Sunday April 25th 2021 

A warm welcome to worship.  The intimations are at the end of the service.  Let us worship God.

 

Hymn 132 Immortal, invisible, God only wise

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4oGuGzCFEWI

 

Prayers of Approach and Confession (by Gwen)

 

Give thanks to the Lord

 

Rejoice and praise his name.

 

Let us praise him for all the wonderful things he has done for us.

 

He has given us this beautiful world to look after and enjoy.

 

He has provided for our every need. He gives us food, shelter, companionship and health. He is our guide and Shepherd.

 

He supplies the seasons and weather which allow us to grow food for our table with enough to share: to also colour our world with flowers to raise our spirits and gladden our hearts.

 

Yet rarely do we acknowledge the hand of God in our endeavours or look after our wider world and the resources the world supplies. We take more than our share and others have less, or have to do without, as resources are stretched or running out.

 

Forgive us Lord; make us kinder, show us how to share and open our eyes to see where we can make a difference. And together we further pray saying - -

 

“Our Father” - - - - - - - -

 

Hymn 462 The King of love

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nWfZ-8s71-k

 

Reading: Psalm 23

 

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.

2 He makes me lie down in green pastures;

he leads me beside still waters;   

he restores my soul.

3 He leads me in right paths

    for his name’s sake.

4 Even though I walk through the darkest valley,

    I fear no evil;

for you are with me;

    your rod and your staff—

    they comfort me.

5 You prepare a table before me

    in the presence of my enemies;

you anoint my head with oil;

    my cup overflows.

6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me

    all the days of my life,

and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord

    forever.

 

John 10:11-18

11 “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 12 The hired hand, who is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and runs away—and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. 13 The hired hand runs away because a hired hand does not care for the sheep. 14 I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father. And I lay down my life for the sheep. 16 I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd. 17 For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life in order to take it up again. 18 No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it up again. I have received this command from my Father.”

Anthem:  The Lord is my Shepherd, Howard Goodall

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yLxdb3ov-zE

 

Reflections

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen

Psalm 23 is probably the best known and most well-loved of all the Psalms. But reading it today in the light of Covid, I began to see it in a slightly different way.  The Psalm paints a picture of God as the Good Shepherd providing for our every need, an idea encapsulated in verse 2,  “He makes me lie down in green pastures; he leads me beside the still waters, he restores my soul.”

The yearning for “green pastures” has been a human aspiration since the days of the Psalmist and indeed long before that.  But I’ve been interested to see in the news recently that one of the consequences of Covid has been a desire in people to escape from the towns and cities and head for the countryside.  This isn’t just for a day out or a holiday--- many people, it seems, are actually looking to move to the countryside on a permanent basis.  While towns and cities are apparently considered good places to make money and to spend it---places to work, have some retail therapy and go to the cinema---, when all these things have been taken away from you by Covid, and you spend all day staring out of the window of a high-rise flat onto empty streets and shuttered shops,  the allure of the city loses its appeal.

The countryside, on the other hand, still offers what it has always promised.  The rivers still flow, the trees still burst into leaves, the grass still grows.  Fresh air fills the lungs and---at least occasionally---the sun bathes the landscape. The green pastures and the quiet waters of the Psalm remain the world we wish to recover and return to, and I suppose that is a major stimulus for environmental activists, who fear that this idyllic landscape may soon be destroyed by human mismanagement.

In a strange sort of way, the Covid epidemic has given us intriguing signs of just how much human beings have displaced nature.  I’ve found it very interesting, for example, to see all those pictures from around the world showing wild animals wandering the deserted streets of towns and cities, the goats of Llandudno being one of the famous examples in Britain.  When the pressure of human activity is temporarily removed, we see the natural world burst free again to remind us how much damage we have done.

And this is not merely an aesthetic or emotional thing: as the Psalmist clearly understood, it is also a psychological and a spiritual thing.  It is about restoring our souls.  Scientists have shown pretty clearly that, even on a basic subconscious level, colours affect our psychological and mental well-being.  It turns out that people’s whole mood and outlook can be affected by the colours they see around them.  So, while grey is depressing, green is soothing and restorative, and it seems that, all things being equal, people who can regularly experience the greenery of nature feel happier and healthier than people who see nothing but the brutal concrete and glass of big cities.

