Home Service Sunday 21st April 2024

Prayers of Approach

As a shepherd gathers the flock, so the love of God has gathered us here today. Let us celebrate the fullness of life Jesus has won for us, and place all that we are, and all that we long to be, into his hands and give thanks. Amen.

Safe in the knowledge that we are loved, we come to the Good Shepherd seeking succour for our souls. Let not the wolf snatch our thoughts and scatter them, for our minds belong to Jesus, and our hearts are open to him.
Christ the good shepherd, you call us into your fold. May we accept the challenge to call others. May we accept with gratitude all that you have done for us. May we be known as your people and serve your world.
We thank you, Lord, our good shepherd and our Saviour, that even when we go through the valley of darkness you are with us. Even when we forget you, you do not forget us. Even when we are divided among ourselves you remind us of our oneness in you. Even when we are undeserving you hold nothing back. We give you thanks with one voice and we praise you. Amen.

Hymn The king of love my shepherd is (R&S 552, MP 649)

Readings Psalm 23

1 John 3:16-24

John 10:11-18


The image of Jesus as good shepherd draws on the imagery of Psalm 23 and elsewhere, and is a familiar symbol for God/Jesus used in both the Old and New Testaments. Here, Jesus makes a contrast between the shepherd and a hired hand, and the ways in which they care for the sheep. He clearly designates himself as the good shepherd, making it no longer a symbol but an opportunity for a relationship as he knows his sheep by name.
John’s Jesus uses the familiar biblical image of the shepherd to address questions of leadership. Good leaders are more concerned with protection of those in their trust than with self-protection.

Hymn God is love; his the care (R&S 274)


The fourth Sunday of Easter is sometimes called ‘Good Shepherd Sunday’ and the readings for the day reflect the image of God as the loving shepherd and Jesus’ declaration ‘I am the good shepherd’. Psalm 23 compares God to a shepherd, a familiar figure on the middle eastern landscape for many centuries. The image is one of all-embracing care and blessing, providing food, drink, guidance, protection and victory. There is an inner sustenance too that comes from the relationship between the shepherd-like God and his flock: ‘he restores my soul’ with goodness, mercy and the fellowship experienced in worship and prayer. John’s letter commends the way of generous, self-giving love, echoing the opening words of this week’s Gospel passage. The shepherd models a practical care that embraces individual and social relationships in a world where generosity makes all the difference between starving and surviving.
Jesus’ declaration in our Gospel reading is one of the seven ‘I am…’ sayings of Jesus in John’s gospel. Together they form the heart of john’s portrayal of Jesus’ identity to which all of Jesus’ actions and teachings point. Most of us will be familiar with ‘I am the good shepherd’ but do we think about how Jesus continued after that? What were his next words? He said, ‘the good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep’. It’s a startling statement and one that is hard for us to imagine a modern shepherd doing today. And yet such actions are undertaken. I’ve recently watched a series on BBC 2 called ‘Extreme Rescues’ which followed the emergency services and volunteers of the Mountain Rescue in Eryri (Snowdonia) National Park. In one episode the mountain rescue volunteers risked their lives to rescue a sheep which had fallen down a steep slope into a hollow and was unable to climb out, and they weren’t even the hired hands!

Shepherds were very common in Jesus’ day. They were the first human witnesses to the birth of Jesus; the psalmist compares God to a shepherd; and Jesus calls himself a shepherd. Is there a similar occupation, role or image that resonates as strongly for us today? Few of us know any shepherds or much about sheep. How might Jesus have worded this passage for us today?
As we read about Jesus the good shepherd laying down his life for the sheep there is a feeling of ambivalence – Jesus laid down his life to take it up again and it becomes clear that he expects his disciples (us) to do the same. So are we now the shepherds or are we the sheep? Perhaps we shouldn’t compare ourselves only to the one or the other, perhaps we are both. The community of believers to which John addresses his letter knew both sides. The dominant theme of the letter is that believers should love one another, and ought to lay down their lives for each other. It’s not something that most people will be required to do literally, even if John does draw a comparison with Jesus. It’s about care for the needy and suggests that the demand means giving up material possessions to support those in need. The love about which he writes must not be all talk – it has to be ‘truth and action’. Only through action will others know that the love is real.

It leaves us with so many questions. What does the shepherd keep the sheep safe from? Who keeps you safe? How can we be like a good shepherd to other people? How do you experience life – both inside and outside the Church – are you a receiver or a giver of care? Which do you do by choice? Which should you be doing? What does ‘a caring community’ mean to you? What are the personal costs of being a caring community?

Hymn Jesus the Lord said (MP 384, R&S 199)

Prayers of Intercession

Jesus, good shepherd, we bring to you in our prayers those at the mercy of the wolves of violence and abuse; those scattered by prejudice and persecution; those harried by the pressures of life and their responsibilities to others; those who feel abandoned by their families and friends; those robbed of the fullness of life by illness, by poverty, by fear; those who feel excluded from the sheepfold of church or society, those on the fringes of our communities. Jesus, good shepherd, unite us, inspire us and use us to draw others to your love.

We pray for the lost sheep of this world: for politicians striving to hang onto power and influence, for leaders of the nations who have forgotten to serve the common good.
We pray for the lost sheep of this world: for those who follow the fashions and frivolities of today at the expense of tomorrow, for those who get swept along by the crowd on tides of prejudice and easy judgements.
We pray for the lost sheep of this world: for those who wander off on their own, to escape from reality, for those who are led astray, away from safety and well-being.
We pray for the lost sheep of this world: for those who take what they have for granted, for those who are unable to give thanks for the things they have. Amen.

Hymn The Lord’s my shepherd (Townend – MP 1008)


Lord, when we feel lost and confused… When we are tired by caring for others… When we’re tempted by the wolves… When we’re enjoying good pasture and rest… Help us to follow the ‘good shepherd’.

Lord, send us out like sheep who know their shepherd well, with wisdom to follow in Christ’s footsteps and obey his commands, and the power of his Spirit to guide and bless us. Amen.

Prayers and other material (adapted) © Roots for Churches Ltd. Used by permission.

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