Sunday 3/5/20

The Cross Country Parishes
SUNDAY 3/5/20 

On this page 
Sermon, readings, prayers & hymns.

8.00pm Bishop Keith has called for us to pray for the Diocese and for the World every Sunday evening by lighting a candle. 

On line, TV & Radio  

8.10am BBC Radio 4 a Christian Service.

Chester Cathedral. Stream - Chester Cathedral

The Prayer Book Society has links to numerous on line services

A Sermon for the Fourth Sunday of Easter
John 10: 1 – 10

The Lord is my Shepherd familiar words which have brought comfort to countless people down the Christian and Jewish centuries for around 3,000 years.  As we hear Psalm unfold, we hear of sheep grazing in green pastures and resting beside still waters. Living, as we do, in the lush, green beauty of South Cheshire, that image brings to mind a scene not unlike the one below

 Yet the Psalmist wrote in Israel.  A dry, and arid land.  The Judean desert where the Psalmist, otherwise known as King David, had worked as a shepherd boy blooms on just a few days in the year after the spring snow and rain. 

 David could not imagine the green pastures we know.  For him abundant pastures were found in the shadow of the rocks and stones of the wilderness.  Places where dew gathered, providing just enough moisture for a few shoots of ‘grass’ to grow.
The task of the Israelite shepherd was to search out the shaded areas where a few meagre green shoots might grow, and lead the sheep too them.  That involved danger.  Think of the parable of the Good Samaritan, set on the desert road just outside Jericho, and we are reminded of just how dangerous the shaded valleys of the Judean desert could be.  It was not only in Jesus’ vivid parables that outlaws lurked in the shadows for vulnerable travellers and shepherds to pass by.
The Psalmist knew that, too, and much more.  King David knew the Valley of Hinnom, a short valley just south of Jerusalem.  It was the place where those who followed idols instead of the God of Israel carried out child sacrifices.  A cursed place which become the city rubbish dump, burning day and night as rubbish dumps around the world still do.  
When the Psalmist writes of walking through the valley of the shadow of death, this is the place he has in mind.  Yet even in this desolate place, King David knows that God will keep him safe.
These are the landscapes Jesus had in mind when he uses the striking image of the shepherd to describe the care he takes of his followers, although that is to jump ahead of today’s reading.  Today we read of the sheepfold, and the much less familiar image of Jesus as the gate to the sheepfold.
I am the gate.  It has not captured our imagination in the way that Jesus as the Vine, the Shepherd, the Light of the World and the Bread of Life have.  To understand why Jesus describes himself as the gate to the sheepfold, we need to return to the world of the Judean shepherd.
Lack of water, pasture, thieves and outlaws were not the only hazards the Judean shepherd had to contend with.  Wild animals were also a threat to the sheep.  Not the occasional fox or crow seeking out a weak lamb, but top predators like bears and wolves, more than capable of carrying off a sheep that strayed from the flock.  The shepherd boy David was able to slay Goliath, the mighty Philistine warrior with a small stone and a sling because he had honed his skill fighting off wild animals to protect his sheep.
Shelter for the sheep was essential at night when the dangers of the desert were hidden in deep darkness.  The only way the sheep could be kept safe was to enter the sheepfold through the gate, carefully counted in by the shepherd.
When Jesus describes himself as the gate to the sheepfold, he is saying he is the way to safety.  He knows those who follow him by name and cares for them as individuals.  And then, at the very end of the verses we have read today, Jesus offers even more.  The thief may try to harm and destroy the sheep, but Jesus offers abundant life, even amongst the poor pasture and dangers of the Judean wilderness.
If abundant life can exist in these harsh conditions, what might it look like for us in a world of necessary restrictions imposed on us by coronavirus?  That will be different for each of us, but for all of us it will be different to the answer we might have given a couple of months ago.
For me it is discovering abundant life in the small things. The sunlight catching the raindrops on blossom; the evening light reflecting on the trees; the spiders web on the vicarage door camera magnified on the cctv screen; the phone calls with friends and family.  Things I rarely have time to enjoy.  Glimpses of God’s presence in the world.  Tiny foretastes of the life of heaven.
A life which King David describes so vividly at the end of Psalm 23 when he writes of the marriage feast of heaven.  A feast which all those who love Jesus know his abundant life are invited to share. 