The Bible writers clearly did not need science to tell them all this, and they had the insight to go one step further.  They recognised that our souls need their own version of green pastures and still waters, spiritual places where we can recuperate from the assaults of life, meditate on what it all means, and restore our mental and spiritual balance.

But although moving house from the city to the country might be relatively easy, at least for people with the money to do so, the Bible writers make clear that finding the green pastures of the soul is an altogether more difficult thing. We may without too much difficulty understand the science behind Greta Thunberg’s environmental campaigning, but charting a way forward through a degraded spiritual environment is another matter entirely.

And I suppose at least part of the reason for that, is that improving our natural environment is mostly about what happens out there in the world around us.  But improving the spiritual environment of our souls is something that must happen inside ourselves.  And human experience from the earliest days of the Bible up to now suggests that finding the green pastures of the spirit has been one of the great challenges of life.  The Book of Genesis tells in a poetic way how Adam and Eve by their own actions lost the green pastures they had been given, and the Bible writers were quite convinced that human beings on their own could never find their way back to that lost spiritual Eden.  Like sheep that have gone astray, people need help to get back home. They need, in fact, a Good Shepherd.

Every image in Psalm 23 reminds us that we need that guidance from a higher source to rediscover the green pastures and quiet waters that we long for, and that is exactly what Jesus is promising when he offers himself to the world as its Good Shepherd.  As the Good Shepherd, Jesus promises to help us find the path back to the world we have lost.

It is not an easy journey, either for Jesus or for us.  For him it ultimately meant death upon the Cross.  For us, it requires a willingness to follow the way he has opened for us even when the world presses us to wander off towards its own dead ends.  If the environmentalists remind us of how badly we have gone astray in our relationship with Nature, Jesus reminds us of how far away our souls have strayed from a proper relationship with God. 

But in both spheres we may hope and believe that green pastures and quiet waters may yet be found, if we are willing to follow the path that leads to them. 

As we anticipate celebrating the sacrament of communion, this week or next, we may take it as another reminder that we share in the promise that has been made to us all that through Jesus we are indeed guided by the greatest of Good Shepherds. 

Amen.

Hymn 461 How sweet the name of Jesus sounds

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AFiYere5NYw

Prayer of Thanksgiving and Intercession (by Gwen)

Jesus said: ‘I am the good shepherd’ and so we pray:

Good Shepherd, watch over us today in all we face and experience.

Never leave us or forsake us and journey with us always.

Lord in your mercy, Hear our prayer.

Good Shepherd, you know us as no-one else knows us.

Guard us and keep us,

As you guard and keep those whom we love.

Good Shepherd, we pray for the sick and the lonely;

For the anxious and the bereaved; for those whose pain is beyond our comprehension. We pray especially for those we name in the silence of our hearts now - - - - - - - -

We stand with them and commend them to your care.

Lord in your mercy, Hear our prayer.

Good Shepherd, we pray for the carers in hospitals and in homes and for all who serve the needs of others.

May the example of living compassion inspire us in our care for others.

Lord in your mercy, Hear our prayer.

Good Shepherd, you know us by our name and our identity is not hidden from you. You know the depths of our heart and the fears which are ours.

Speak into the depths of our heart and calm our fears.

Lord in your mercy, Hear our prayer.

Good Shepherd, Gather us to yourself as a shepherd gathers the sheep, that we might know your Name.

Lord in your mercy, Hear our prayer.

Amen

Hymn 511 Your hand O God has guided

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=esJ7WWqG-dI

Blessing

Go in peace to love and serve the world,

And the blessing of God Almighty, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, be with you all, this day and forevermore. Amen

Closing voluntary:  All we like sheep have gone astray from Handel’s Messiah

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9cJPnmpojiQ

Intimations

Sacrament of Holy Communion

Communion will be served in Tarff and Twynholm Church on Sunday April 25th at 11:30am

Communion will be served in Gatehouse of Fleet Parish Church on Sunday May 2nd at 10am.

Communion will be served in Corsock Church on Sunday May 2nd at 9:30am.

Communion will be served in Parton Church on Sunday May 2nd at 11am

The Rev Bill Hogg will be conducting the Communion services at Corsock and Parton.

All services of Communion will be conducted following the Covid guidelines