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Sermon and Liturgy For The Fourth Sunday of Easter - Year B
Acts 4:1-12; Psalm 23, I John 3:16-24, John 10:11-18
"Who Knows Who"


READING:  Acts 4:1-12; Psalm 23, I John 3:16-24, John 10:11-18
SERMON :  "Who Knows Who"

Rev. Richard J. Fairchild
b-ea04se 367000

   The following is a more or less complete liturgy and sermon
   for the upcoming Sunday.  Hymn numbers, designated as VU are
   found in the United Church of Canada Hymnal "Voices United".
   SFPG is "Songs For A Gospel People", also available from the UCC.
   Sources, if any, are as indicated in the text.
   

GATHERING AND MUSICAL PRELUDE                            (* = please stand)


* WORDS OF WELCOME AND CALL TO WORSHIP (based on Jeremiah 31:12-25)
   L  The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, 
   and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.
P  And also with you.
L  Thus says the Lord: 
   "As a shepherd looks after his scattered flock when he is with them, 
   so will I look after my sheep.
P  I will rescue them from all the places where they were scattered.
   I will bring them out from the nations, 
   and gather them from the countries, 
   and I will bring them into their own land.
L  I will pasture them on the mountains of Israel, 
   in the ravines and in all the settlements in the land.
P  There they will lie down in good grazing land, 
   and there they will feed in a rich pasture.
L  I myself will tend my sheep and have them lie down,
   declares the Sovereign LORD.  
   I will search for the  lost and bring back the strays. 
   I will bind up the injured and strengthen the weak.
P  I the Lord will be their God, 
   and my servant David will be prince among them.  
   I the Lord have spoken."


* INTROIT:  "Holy, Holy, Holy" (verse 1)                           - VU 315


* PRAYER OF APPROACH
Gracious and forgiving Lord - gentle shepherd and merciful master - be
present with us and lead us in holiness and righteousness.  Bless us with
your word of truth and with your spirit of peace that we may worship you
not only with our words and our thoughts, but also with our hearts and,
when we rise to leave, with all our actions.  Indeed most loving God,
accept the praise we bring and help us dedicate ourselves completely to
you.  Amen.  


* HYMN:  "Come, Let Us Sing To The Lord Our Song"                  - VU 222


ANNOUNCEMENTS AND SHARING JOYS AND CONCERNS
- Announcements
- Birthdays and Anniversaries
- Sharing Joys and Concerns


ST. ANDREW'S THIS WEEK


CHILDREN'S TIME:   "God's Loving Care"
Object    Shepherd's Crook                                                 
Theme     God's Care For Us As Shepherds
Source    Self

   The trick with this story is to dialogue with the children about
   their pets and how much they love them and take care of them.  In
   the "application" seek to avoid the connotation that we are the pets
   of God - rather we are his precious children.  In other words apply
   the biblical principle of "from lesser to greater".  

Good morning.  who here has a pet???  What kind of pet is it???  What is
its name???  Does it know any tricks???  What does it eat???  Who feeds
it???  Has it ever got lost or run away???  What do you when it is lost??? 
Has it ever been sick???  What do you do???

Many of us have pets - and we take good care of them - we feed them, we
provide them with exercise - we play with them - we take them to the vet
when they are ill - we hug them and love them - and they love us.  We do
all that we can for them.

When Jesus told his disciples that he is a good shepherd he was telling
them that he loved them even more dearly than we love our pets.  Like the
shepherd in the 23rd Psalm he feeds us and keeps us safe - he watches over
us.  He makes sure, as we make sure with our pets - that we have a good
life - and even more - Jesus - gives us eternal life in the house of God
forever.  


THE LORD'S PRAYER


* HYMN:  "Saviour, Like A Shepherd Lead Us"                       - SFGP 93


A READING FROM ACTS 4:1-12
   (NIV)  The priests and the captain of the temple guard and the
   Sadducees came up to Peter and John while they were speaking to the
   people. {2} They were greatly disturbed because the apostles were
   teaching the people and proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection of the
   dead. {3} They seized Peter and John, and because it was evening, they
   put them in jail until the next day. {4} But many who heard the message
   believed, and the number of men grew to about five thousand. {5} The
   next day the rulers, elders and teachers of the law met in Jerusalem.
   {6} Annas the high priest was there, and so were Caiaphas, John,
   Alexander and the other men of the high priest's family. {7} They had
   Peter and John brought before them and began to question them: "By what
   power or what name did you do this?" {8} Then Peter, filled with the
   Holy Spirit, said to them: "Rulers and elders of the people! {9} If we
   are being called to account today for an act of kindness shown to a
   cripple and are asked how he was healed, {10} then know this, you and
   all the people of Israel: It is by the name of Jesus Christ of
   Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that
   this man stands before you healed. {11} He is "'the stone you builders
   rejected, which has become the capstone.' {12} Salvation is found in no
   one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which
   we must be saved."

L  This is the word of the Lord
P  Thanks be to God.


RESPONSIVE READING: Psalm 23 (Voices United 749) and Refrain


A READING FROM I JOHN 3:16-24
   (NIV)  This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his
   life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. {17}
   If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has
   no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? {18} Dear children,
   let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.
   {19} This then is how we know that we belong to the truth, and how we
   set our hearts at rest in his presence {20} whenever our hearts condemn
   us. For God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything. {21}
   Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence
   before God {22} and receive from him anything we ask, because we obey
   his commands and do what pleases him. {23} And this is his command: to
   believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another
   as he commanded us. {24} Those who obey his commands live in him, and
   he in them. And this is how we know that he lives in us: We know it by
   the Spirit he gave us.

L  This is the word of the Lord
P  Thanks be to God.


ANTHEM 


A READING FROM JOHN 10:11-18
   (NIV)  "I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life
   for the sheep. {12} The hired hand is not the shepherd who owns the
   sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs
   away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it. {13} The man
   runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep.
   {14} "I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me--
   {15} just as the Father knows me and I know the Father--and I lay down
   my life for the sheep. {16} I have other sheep that are not of this
   sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice,
   and there shall be one flock and one shepherd. {17} The reason my
   Father loves me is that I lay down my life--only to take it up again.
   {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."

L  This is the Gospel of our Risen Lord
P  Praise be to you, Lord Jesus Christ.


* HYMN:  "All The Way My Saviour Leads Me"                         - VU 635


SERMON: "Who Knows Who"

   Bless Thou the words of my lips and the meditations of our heart
   that they be of profit to us and acceptable to thee, our Rock and
   our Redeemer.

Many people have spoken to me about how incredibly busy their lives have
become in the last few weeks, indeed some of have said that it has been the
busiest time of their lives.

I have felt the same way myself recently and perhaps you too are feeling it
or have felt it:
   felt the strain of a life that is a whir of activity,
   the tension of countless jobs piled one on another,
   the exhaustion of going to bed without having had a real break during
the day to allow you to relax and clear your mind of all concerns, all
plans, all worries.

I don't know why the pace of life seems to have accelerated beyond that
which we normally experience when the snow melts and the grass begins to
green -  perhaps it has to do with the weather we have had, for even the
sap this year is running faster and in greater quantities than normal.

Whatever the reason may be for all the bustle and activity that so many of
us are experiencing this spring, one thing is certain 
   - many people are finding little rest for themselves this spring and
   are desperately longing for it.

What I hope and pray for you today is that you do not experience your
Christian faith and commitment in the same way as you experience everything
else: That in fact you find in it strength for your whole life, rather than
just finding one more set of tasks and concerns that, when added to the
rest you have, threaten to overwhelm you.
                 
Unfortunately, a lot of people look upon the Christian life, and upon
worship and involvement in the Church of Jesus Christ as being simply
another bunch of things that they must do,
   as being simply another drain upon their already scarce physical,
   emotional, and spiritual resources.

Even more unfortunately, a lot of preachers,
   a lot of the shepherds in charge of God's flock, God's people,
add to this feeling by telling us over and over again
what we need to do and what we should feel 
if we are to consider ourselves TO BE Christians,
if we are to consider ourselves loved by God.

In all too many churches a lot of stress placed on our knowing Christ and
not enough on how he knows us,
   a lot of stress placed on what it is that we should do or not do if we
   are be his disciples, and not enough stress is placed on the miracle of
   what it is that God does for us if we but simply trust in him and
   listen for his voice.

In some of the so-called liberal churches we are told that Christians must
care for the world and be concerned about the environment,
   that we must be involved in caring for the refugees, and strive to feed
   the hungry, clothe the naked, and bring justice to the poor,
we are told what we can do for the whole world, 
   but not what God wants to do for us.

In some of the so-called conservative churches, we are told that the
faithful must tithe,
   that the truly dedicated must go to prayer meetings, and that those
   devoted to Christ will read the bible and pray every today for at least
   an hour,
       and that furthermore they will be actively involved in all the
       groups within the church - either as  leaders, or as helpers or as
       participants,
we are told what a good Christian does for himself and for his church, and
it is suggested or implied that God does nothing for us if we do not do
these things.

In so many places we are continually told what it is we need to do, or what
it is we should do 
   - and while there is merit in much of what we are told,
when it happens the danger is that the good news of our faith, the gospel,
will be lost.

The gospel my friends, is lost whenever our actions are stressed and the
love and the intercession of God in our lives is ignored or down played.

The gospel is lost whenever our salvation and the salvation of the world,
is linked to our activity, to what we do and feel,
instead of being linked to the activity of God,
and to what God feels and does for us.

In the reading from the Book of Acts this morning we heard how Peter and
John were arrested for healing a cripple and then proclaiming to the people
that through Jesus sins are forgiven and the dead are resurrected.

   At the trial next morning the rulers and elders and teachers of the
   law question Peter and John about the healing they had performed,
   asking them: "by what power or what name did you did this?"

   Peter answers them saying: "it is by the name of Jesus Christ that
   we did this - salvation is found in no one else, for there is no
   other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved."

It is by Jesus Christ and his love,
   a love shown on the cross, that we are saved;
and it is by his name that we receive power;
   and all that we do that has lasting value is done not by ourselves
   alone, but by the Holy Spirit working through us and honouring the name
   that we use.

There are many obstacles and dangers in our lives,
there are many drains upon our energy,
and many things that challenge us.

Alone - we can be overwhelmed by them
but the good news is that we are not alone,
       there is one who watches over us,
       and gives us the strength and the protection we need.

An old Chinese proverb tells the story of a fox that was captured by a
tiger.  

   The fox said, "You can't eat me because the gods have made me the
   leader of all the animals."

   The tiger did not believe him, but the fox said, "Follow me and see
   if any animal challenges me."  

   The tiger agreed to this and followed directly behind the fox as the
   fox began his walk through the forest.  To the tiger's amazement it
   turned out to be exactly as the fox had said.  Not a single animal
   they encountered challenged the fox.  Indeed every animal they met
   fled in sheer panic.

   After several such encounters the tiger finally agreed that the fox
   was the leader of all the animals and let him go.

This proverb teaches us that it is easy to remove obstacles that oppose us
when we have a tiger behind us.

Peter teaches us, as does Jesus in the gospel lesson,
and Kind David in the 23rd Psalm,
that it is God, walking with us,
who overcomes that which is overwhelming.

It is Christ who heals and saves, not man, 
it is the good shepherd who brings comfort to the flock,
not the sheep over whom he watches.

In this I am not saying that we do not need to help each other, or that we
do not have jobs to do, but what I am saying is that what we do should come
somewhat easier to us than it often does.
              
I am saying that 
   if we do not experience some grace in what we do,
   if our work is wearing us down rather than building us up,
then we need to turn to our Lord for help,
   we need to rest ourselves in him and that which he provides us, rather
   than trying to go on and on without a pause or break, and attempt to do
   still more.

To use the words of the hymn "What A Friend We Have In Jesus"

       Are you weak and heavy laden?
       Cumbered with a load of care?
       Christ the Saviour is our refuge,
       Take it the Lord in prayer,
       Jesus's strength will shield your weakness,
       and you'll find new courage there.

We are called in our lives to do many things,
   and all these things can overwhelm us if we do not stay anchored to
   that rock which cannot move,
indeed our helping others can exhaust us if we do not remain attached to He
who can help us.

But what I am really trying to say today is that 
   even when we do not stay attached to he who can help us,
   even when we go adrift if our lives,
       and fail to keep in touch with God,
   even, you might say - even when we fail to know God,
God continues to know us -
and God continues to reach out to us
   so that he can give to us what we need to be given.

Throughout the scriptures this truth is expressed in a very simple, but
very profound image, the image of God as a shepherd.
   
Shepherding in the mid-east at the time of Jesus and before was very
different than it is in other parts of the world today.

Sheep were kept by their owners for years and years,
they were not animals slaughtered for their meat,
but rather providers of wool.

Shepherds led their animals - they did not drive them,
and they stayed with their flock both by day and by night,
   protecting them with their rod, a short knobbed club, from wild animals
   and robbers - of which there were many;
       and retrieving them from dangerous situations with their staff, a
       long pole with a crook in the end that could go around the animal's
       body and drag it to safety.

As I have said the shepherds kept their animals for many years -
and so they came to know them very well
and the sheep in turn knew them very well.

H.V. Morton, a friend of William Barclay, the famous bible scholar tells
the story of a scene he saw in a cave near Bethlehem.

   Two shepherds had sheltered their flocks in the cave during the
   night. The next morning they were faced with the problem of sorting
   them out.  One of the shepherds stood some distance away from the
   cave and gave a peculiar call which his sheep knew - for soon his
   whole flock had run to him - leaving behind the other shepherd with
   his sheep - who refused to come to the first shepherd because they
   did not know him.

The shepherd's job, of course, is to protect and provide for the sheep.

And that is what God does for us;

   The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.   He maketh me to down in
   green pastures, he leadeth me beside the still waters.   He
   restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for
   his name's sake.   Yea, though I walk through the valley of the
   shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for thou art with me, thy rod
   and thy staff they comfort me.

Great, great words about the Lord,
words that we do well to remember and take comfort from,
for God, like a shepherd, helps his sheep,
he helps us.

There is nothing that we need to do to receive that help.
It is always there for us.
It was won for us on the cross of Jesus,
and secured for us forever by his resurrection.

God watches over and protects his flock.

When we cry out - he comes to us,
   when we look for him - he is there to assist us,
       and when we are in danger, he rescues us,
but the most marvellous thing of all is this:
   when we stray away from him,
       he seeks us out and calls us to him,
he constantly strives to nourish us 
and bring us back to the safety and the comfort of his fold.

It is so easy to get lost in our world,
to run around doing things that must be done,
and to lose track of where we are,
and where we should be.

It is so easy to be so busy,
that we get tired out,
and find ourselves hungering for peace
but not know any longer how we can find it.

It is so easy to stray, and end up in need of help.

At these times all we have to do is stop doing things for a moment, 
to stop and look at where we are, 
   and if the shepherd is in our sight,
       if we are not lost, but simply busy,
then all we need to do is to continue doing nothing for a moment or two 
and enjoy the place that God has led us too -FOR IN IT will be green
pasture and in it will be still waters which we can refresh ourselves at.

This is such a place.

God has led you here today,
   and here there is food for your journey,
   here there is water for your refreshing,
   here there is what your soul needs 
- a time of rest - a time of strengthening 
in the presence of the Lord, and of his people.

But if, when finally we realize our need for a helping hand,
   and we stop to look around and we cannot see the shepherd,
       and we cannot see the other members of our fold,
then what we need to do is simply call out to him, 
because, my friends, the good shepherd is looking for you, 
and your voice will help him find you faster.

Yes - it is a busy time for many of us,
and much, if not all of what we are doing needs doing,
but these times of activity will not drain us
because God is our shepherd,
and he is here to comfort us, and to restore our souls.

Pause for a moment, close your eyes,
and with me sense his presence in our midst...
Think about how God knows where you are... 
and he is answering your call
and even now giving you the strength that you need.....  

Praise be to God, our Shepherd, our Friend, our Lord.  AMEN


LET US PRAY (PRAYERS OF THE PEOPLE)
Gracious and Forgiving God, we thank you that when we wander -you seek us;
that when we stumble and fall - you lift us up ; and that when we falter or
begin to get lost - you call us by name.  Help us dear Lord to remain close
by you - to keep your presence before our eyes and to hold your word in
within our heart...  Lord hear our prayer....

Loving God and Giving God - you provide all that we need and protect us
from all that seeks to destroy us.  We know that we are safe in your care. 
We find rest in you.  We renew our strength in you.  We thank you, and we
pray to you now, at this time, for others who need you... Lord hear our
prayer....

We pray, O God, 
- for those who are in authority and who are elected to positions of power
we ask your wisdom, 
- for those who lead either by right of birth or personality or office
we ask a heart of love and acceptance 
- and for those who have suffered for so long and who now face the awesome
responsibility that comes with freedom we ask a justice that is full of
mercy....  
Lord - hear our prayer....

We also hold before you this day those we have named before you in our time
of sharing...

- intercessions as shared -

Lord hear our prayer....

Grant unto these we have named, and to all your church - new life in the
name of Christ.  Make us a peaceful and a joyful people who live the love
we have received from your hands - we ask it through Jesus, the Good
Shepherd.  Amen


* MINUTE FOR MISSION 


* SHARING GOD'S BLESSINGS: As the Offering is presented all stand for the
Doxology (Praise God From Whom All Blessings Flow - VU 541) and Prayer of
Dedication

   Lord God - when we turn to you and follow you in trust you fill our
   cups to overflowing, your provide all that we need and bless us with
   gifts in abundance.  In accordance with your most holy will, we now
   share these gifts with one another - praying that through them and
   through every effort of our hearts and hand that your work in this
   world may be done and that your name may be glorified- this both now
   and forevermore.  Amen


* DEPARTING HYMN:  "How Sweet The Name of Jesus Sounds"            - VU 344


* COMMISSIONING (Unison):  In the power of the Holy Spirit we now go forth
   into the world, to fulfil our calling as the people of God, the body of
   Christ.


* BENEDICTION
Go in peace, love and care for one another in the name of Christ;
- and may God work his will within your lives 
- may your hearts be filled with his love 
- your minds be directed by his truth 
- and all your minutes and your days be lived 
in the fullness of his power and his grace.  Amen


* THREE FOLD AMEN & CHORAL BLESSING:  "Go Now In Peace"            - VU 964


copyright - Rev. Richard J. Fairchild - Spirit Networks, 2000 - 2006
            please acknowledge the appropriate author if citing these sermons.



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