stones and a staff to defend himself and the sheep from marauding beasts and robbers. His rod was like a crook so he could catch and pull back any sheep moving to stray away. The Shepherd went in front to see if the path was safe and the sheep followed. The sheep know and understand the eastern shepherd’s voice and they will never answer to the voice of a stranger. The true shepherd leads his sheep out to pasture and they follow because they know his voice. Jesus warned his listeners that those who climbed into the sheepfold but did not go through the door were not to be trusted. When the door is opened by the keeper the shepherd calls his sheep out and they follow him, because they know his voice. Jesus knew his sheep by name; he knows us by name and calls us to follow him. We need to listen to his voice and respond and follow him and not be led astray.
Jesus also called himself the gate. When the sheep were on the hills in the warm season they did not return at night to their villages and the more secure folds, but were collected in sheepfolds on the hillside. The sheepfolds are stone enclosures with one opening to come into and go out of and no gate; the shepherd would lie down at the gateway to be the gate, so no sheep could get in or out without going over his body. Jesus said that he opened the way to God as the gate, when he came to show people what God was like. Jesus came to bring fully abundant life of peace and love. When we walk with Jesus our lives are enriched everyday as we listen to his voice.
We sang, ‘Christ is alive! Let Christians sing’ before I led the prayers of intercession. Worship concluded when we sang ‘The King of love my shepherd is.’