Worship Service for the 4th Sunday of Easter (Good Shepherd Sunday)

Hello everyone!

The worship service is uploaded and ready to go! It will go live tomorrow, May 3, 2020 at 10am (PST). Feel free to watch using the video below, or navigate to YouTube by clicking the top banner in the video frame itself, or using the link directly under the video. Keep in mind that if you watch at 10am tomorrow, there will be a live chat in which you can interact with the others who are watching at the same time.

The bulletin can be found here. And the sermon manuscript directly follows the service video.

Peace be with you!

If the video is not working, please click here.

Sermon for the 4th Sunday of Easter

God of resurrection, may your Holy Spirit strengthen us in our devotion to your Word, that through it we could hear more clearly your voice and follow it into eternal life, with Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Remember those days of old before we had these new-fangled voice activated video chat devices to communicate with our friends and colleagues and we relied on this archaic technology called telephones?  To talk to someone, you had to pick up the darn thing and actually dial their number… I mean actually push a physical button for each of the only 7 digits of their phone number that didn’t need the area code in those days, and then we’d pray hard that they were actually home to pick up.

While this form of communication might seem slow, clunky, and weird because it has no images, text, or emojis, there was an element to it that I do miss.  And that is learning to recognise someone just by their voice.  It was like a rush in those days when a buddy would know it was you just by your hello or better yet, if it was someone you fancied who recognised you… it was like a way to prove that your relationship with this person has made it.  You are real friends when you know each other by voice alone.

And now, I find that skill of recognising voices has transferred over as a parent that relies almost solely on texting.  As I’m sure many if not all parents can do, I am able to tune into the voices of my kids.  And you know how many kids sound alike with their high pitched whiny voices?  Basically all of them.  But somehow parents have gained this innate ability to recognise just their own kids calling out for help, or comfort, or ask if they could buy something even when we pretend we didn’t hear them.  When we are tuned into someone’s voice, we are somehow able to pick it out of a crowd, and react to that voice and drown out all the others. 

I think this is what Jesus is talking about in today’s gospel reading.  He talks about his sheep knows his voice, how they recognise and trust it enough to follow.  I think we’ve collectively heard enough Good Shepherd Sunday sermons that we know that sheep actually have the ability to recognise and tune into their shepherd’s voice.  And that trust is what Jesus means.  The same way a girl who is really into me can recognise my voice, and the way us parents can tune into our kids voices, so we as Jesus’ flock can recognise his voice and are able to follow it wherever it may lead. 

And let’s be honest, that sounds great and all, but how has it working out for us so far?  How are we really at following Jesus’ lead?  Do we actually recognise Jesus’ voice in this world that is so full of voices?

What makes this worse is that Jesus even goes and talks about how his flock won’t follow the voice of a stranger because they can tell the difference.  Um… yeah, about that…  I admit that following Jesus isn’t easy.  Just hearing, let alone recognising, his voice is pretty difficult.  Fitting into Jesus’ description of his sheep hearing only his voice and not following those of strangers, kind of digs into our souls because you know what?  If you’re anything like me, we follow the voices of strangers all the time.

And it isn’t always because we want to.  It is sometimes hard to hear and recognise Jesus’ voice, and the same time, it isn’t hard to mistake someone else’s voice as Jesus’.  You know how I was talking about how we can tune into voices and recognize them?  Well, are we always 100% accurate?  Again, if you’re anything like me, then no.  I remember back in the day when a friend would call and I’d be like “hey what’s up blah blah name” but it was totally the wrong person.  Or I’d be in the mall with my kids and I’d hear one of my kids yell “dad!” and I’d turn to look and it totally wasn’t one of my kids.  So it’s not like we have recognising actual audible voices down pat either.

So of course hearing Jesus speaking to and leading us is hard, because we don’t really know what Jesus sounds like.  Of course recognising Jesus’ voice is difficult, because there are a lot of other voices out there that might sound the same.  Of course following Jesus’ lead isn’t that easy, because Jesus often leads us to places we never even thought of going to before.

Jesus tells us that he is the gate through which salvation comes and that the thieves and bandits come in through a different way.  Let’s just for a moment ignore the fact that it’s Good Shepherd Sunday and not “Good Gate Sunday”, and that just a couple weeks ago we heard about how Jesus entered the upper room by means other than the door (or gate, should I say), but instead let’s remember that this discourse, this speech of sorts given by Jesus, came in the chronology of John right after the healing of that man who was born blind.  Remember that story?  If you don’t, feel free to rewind a few weeks because that was actually the story we got on the 4th Sunday in Lent, which we also is here on Youtube. 

But in case you don’t want to go through the trouble, in a nutshell the blind man heard Jesus’ voice and recognised it as good.  The Pharisees spoke too, but what they said, although could also be seen as good, was just a little bit off.  And even from last week on the road to Emmaus, Cleopas and his pal didn’t even recognise Jesus’ face, let alone his voice, until they recognised the content.

And that’s the thing.  Those times when I recognise the wrong voice or the voice wrongly, it is the content of what is being said that puts me on the right path.  Like I know that my wife would never say “yo sup” to me or my kids wouldn’t say “daddy you’re the best” even if I ask them to do so specifically.  So even if I were to hear someone with their same exact voice say those things, I would know right off the bat that it wasn’t them.

And the same is for Jesus.  We recognise Jesus’ voice more clearly when we know Jesus better.  We hear Jesus’ words more pronounced when we know how Jesus talks.  We see Jesus in the world more apparently when we know more of the content of his ministry and teachings.  And, as we see in the gospels, his ministry is centered around grace, around community, and around love.

So beware of those who come in Jesus’ name but promote division, exclusion, and hate.  Beware of those who might sound like Jesus but act greedy, selfish, and self-centered.  Beware of those who might even claim to have intimate knowledge of Jesus and his teachings but live in a way that is totally contrary to it.

But because we know the content of Jesus’ ministry, we can see Jesus in acts of kindness, inclusion, and grace.  We can hear Jesus in words of affirmation, support, and forgiveness.  We can feel Jesus present when we are gathered as a community caring for each other and when we are pointed in a way that allows us to be better people for the sake of others.

Jesus is the gate through which these things come through to us.  Jesus is the shepherd that leads us into grace and mercy.  Jesus is our risen Saviour who shows us God’s salvation in all the world.

This week, I issued a photo challenge to you, asking for pictures of acts of graciousness and generosity.  I hope you are all able to see Jesus in these, knowing that we are all welcome in his arms of love. 

if the video doesn’t work, please find it here.

May the voice of Jesus be apparent to us through this Easter season, filling us with hope and joy, as we are led into the peace that surpasses all understanding.  Thanks be to God.  Amen.

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