Sunday, 3 May 2020

‘I came that they may have life,
and have it abundantly’

Christ as the Good Shepherd … a window in Saint Ailbe’s Church in Emly, Co Tipperary (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

Patrick Comerford

Sunday, 3 May 2020, the Fourth Sunday of Easter.


9.30: The Parish Eucharist, Saint Mary’s Church, Askeaton, Co Limerick

11.30: Morning Prayer, Saint Brendan’s Church, Kilnaughtin, Co Kerry

The Readings: Acts 2: 42-47; Psalm 23; I Peter 2: 19-25; John 10: 1-10.

There is a link to the readings HERE.

Christ the Good Shepherd, with the Virgin Mary and Saint John the Baptist on each side … a stained-glass window in Saint Mary’s Church, Lichfield. The words below Christ read ‘Pastor Bonus’ … ‘The Good Shepherd’; the words on Saint John's scroll read ‘Ecce Agnus Dei’ … ‘This is the Lamb of God’ (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

Christ is risen!
The Lord is risen indeed. Alleluia!

A great conductor was once asked which instrument he thought the most difficult to play in the orchestra.

‘Second fiddle,’ he replied without hesitation.

He was a leader who knew how important ever individual player is, but also how important it is to provide appropriate leadership so that all can play together and to their full potential.

Do you ever wonder which is more difficult: to be a leader or to be a follower?

Being a good shepherd is not an easy task. It means taking care of difficult and often dirty animals, that can be wayward and wilful, that are easy prey and that often fail to reach their potential value.

There is a paradox in Christ being both the Lamb of God and the Good Shepherd. He understands what it is to lead, yet he is obedient to his Father.

The first Christians Saint Peter is writing to in our epistle reading (I Peter 2: 19-25) were often seen as second fiddles, as socially inferior, by their pagan neighbours, and they suffered regularly for their beliefs and how they put those beliefs into practice.

Yet, in their isolation, as they endured their sufferings, God notices them and cares for them in their endurances. The writer compares the sufferings of these early Christians with the sufferings of Christ, and he quotes from the ‘Servant Songs’ of Isaiah in which the Suffering Servant is abused as he faces suffering and death, yet entrusted himself to God, ‘the one who judges justly.’

Even when we have gone astray, when we feel marginalised, isolated or when others see us as ‘second fiddles,’ God cares for us as the Good Shepherd, as the guardian of our souls.

In following in his paths faithfully, the Psalm promises, we shall find that goodness and loving mercy shall follow us all the days of our lives, and dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.

But what is it to dwell in the house of the Lord for ever?
The reading from the Acts of the Apostles (Acts 2: 42-47) provides an image of how the Early Church tried to live this out in sacrament, in word and in deed, in their prayer life and in their lifestyle.

After Pentecost, the newly-baptised Christians who join the church do not return to the Upper Room, and try to cramp in, returning to the old days of fear and isolation.

Instead, they continue daily to hear the Apostles’ teaching, joining in fellowship, the breaking of bread, and to pray together – just as we do at the Eucharist.

They live out that shared belief in their daily lives, sharing all things in common, and distributing their surplus wealth to all who are needy, ‘with glad and generous hearts.’ And, we are told, the Lord added new members to the Church each day.

When these days of isolation and fear are over, when the Covid-19 pandemic abates, let us rejoice in the opportunities to show our ‘glad and generous hearts’ with one another, in the Church, in our community, and in this country. For throughout our sufferings, the Lord is our shepherd. And he came that we ‘may have life, and have it abundantly.’

Christ is risen!
The Lord is risen indeed. Alleluia!

Christ as the Good Shepherd … a mosaic in the Mausoleum of Galla Placidia in Ravenna (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

John 10: 1-10 (NRSVA):

[Jesus said:] 1 ‘Very truly, I tell you, anyone who does not enter the sheepfold by the gate but climbs in by another way is a thief and a bandit. 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 hear his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 4 When he has brought out all his own, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice. 5 They will not follow a stranger, but they will run from him because they do not know the voice of strangers.’ 6 Jesus used this figure of speech with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them.

7 So again Jesus said to them, ‘Very truly, I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. 8 All who came before me are thieves and bandits; but the sheep did not listen to them. 9 I am the gate. Whoever enters by me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture. 10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.’

‘The shepherd and guardian of your souls’ (I Peter 2: 25) … a stained glass window in All Saints’ Church, Mullingar, Co Westmeath (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Liturgical Colour: White

The Greeting:

Christ is risen!
The Lord is risen indeed. Alleluia!

Penitential Kyries:

Lord God,
you raised your Son from the dead.
Lord, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.

Lord Jesus,
through you we are more than conquerors.
Christ, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy.

Holy Spirit,
you help us in our weakness.
Lord, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.

The Collect of the Day:

Almighty God,
whose Son Jesus Christ is the resurrection and the life:
Raise us, who trust in him,
from the death of sin to the life of righteousness,
that we may seek those things which are above,
where he reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

Introduction to the Peace:

The risen Christ came and stood among his disciples and said,
Peace be with you.
Then were they glad when they saw the Lord. (John 20: 19, 20).

Preface:

Above all we praise you
for the glorious resurrection of your Son
Jesus Christ our Lord,
the true paschal lamb who was sacrificed for us;
by dying he destroyed our death;
by rising he restored our life:

The Post-Communion Prayer:

Merciful Father,
you gave your Son Jesus Christ to be the good shepherd,
and in his love for us to lay down his life and rise again.
Keep us always under his protection,
and give us grace to follow in his steps;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Blessing:

The God of peace,
who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus
that great shepherd of the sheep,
through the blood of the eternal covenant,
make you perfect in every good work to do his will,
working in you that which is well-pleasing in his sight:

Dismissal::

Go in the peace of the Risen Christ. Alleluia! Alleluia!
Thanks be to God. Alleluia! Alleluia!

The Good Shepherd … the Hewson Memorial Window in Saint Mary’s Church, Askeaton, Co Limerick (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Hymns:

Opening: 336, Jesus, where’er thy people meet
For Psalm: 21, The Lord’s my shepherd; I’ll not want (for the Psalm)
Gradual: 614, Great Shepherd of your people, hear
Offertory: 438, O thou, who at thy Eucharist didst pray
Post-Communion: 306, O Spirit of the living God

Christ the Good Shepherd … a window in Christ Church, Leamonsley, Lichfield (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

This sermon was prepared for Sunday 3 May 2020, the Fourth Sunday of Easter (Easter IV), but was part of a celebration of the Eucharist in Saint Mary’s Rectory, Askeaton, Co Limerick.

Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicised Edition copyright © 1989, 1995, National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. http://nrsvbibles.org

Material from the Book of Common Prayer is copyright © 2004, Representative Body of the Church of Ireland.

The Good Shepherd Window in Saint Mary’s Church, Lichfield (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

No comments: