Fourth Sunday of Easter – Sermon 201

8th January 2016 Off By Derek Buckthorpe

Fourth Sunday of Easter –

10.00 am Holy Communion.

15th May 2011

Bible References :

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Prayer to start 

 

May the words of my lips and the thoughts of our hearts be graciously received for the Glory and Honour of our Lord Jesus Christ                                                                            AMEN

 

INTRODUCTION

 

‘Many were baptized and were added to the community. 42They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. 43Many wonders and signs were being done  44All who believed were together and had all things in common; 45they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need. 46Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts, 47praising God and having the goodwill of all the people. And day by day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.

 

 

Our reading from Acts-

 

A thriving Christian Community – growing in numbers and in Spiritual awareness –

 

Does it sound like our Church? –

 

If not – what are we doing wrong?  –  or more importantly – what should we be doing to put things right

 

 

Point 1        Trust in the Shepherd

 

In our Gospel reading  we have one of Jesus’ ‘I am’ sayings  –

 

and this particular saying is about Jesus being a gate – a gate to the sheepfold –

 

‘ I am the gate’ –  says Jesus –  ‘who ever enters through me will be saved! –

 

It comes just before – the passage where Jesus declares Himself as the Good Shepherd – the one who cares for His sheep –

 

The Shepherd and the sheep are frequently used in the Bible – to represent the king and the people of Israel –

 

The first five verses of this passage are Jesus’ way of declaring Himself as the true King of Israel – sent by God –  to care for His people –

 

only the true King enters by the gate – says Jesus  – and the gatekeeper  – God – opens the gate for Him – and allows Him to enter  –

 

those who do not enter by the gate but climb in another way – the leaders who had emerged during Jesus’ own lifetime –  are the thieves and the bandits –  who are there to lead Israel  – the wrong way –  away from God’s care –

 

Only the one who comes by the way God appointed has the right to lead the sheep –

 

and the sheep know the shepherd and trust Him – they do not follow a stranger –

 

Today here in this church –  we are are all God’s sheep – in God’s pasture –

 

Jesus is our shepherd – sent by God – to care and guide us – in the right way –  and we have to trust Him – to do it-

 

 

there are many bandits and thieves around  – encouraging us to break ranks and leave the fold – telling us to do things their way – but we  have got to follow the shepherd – we have got to run from the bandits and thieves – and only follow Jesus –

 

Point 2        Believe in His promises –

 

The shepherd  protects His sheep – and as the gate to the sheepfold – only those who go through Jesus can reach the pasture-

 

In Jesus’ time  –  shepherds didn’t have many sheep – around 20 or 30 – not like the big flocks of today –

 

and in the country – the shepherd would go everywhere with them – the landscape in Judea is treacherous – and sheep are never left on their own –

 

By day and night the shepherd would care for his sheep –

 

By day he would go before his  flock and lead them – he would not ask them to go anywhere – he has not gone before –

 

He would watch over them –  and they would depend on him for everything –

 

when not grazing  – he would use a low walled enclosure to keep his sheep safe – there would be no gate – he would stand in the entrance so that  only his sheep can enter –

 

and as they entered – he would know and check each one for scratches or wounds caused by thorns or stumbles – soothing them with oil – providing water if his sheep are thirsty –

 

and at night –  the shepherd himself would lay across the opening – to keep the sheep safe – and the other animals out – He would literally become the door –  laying down his life for his sheep –

 

‘I am the gate says Jesus –  whoever enters by me will be saved –  and will come in and go out and find pasture – the thief came to only to steal and destroy –  I came that they may have life –  and have it abundantly ‘-

 

 

Jesus will mend our wounds our battle scars –  refresh us for a new day –  protect us – when we are most vulnerable – and more than that He will give us life – life eternal –

 

Jesus has laid down his life for us – on the cross  –  He died or our sins  –  so we can  receive new life – today –  and everyday –  and through His resurrection –  will lead us – through the heavenly gate to eternal salvation –

 

Point 3        ‘Listen for His voice’

 

‘The shepherd calls his Sheep by name – and the sheep  hears His voice –

 

Jesus calls out to us to come to Him – so He can provide us with what we need – and we have to listen and respond to his call –

 

Imagine a cliff edge full of sea birds –  with the mother birds swooping in from the sea with food in their beaks –  searching to feed their chicks –

 

There’s literally thousands of sea birds swooping around the rocks and thousands of chicks – jostling and pushing – and – crying out to be heard

 

And  somehow amid the loud noise of those  desperate cries – the mother finds her chick and the chick the mother – and she feeds it –

 

To an unconcerned ear – one child’s voice might sound similar to another –  but a mother can recognise her own child’s voice in a crowded room –

 

The love within a family draws them together –

 

Jesus will come to us – His family – when ever we need Him – His love for us is never ending – He will sustain us with life giving food – and we  need to listen for His voice and respond to His love –

 

 

Conclusion Work together as a community

 

As Christians our salvation and security – is not dependent on our own abilities  –  but in the strength of the shepherd – to keep us safe – In life Jesus is our standard –  our example – in death our substitute  –  the spotless lamb of God – sent to redeem us all –

 

Jesus the Good shepherd can show us the way to change and to grow – to come alive with His grace –

 

 

The Christian community in Acts had a recent experience of the coming of the Holy Spirit – at Pentecost – they  were filled with the Spirit’s presence –

 

We need to call on Jesus’ Spirit to fill us –

 

We have nothing to fear –  under the care of the shepherd  – our future is assured – we can live  as His flock – His family – sharing – encouraging and loving one anther  – transforming and growing

 

As those early Christians found out –  only under the guidance and protection of the shepherd – can the flock really prosper –

 

Our issue is confidence  – confidence in the shepherd Himself –

and commitment – commitment to believing and acting as one of His sheep – knowing that He will always keep us safe –

 

‘Jesus Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross –  so that free from sin – we might live in righteousness – by His wounds we have been  healed – For we were going astray like sheep –  but now have returned to the shepherd –  and guardian of our souls –

 

Prayer to Finish

AMEN