Liturgical Colour: In most churches, the decorations are white, gold, or white and gold. White represents purity and the resurrection, while gold symbolises triumph.
The Easter Candle: The UCA, in common with other churches in recent years, has revived some ancient symbols. The Easter or Pascal candle signifies the resurrection and is lit for services throughout the Easter season until Pentecost, and again whenever there is a baptism when the candidate's candle is traditionally lit from it. In some churches it is lit for funerals to signify new life in Christ after death, and in some places it is also lit on other occasions when the Eucharist is celebrated. (by David Beswick)
The Easter Banner:
A butterfly emerging from a chrysalis is a traditional symbol of the resurrection. In our banner today we see the splendid creature in flight over the world leaving behind the signs of death and the old life from which it has come. This new life is now let loose in the world and ascends above the world. (by David Beswick)
Acts 2: 42-47
This passage gives us an idealised picture of how a group of believers should be. (There follows in the book of Acts, lots of stories which show that the early church were just as human as the rest of us!) There are four strands to this idealised behaviour. They devoted themselves to the apostles teaching; they devoted themselves to the fellowship; they devoted themselves to the breaking of bread, and they devoted themselves to prayer. (v42) There is also an overwhelming sense of the believers being in complete fellowship with one another, being totally committed to this community, which can be seen by their having all things in common. (v44)
This Psalm is well known mostly from funeral services, where it offers comfort to those bereaved by its emphasis on “dwelling in the house of the Lord forever.” (v6). Yet the image of God as a shepherd, an image often portrayed in the bible, (eg. Ezekiel 34) offers us so much more. The shepherd was with the flock constantly, no flock ever grazed without a shepherd. Often if there was little grass, the sheep would wander off, and since there were no fences, they had to be watched constantly, to ensure they came to no harm. This too is how God deals with us.
Reflection (Kate Huey) Often associated with funerals, Psalm 23 sings of God's tender care throughout life just as much as it provides comfort in death: we are loved and cared for by a tender, attentive shepherd who sets a feast before us, anticipating all our needs. Our job? Simply to trust the Giver. We read this text right in the middle of the Easter season, after a long season of Lent. In the light of the empty tomb, we're still mindful of the valley of the shadow of death. For humans, the tomb is a place of death and hopelessness. But for Christians, the "empty" part promises resurrection and hope, and new life triumphing in the end. Perhaps, then, this psalm is so loved precisely because it doesn't paint a rosy picture of reality. It comes and meets us where we live. Walter Brueggemann says, "God's friendliness and kindness will run after me and chase me down, grab me and hold me....We are being chased by God's powerful love." What an incredible turnaround for all of us who think WE are seeking GOD! As if it were up to us, all up to us. And God has been with us all along, the psalmist's song assures us.
1 Peter 2: 19-25
Again the image of the shepherd is focused on at the end of this passage. (V25) Once more people are being compared to sheep who have gone astray, but who have the possibility of being reunited with the shepherd, who is also the “guardian of our souls” (v25). He is the one who knows what is best for us, he is the only one who can set our lives on the right paths.
John 10: 1-10
This picture of shepherd continues into the New Testament where Jesus is portrayed as the “Good Shepherd.” He is the one who will stay with the sheep, and even further, he is the one who will lay down his own life to save his flock. Jesus then continues to say that he is “the gate for the sheep.” (v7). Before Jesus, God was thought to be distant, someone to fear. So Jesus came to open the way to God, he is the door through which we can enter into a relationship with God.
In Psalm 23 the beauty of reassurance, even in the face of hard times, is really beyond words. What does it mean that we will not want as we are cared for by this Shepherd? Obviously it doesn’t mean that there will be no troubles in life for us, given what follows, but that what we need when we enter hard times is there for us in the holy Shepherd. Jesus echoes the psalm in many ways as the gates of green pastures and life with this Shepherd are opened to us. All we need to do is walk through them and be loved and nurtured by the Christ. So, why wouldn’t we do this? Are we not sure what lies within the pastures of our God? Obviously it is not a place where we simply lie down and eat and sleep. Nevertheless, all that we need lies within.
John 10: Jesus, the good shepherd; John 10.10 – I have come to bring you life, and life in all its abundance
Acts 2: 42-47 In a culture where many of us equate absolute individualism with the goodness of life, this strong, abundant image of early Christian community seems a remote and shocking possibility. Do you believe that religious community requires devotion? What individual and collective behaviours create abundant life? Throughout the nation and world there are religious communities trying to incarnate the commitments in this reading; could you talk about two or three of them this Sunday? How would the leaders of your congregation respond if they were asked "what are the crucial ingredients of Christian community?" Has anything ever claimed your loyalty enough that you have been willing to collectively "pool" your economic resources for the good of all? How do we as preachers participate in shaping a people who "have the goodwill of all the people" at the centre of our commitments (v. 47)?
O God, whose Son Jesus is the good shepherd of your people: Grant that when we hear his voice we may know him who calls us each by name, and follow where he leads; who, with you and the Holy Spirit, lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever. AMEN.
God of all power, you called Jesus from death, the great shepherd of the sheep. Send us as shepherds to rescue the lost, to heal the injured, and to feed one another with knowledge and understanding; through your Son, Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. AMEN.
Lord Jesus, you come as the Good Shepherd to call us into the security of your flock: help us in the midst of the noise around us to hear you and recognize your voice and be assured of your loving care: we ask in your name. Amen Jennie Gordon
O God of life, You are the One who comes to us out of the mystery, who walks with us, unrecognised, as the stranger on our road; who speaks to our bewilderment and grief, our need for company and compassion.
As we celebrate Christ’s risen presence among us today we pray that you would open to us the Scripture‚s message. Talk to us we journey along life’s way, meet us as we fellowship with one another, and so move in us that we may claim all your promises as our own. Open our eyes and quicken our hearts, we ask it in Jesus‚ name. AMEN.
Christ Jesus is the way to life. It may not be a life of endless rest and recreation, but, within its boundaries, the voice of Christ calls to us in love.
There we will be renewed and nurtured.
There we will find all that we need, and be embraced by the care of God discovering a home in which lies all that we need. Christ’s church may be part of that sanctuary, restoring our lives and preparing us to live
as the people who follow the way of the Christ.
Words for Worship, adapted
Call to worship
Day by day, God leads us:
to the deep, deep pools of peace, to the green,lush lawns of grace. Day by day, Jesus calls us:
to pour out ourselves in service, to anoint the stranger with hope. Day by day, the Holy Spirit shows us:
the community we could be, the family we are called to become.
Prayer of approach
God of teeming galaxies and the great empty freeways of space,
we approach you with loving awe.
God of mother earth, of sunlit mountains and moonlit deserts,
we approach you with loving awe.
God of countless millennia and the rise and fall of cultures and empires,
we approach you with loving awe.
God of incarnation and redemption, of the dying and rising Christ,
we approach you with loving awe.
As we gather here to worship you,
open our minds to your truth,
our souls to your beauty,
and our hearts to your grace.
Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen
(by Bruce D. Prewer, Easter 4A 2002)
Prayer of adoration
Eternal God, the source of all beauty and goodness and love, we come together to worship you. We are tiny people set in your vast and wonderful universe, too absorbed by the transitory things in life. But today in this holy place we turn to you, to your eternity and greatness. Widen our horizons, deepen our experience, and carry us out of ourselves; for in you alone is found and peace and salvation. Amen.
(by Rev. Anne Paton, East Kilbride Old Parish Church, Scotland.)
Prayer of Thanksgiving
We thank you for being a God who, throughout the ages, is presented to us as a Good Shepherd, one who creates a safe haven for the vulnerability of our lives.
We thank you for showing us, in Jesus, the one who can be trusted and who offers us the gateway to love.
Thanks be to you, O God. Amen.
Words for worship.
Prayer of Thanksgiving (Trinitarian)
Lord our God, with men and women across the centuries we celebrate you as Shepherd of your people. You gave us your law to guide us in your way, and you gave us prophets, priests and kings to be our earthly leaders. We rejoice that you confirmed your loving care in the gift of your Son, truly the Good Shepherd of your flock, laying down his life for us all. You, our Father, are blessed forever and ever.
We celebrate you Lord Jesus for your voice calls us to belong to you. You provide us with living water and lead us where nourishment is to be found. Against all the marauding forces of life and death you shelter us, and give us the assurance that you will be with us always.
You, Lord Jesus Christ, are blessed forever and ever.
We celebrate you, Spirit of God, reminding us through the Scriptures of the gift of Jesus to us and with us. You reinforce his presence with us and guide us in the way of Christ: may we truly follow where he leads and display his love in all our dealings with others.
Holy Spirit, you are blessed for ever and ever.
Prayer of thanksgiving
We praise you, O God, for giving shape and meaning to the ancient image of yourself as shepherd through the person of Jesus Christ. In him, your compassion has been revealed in the human face of love. Through Jesus’ persistence even to death - in seeking and saving the lost - your goodness and mercy has been abundantly experienced. His ongoing life continues to guide and lead us in paths of righteousness.
Prayer of confession
Forgive us, O God, for the times when we fail to reach out and accompany those who are going through difficult times;
those who feel imprisoned in a valley of shadows and find themselves overwhelmed by life.
Jesus, good shepherd, help us to take the time and make the space to hear your call to us. The call to reveal your love, compassion and comfort wherever you need us to bind up the wounds of the victims of today’s society.
Jesus, good shepherd, help us to take the time and make the space to hear your call to us. The call to reveal in tangible and authentic ways, your passion for those who feel powerless to make any changes for good in their lives.
Jesus, good shepherd, help us to take the time and make the space to hear your call to us. The call to empty ourselves of all that is contrary to your life within us so that your goodness and mercies are enjoyed not as rewards to be hoarded but
as gifts to be shared. In your name, we pray. Amen
Prayers of confession
Gracious God, help us to live in love and charity with others,
and, as we ask for your forgiveness, enable us to be forgiving.
Take from our lives the hidden grudges and concealed hate.
that we have sung with our lips what we have not had the courage to practice in our lives.
Forgive our sins, comfort our sorrows, calm our fears, and take from us every proud thought. So fill us with love and concern for others, and make us ready to help and quick to forgive.
We thank you for every good thing in our lives
for home and friends and family;
for all the beauty and loveliness in the world about us
which has lifted our hearts and made us glad;
for life itself with all its promise and possibility.
We thank you that in every great experience of life, when it seemed as if we were passing through water and fire
we are not alone, but you were there as companion and friend.
We thank you that we are yours, created for your glory;
that you have called us all by name, that through Jesus Christ, the great Shepherd of the sheep, who lived and died and rose again for us, you have redeemed us; and that your love will never finally let us go, or ultimately give us up.
We thank you that so often you have come to us in the ordinary and everyday things of life, in our work and in our leisure . Help us there to seek you and find you and serve you,
as in Christ you have sought and found and served us.
We ask it for his sake, Amen.
(Companion to the Lectionary, Volume 3. by Neil Dixon p. 96-97)
Prayer of confession
Lord have mercy, because in the midst of our lives so many demands are made on our attention and so many voices are asking to be heard. Help us focus surely on you.
Christ have mercy, for you call us all into your fellowship as the flock of the Good Shepherd, to share your loving concern for and with others, and we are reluctant to follow.
Lord have mercy, for we are surrounded by signs of tragedy, disaster and evil around us; help us in spite of this to rejoice in all the signs of goodwill, loving concern and the forgiveness of wrong which also abound. We ask in your name Lord Jesus Christ who with the Father and the Holy Spirit is blessed forever and ever. Amen
O God, bring new life, where we are worn and tired;
new love, where we have turned hard hearted;
forgiveness, where we have wounded,
and the joy and freedom of your holy spirit,
where we are the prisoners of our selves.
Rex A E Hunt
Prayer for illumination
God, in whom we find life, health, and strength, through Your gifts we are clothed and fed. Through Your love in baptism we have been forgiven and cleansed. As we read your Scriptures today, be for us our Guide, Strength, Saviour and Lord. Forever in Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen
Contemporary reflection (gospel)
Imagine what else would change today
if we dared demand it of love.
If we didn’t stop where the rules ended,
were no longer bound by common sense
or right and wrong
or justice and fairness
and who deserves what.
If we expected life for all
Cheryl Lawrie: hold this space blog
Affirmation of faith (based on Psalm 23, John 10)
"THIS I BELIEVE"
I believe I need a shepherd.
Because I am sometimes timid and other times overconfident,
because I often don't know the best path yet pretend I do,
because I rush into dead ends or lead others into hazardous places,
Take what we have brought in our gifts and put them into the sheepfold of love and justice, Jesus Christ.
Help us to see where that lies, so that our offering can be part of your kindness, we pray. Amen.
Words for worship
Jesus, Good Shepherd, we thank you for the ways in which you have enfolded us in your love and called us by name to follow you. May these gifts and our lives offered in your name, be used to enfold others in
your love. Amen Moira Laidlaw
We give thanks to God for our life and the courage we are given to live it.
Let our gratitude for life be expressed in our generosity.
Let our faith be expressed in good causes.
Let our belief in the future find full expression
in our daily attitude of mind. (FMacnab/fwb)
We bring our lives and gifts to You as a sign of our new life and new hope in You. May all that we say, and all that we do, be in response to Your love in Christ. For Christ is risen! [HE IS RISEN INDEED!] Abide in us now and always, Lord Jesus. AMEN.
We thank you, O God for watching over us and for supplying our needs according to the abundance of your grace. Receive, we pray, with these tithes and offerings, our love and our devotion, and use them and us for the sake of your eternal glory and the advancement of your kingdom both here and now, and in the world to come. AMEN. (by Richard Fairchild, Easter 4A 2002)
Prayers of intercession
Gracious Christ, may we be as welcoming as you are
to those who hesitate in anxiety before the doors of our sanctuaries, feeling that they may not be good enough to enter or may face rejection from those inside. May we be your people of humility and openness, so that all who come experience a glimpse of you. Reveal to us your ways of nourishing life, O Christ, as we try to build relationships with each other which bring gifts of affirmation and encouragement. Every time we meet together, may we feel as though we are gathered into grace and given a place of rest and renewal. Open the doors of this, your house, Jesus Christ, and help us to see with your eyes what lies outside and to hear the trembling hopes of vulnerable people.
We pray now for these we have heard:
The people pray…..
Show us now how to be true shepherds for the community around us, we pray. For we would follow you, O Christ, our shepherd. Amen.
Words for worship
Prayers of intercession
Prayer of intercession
Lord, we ask For the courage of the Good Shepherd, Who lays down his life for his sheep. We pray for those prepared to suffer And even to die For what they believe in.
We pray for those whose lives And rights are sacrificed In the name of power and greed.
We pray for those who risk themselves By accompanying others Along paths of deep suffering, Through valleys of fear and despair.
(Companion to the Lectionary, Volume 3 by Neil Dixon p96/97)
Lord we ask For the compassion of the good shepherd Who leads his sheep to safe pasture. We pray for those who work To feed and shelter and educate The poor peoples of our world.
We pray for those skilled At nursing and healing Those who are suffering or ill In body, mind or spirit.
We pray for those who care, For the victims of our society, Those unable to cope with life, The neglected, the abused.
Lord, we ask For the love of the Good Shepherd Who knows his sheep by name We pray for our church For minister and office bearers, For its preachers and teachers And all engaged in pastoral care.
We pray for those we know, relatives or friends who are facing difficult times. (Silence)We pray for ourselves That we might hear the call From our Good Shepherd And follow his way of love. We make all our prayers in Christ’s name. AMEN (Companion to the Lectionary Volume 4 by Christine Odell)