S Anne Lawson

1 May 2020

Prayers for the Fourth Sunday of Easter

The Collect for the Fourth Sunday of Easter
Risen Christ,
faithful shepherd of your Father’s sheep:
teach us to hear your voice
and to follow your command,
that all your people may be gathered into one
to the glory of God the Father.  Amen.

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.  Amen.

Prayers of Intercession
The Lord is our shepherd,
and we are the sheep of his pasture.
Let us bring to him our cares and concerns for the Church and for the world.

Good Shepherd of the sheep, we pray for the Church;
for all congregations, for clergy
and all who minister in word and sacrament;
we pray particularly for bishops
in their shepherding of the world Church,
[praying especially for the person who will become
the next Bishop of Chester].
We pray for clear guidance and direction
in those issues which disturb us,
asking not that you lead us the easy way
but the way that is right and good.
The Lord is my shepherd:
there is nothing I shall want.

Good Shepherd of the sheep,
we pray for the world we inhabit –
the world we have inherited
and will pass on to successive generations.
Teach us to look after it carefully and wisely,
to share its gifts more fairly,
and work together to ease its sufferings.
Turn the hearts of those who are excited by evil things
and encourage the timid to speak out
for what is wholesome and good.
The Lord is my shepherd:
there is nothing I shall want.


Good Shepherd of the sheep, we pray for our
places of work, our colleagues, friends and neighbours,
and for members of our families.
We ask not for popularity at all costs,
but the grace to do your will and be your witnesses
to what is means to live lovingly,
both when this is easy and also when it hurts.
The Lord is my shepherd:
there is nothing I shall want.

Good Shepherd of the sheep,
we pray for the weak and vulnerable,
for those who must live
depending on others for every need,
and for those who are bullied, or constantly despised.
We pray for a greater reverence, one for another,
for a greater willingness
to uphold and encourage one another;
we pray for healing and wholeness.
The Lord is my shepherd,
there is nothing I shall want.

Good Shepherd of the sheep,
we give you thanks for those who have died;
we pray for those who ache with sorrow at their going;
we commend them all into your unfailing care
which lasts throughout this life and into eternity.
The Lord is my shepherd;
there is nothing I shall want.

Good Shepherd of the sheep, we give you thanks
that in you we are able to live through good and ill
with abundance of life.

Merciful Father,
accept these prayers, for the sake of your Son,
our Saviour, Jesus Christ.  Amen.

Other Prayers you may wish to use

Keep us, good Lord,
under the shadow of your mercy
in this time of uncertainty and distress.
Sustain and support the anxious and fearful,
and lift up all who are brought low;
that we may rejoice in your comfort
knowing that nothing can separate us from your love
in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Lord Jesus Christ,
you taught us to love our neighbour,
and to care for those in need
as if we were caring for you.
In this time of anxiety, give us strength
to comfort the fearful, to tend the sick,
and to assure the isolated
of our love, and your love,
for your name’s sake.
God of compassion,
be close to those who are ill, afraid or in isolation.
In their loneliness, be their consolation;
in their anxiety, be their hope;
in their darkness, be their light;
through him who suffered alone on the cross,
but reigns with you in glory,
Jesus Christ our Lord.
Amen.For those who are ill
Merciful God,
we entrust to your tender care
those who are ill or in pain,
knowing that whenever danger threatens
your everlasting arms are there to hold them safe.
Comfort and heal them,
and restore them to health and strength;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
For hospital staff and medical researchers
Gracious God,
give skill, sympathy and resilience
to all who are caring for the sick,
and your wisdom to those searching for a cure.
Strengthen them with your Spirit,
that through their work many will be restored to health;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

For one who is ill or isolated
O God,
help me to trust you,
help me to know that you are with me,
help me to believe that nothing can separate me 
from your love
revealed in Jesus Christ our Lord.
For the Christian community
We are not people of fear:
we are people of courage.
We are not people who protect our own safety:
we are people who protect our neighbours’ safety.
We are not people of greed:
we are people of generosity.
We are your people God,
giving and loving,
wherever we are,
whatever it costs
For as long as it takes
wherever you call us.
Barbara Glasson, President of the Methodist Conference


How sweet the name of Jesus sounds:

The King of love my shepherd is:

Either The Lord’s my shepherd (Stuart Townend) :

Or The Lord’s my shepherd (Crimond):

Thine forever, God of Love: