Uniting Church Sketty ‘Worship from Home’ for Sunday 3rd May 2020
We are very grateful to Rev Pam Cram who has prepared these thoughts for us.
During lockdown, these sheets have
been going to the congregations of both Sketty and Clydach. In order to reflect a more ‘normal’ preaching
pattern (ie not me every week!), I have asked our retired ministers based in
and known to both of those congregations if they would like to prepare a
‘Worship from Home’ sheet. I’m very glad
that they said ‘yes’! Leslie
Glory to God, creator of heaven and earth, who has made all things living.
Glory to God, Father of all mercies, who has given his only-begotten son to be our Redeemer.
Glory to God, fire of holy love, who for our sanctification has poured forth his life-giving Spirit.
John Hamilton (1512-1571) from Prayer Handbook 2019-20 Day 3
In recent weeks we’ve been thinking of Jesus coming to the disciples through locked doors, as they were hiding in fear and confusion.
Today’s Gospel reading is about gates and gatekeeping. The protection of those who are vulnerable, and their access to provisions, are key features. Does that ‘ring bells’ at the moment. Our garden gates our boundaries between ourselves and the world in a way never experienced before. Going beyond our gate brings a hidden element of risk, but we need food and medicines, and as humans we also need exercise and relationship.
Jesus, the gate and the gatekeeper in the Gospel, is also the Good Shepherd of the 23rd psalm.
Reading from the Old Testament: Psalm 23
Hymn: StF 248 I heard the voice of Jesus say
Gospel Reading: John 10:1-10
Those who first listened to Jesus would have had two different pictures of sheep-folds in their minds. The first would have been the communal sheepfold in the village — a solid structure with a strong gate and a gatekeeper. Several flocks would be kept together over night. The gatekeeper would only allow entrance to a shepherd who was known to him, whose voice was familiar to himself and at least some of the sheep.
The other picture would be of the sheepfold used when the flocks were too far from the village to come back for the night — an open enclosure with no gate, just an opening, often made of rough stones with a layer of thorn brush along the top. At night, after the sheep were in, the shepherd would lie down in the doorway. He became the gate. There was no legitimate access to the sheepfold except through him. In our reading from John’s Gospel Jesus refers to both these images. He refers to the true shepherd entering by the door, past the gatekeeper; and he refers to himself as the gate, the one who lays himself down that the sheep may be kept safely until the day comes and they can safely graze.
Gates come in many shapes and kinds. Sometimes they exclude to keep the group safe, and sometimes they admit, depending on issues of need and trust. Lately we’ve had to exclude people from our homes for our own safety. All of us have had to become our own ‘gatekeepers’, deciding what level of risk is acceptable, after checking the advice being given and weighing up who and what we feel we can trust.
Jesus lays himself down, risking all, that we may come and go freely, and enjoy abundant life in company with Him.
- Take a moment to think about your own door or gate, and its significance during this period of isolation. Think about who or what you trust, and who or what scares you.
- Reflect on ‘I am the Good Shepherd’
A time of prayer
The current crisis has brought out the best and the worst in humanity:
- Give thanks for those who are offering help in so many ways to those in need; and pray for those who in their fear have acted less generously.
- Give thanks for all the ‘key workers’ who have worked tirelessly in medical and care sectors; Local Authority and community teams; production and distribution; and pray for those now idle, anxious, and depressed due to the closures.
- Give thanks for positive voices, encouraging and nurturing others; and pray for those whose voices bring ‘fake’ advice and false testimony.
Good Shepherd of the sheep, by whom the lost are sought and guided into the fold:
feed us and we shall be satisfied;
heal us and we shall be made whole
and lead us, that we may be with you;
for you are alive and reign, with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen;
Collect for Fourth Sunday of Easter from Methodist Worship book.
The Lord’s Prayer
A closing prayer
I come into your sheep-fold this day, to find the rest I need. When the new day comes, I will follow you through green pastures and beside still waters. May your goodness and mercy follow me all the days of my life. Amen