30th April – Andrea’s Letter: Easter 4 – Shepherd Sunday

30th April 2023

4th Sunday of Easter 2023  St Andrew’s Milngavie

Today we celebrated the 4th Sunday of Easter.
Abigail treated us to a wonderful voluntary at the end of the service.

This Week
Tuesday – 10am Prayer Group in the Garden Room
Thursday 10am – Said Holy Communion followed by coffee in Friendship House
Sunday 7th May – The Coronation – 10am Sung Eucharist with prayers for the nation and our new King followed by coffee and Coronation cake.

Walk – Saturday 20th May – church trip to the island of Inchmurrin on Loch Lomond – Please let either Tim or me know if you would like to go as booking is required – it promises to be a great day out!

Readings for next Sunday – 5th Sunday of Easter – Acts 7:55-end   1 Peter 2:2-10   John 14:1-14

Today’s Readings – Acts 2:42-47  1 Peter 2:19-25  John 10:1-10

Today is often referred to as Shepherd’s Sunday. “I am the Good Shepherd”  John 10

This gospel reading from John describing the Good Shepherd caring and nurturing his flock always comes at this time of year – just after Easter when the fields and hills are covered with sheep and their new-born lambs. Every year the cuteness and the vitality of the lambs never fail to charm me.  They look so innocent, playful and appealing. And yet they are vulnerable creatures, helpless in the face of adversity, and so they require the skill of a shepherd to protect and care for them.

Throughout the Bible God is often depicted as that caring shepherd.  And the image of Jesus the Good Shepherd is always wonderfully comforting.

Today in John’s gospel Jesus tells us that he is the Good Shepherd and in doing so reveals profound divine truths so typical of St John’s gospel. For example, over again in his gospel John tells us that: darkness is in the world, but it is powerless against the light; evil is in the world, but it is powerless against goodness and truth; death is in the world, but it is powerless against life everlasting.

Shepherds in ancient Israel lived with their flock and knew each sheep individually giving them names.  When flocks were mixed on a hillside the sheep would respond to their own shepherd’s call.  They wouldn’t need to count their sheep when putting them into the sheepfold because they would know just by looking at them which, if any, was missing.  Sick and wounded sheep weren’t abandoned but found and tended – none was expendable.  At night there were dangers from thieves and wolves and the shepherd would literally lay down his life for his flock by lying across the entrance to the sheepfold.

This is the image we are given of Christ’s care for us and our relationship with him.

In the crucifixion Jesus chose to die, not because he embraced death or had no regard for his life, but he loved others as he loved himself and this was the supreme act of love for those in his care.  In verse 10 he contrasts himself with the thief who takes life; he dies to save life.

This reading makes clear that Jesus isn’t a pawn or a victim; he has the power to give up his life and it’s his decision. He clarifies this in verse 18. “ No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father.”  John 10:18

Jesus dies to rise again and show the way to the father.  He died that we also may rise.  This is our faith, the Easter message – that however sad and terrible death is, death is not the end.  Christ knows each of us as an individual and loves each one of us.  Those who know the voice of the Good Shepherd in this life will hear him speak their name on the other side of earthly death. It is beyond our imagining but one day we will encounter the glory and splendour of Christ and stand before him just as we are and just as he knows us to be.

In the meantime, we live our earthly lives. But this can be difficult.…… How we act with love and integrity in our daily lives is a challenge.  And as Christians if we don’t examine our conscience from time to time then we’re not meeting that challenge.  The right way to behave isn’t always straightforward and can take courage, and so we are called to encourage and support one another in faith.  Jesus in his teaching has given guidance like a Good Shepherd guides his sheep.

We journey in this world together, trusting in the Good Shepherd, who laid down his life to save us, knowing that it’s in him and through him that we find the way to God. “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly” Jesus says.  John 10:10

Some of the most profound words of scripture.  Have life abundantly – not in the sense of riches possessions and opportunities but in a spiritual sense – God’s love, forgiveness and salvation, offered freely to us all.  Love that can transform our lives and removes our earthly angst to liberate us to live the life we have been given.

“I am the Good Shepherd; I know my own and my own knows me” John 10:14