Sermon St Mary Sunday 11am 30 April 2023 Year A Easter 4
Acts 2.42-47 Responsory ‘Easter Anthem’ 1 Peter 2v19-25 John 10 v1-10
Let us Pray;
As we continue through the joy of this Easter season, just a few words from me this morning, starting with the words from the end of Acts chapter 2 which I believe are so pertinent at this time, “They devoted themselves to the apostle’s teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers”. That is one of my favourite scripture verses as it describes how the Church should function; just as we are this morning as we gather together to ‘remember him’. It also reminds us that we form part of an unending line of witness to the truth of the Gospel, a witness that goes back to the very time of the victory of the resurrection itself.
Our prayers need to cry out to God that as with the apostle’s of that time of the fledgling Church, once again the Church may have the goodwill of all the people, for today we see such antagonism from many quarters. And how wonderful it would be if we saw again ‘the Lord adding daily to our number those who are being saved’. Pray that we may see this Church, and all our Churches, filled as in past years with people praising and thanking God. That the Holy Spirit will again come to this nation in revival power and transform our values to those of the scriptures.
We heard Peter write in his epistle, “For you were going astray like sheep, but now you have returned to the shepherd and guardian of your souls”. Let us give thanks for God’s grace that is indeed true for us, but how much we need to see that also become true for the people of this, and every land, as the time of our Lord’s return becomes ever nearer. Saint Luke (18v8) tells us that Jesus asked the question “when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?” What will be the answer to his question? Principally the answer depends on us, how His Church responds.
One of the often used pictures of God throughout the scripture is that of a shepherd. Psalm 23 immediately comes to mind, “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want”.
But Jesus also takes up that picture and applies it to himself as we read in our Gospel, describing himself as ‘the Good Shepherd’, a term he uses three times in just a few verses. For us as believers that term ‘Good Shepherd’ is a comforting thought as we think of the care that our earthly shepherds devote to their flocks.
Jesus calls us ‘his own’, we are his own sheep, and wonderfully he calls us each by our name for he knows us so intimately. As our ‘Good Shepherd’ Jesus is also there to lead us, his desire for each one of us is that we hear his voice and then to follow after him. In Jesus day, the shepherd always went before the flock to lead them, they followed because they recognized his voice and his alone. How we need to tune our ears and our spirits, tune them to hear and recognize Jesus voice from among all the distracting noise that surrounds us in this chaotic and bustling society we now find ourselves living in.
Jesus then concludes his short discourse with one of the most wonderful and powerful of promises within the scriptures, a promise for an experience that should transform our lives and set us apart as God’s special people. He reminds us of why he Jesus came and endured the agony of the cross, why he rose triumphant from the grave, as he says “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly”.
Some translations say “so they may have life in all its fullness”. That fullness of life is why God the Father sent his beloved Son to die on Calvary’s tree. A fullness that we experience when we have become reconciled to our Holy God and Father through putting our faith and trust in the Lord Jesus. We can then walk in communion with God as we read Adam and Eve did in the coolness of the garden. We can experience the intimacy of the life that God intended for each one of us even from before the very beginning of creation.
Is that not something to give great thanks and praise for this Easter time?
Let us pray: The shorter Collect for this fourth Sunday of Easter.
Risen Lord Jesus, faithful shepherd of your Father’s sheep:
teach us to hear your voice and to follow your command,
that all your people may be gathered into one flock,
to the glory of God the Father.Amen