St. Mary's Church

Fourth Sunday of Easter

Fourth Sunday of Easter

24 Apr 2021 • General news

Acts 4. 5-12

5The Jewish rulers, elders, and scribes assembled in Jerusalem, 6with Annas the high priest, Caiaphas, John, and Alexander, and all who were of the high-priestly family. 7When they had made the prisoners stand in their midst, they inquired, ‘By what power or by what name did you do this?’ 8Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, ‘Rulers of the people and elders, 9if we are questioned today because of a good deed done to someone who was sick and are asked how this man has been healed, 10let it be known to all of you, and to all the people of Israel, that this man is standing before you in good health by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead. 11This Jesus is
“the stone that was rejected by you, the builders;
it has become the cornerstone.”
12There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among mortals by which we must be saved.’

1 John 3. 16-end

16We know love by this, that he laid down his life for us – and we ought to lay down our lives for one another. 17How does God’s love abide in anyone who has the world’s goods and sees a brother or sister in need and yet refuses help?

18Little children, let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action. 19And by this we will know that we are from the truth and will reassure our hearts before him 20whenever our hearts condemn us; for God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything. 21Beloved, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have boldness before God; 22and we receive from him whatever we ask, because we obey his commandments and do what pleases him.

23And this is his commandment, that we should believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us. 24All who obey his commandments abide in him, and he abides in them. And by this we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit that he has given us.

John 10. 11-18

Jesus said to the Pharisees: 11‘I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 12The 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. 13The hired hand runs away because a hired hand does not care for the sheep. 14I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, 15just as the Father knows me and I know the Father. And I lay down my life for the sheep. 16I 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. 17For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life in order to take it up again. 18No 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.’

Easter 4 thought by Malcolm Tyler

I suspect many of us like the idea of Jesus as the good shepherd. Life can be tough, as all of us have found out during the past year, and the idea that there will be someone who looks out for us is very appealing. That Jesus should be the one who looks out for us is comforting; we should not be so encouraged for instance if we felt it was Genghis Khan who was the one deputed to care for us.

Throughout the gospel narratives, Jesus is on the side of what we might call the underdog and this appeals to us very much. He heals people that others seem to have given up on, he stands up for some who have fallen foul of the law and he criticises those who should know better. This all seems to be what we want to hear because sometimes we feel that our voice is not heard and that the mistakes we make were either not our own fault or made by genuine accident. We want someone to tell us it is alright.

To a certain extent, Jesus does do this, at least sometimes. He is understanding of the human condition. Being human himself, he knows what it is like to feel disappointment, to be ignored and to be misunderstood. But Jesus is also the person who expects much from us. He has an expectation that we will engage both with God and his commandments. So his summary of the law – to love God with all our heart, mind, soul and strength and to love our neighbour as ourselves – is demanding.

The shepherd, in this context, will continually hold us to account and that may be uncomfortable as we do not generally like to be reminded that we do fall short. It is why many of us, myself included, find the service on Good Friday so difficult even if we know it to be an essential part of understanding our faith. The good shepherd will take care not to let us carry on making the same mistakes; that shepherd will try to correct us, as might a good parent.

Like a good parent though, Jesus will be there for us. His sacrifice on the cross for us is proof of that. The fact that he was resurrected tells us of the regard that God the Father has for him and therefore for us too. Ultimately things will be alright; belief in Christ allows salvation. But that does not mean that everything along the way will be rosy. We may suffer hardships; we will almost certainly get things wrong from time to time and we will have to learn to pick ourselves up and carry on when we don’t feel like it and why? – because in the end that is what Jesus expects of us and believes we can do with his help.

He is a good shepherd because he looks out for us and encourages us to do the right thing and to be the person God created us to be.

Intercessions for Easter 4 – 25th April 2021

Holy God, your Son remained with his disciples for 40 days after his resurrection, teaching them to love all people as friends and neighbours.

We too are his disciples and we offer our prayers on behalf of the church, the world in which we live and all those with whom we share it.

Loving God, the letter of John reminds us that “If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person?” Help us all to try to aspire to love with actions and truth and not merely with words or speech.

Lord, in your Mercy:

Hear our Prayer

Loving God we pray for all world leaders that, using Jesus Christ the Good Shepherd as the ultimate model of leadership, they would lead and care for their own flocks in such a way that peace might abound, righteousness flourish and injustice be eradicated.

Lord, in your Mercy:

Hear our Prayer

Father God, help us to reach out to strangers in our midst. As we remember the way the early Church lived in one heart and mind and shared everything they had, may we too be always mindful of the needs of others less fortunate and always welcome the newcomer joyfully into our midst.

Lord, in your Mercy:

Hear our Prayer

Loving God we pray for those who do not know your peace and for those who are struggling with their lives. We ask for your healing on those who are sick, your strength for those who are tired and your love for those who live with despair and fear.We call to mind all those known to us who are in need of your grace.

Lord, in your Mercy:

Hear our Prayer

Gracious God, we pray for those who now walk in the valley of the shadow of death. We know from the Psalm that you are with them and have gone before them to prepare them a table overflowing with all good things. Guide those who are left behind into the paths of righteousness and uphold them in their sorrow with the assurance of your goodness and love.We continue to pray for Elizabeth our Queen, and for all her family, as they continue to deal with the loss of Prince Philip; as we pray for all those who have suffered bereavement.

Lord, in your Mercy:

Hear our Prayer

Everlasting God, we ask that you would bless us here at St Mary’s with vision for the future and reverence for the past. Guide us each day as we minister to one another and to the world. Help us each day to bear witness to your name and to do your bidding, always mindful of your amazing love for us.

Merciful Father:

Accept these prayers for the sake of your Son, our Saviour, Jesus Christ.

Amen