Welcome to our worship for today. It contains our hymns, our Gospel reading for the day, a reflection on the Gospel from Jane, our Vicar, an anthem sung for us by two members of our choir and some prayers. It takes about half an hour to go through it so please do find a quiet place to enjoy it.
Jesus is risen, Alleluia. He is risen indeed, Alleluia
Hymn: Good Christians all, rejoice and sing.
Good Christians all, rejoice and sing! Now is the triumph of our King. To all the world glad news we bring: Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia! Praise we in songs of victory that Love, that Life, which cannot die, and sing with hearts uplifted high Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia! Thy name we bless, O risen Lord, and sing today with one accord the life laid down, the life restored: Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia!
First Reading: Acts 2: 42-47. Life among the Believers
They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. Awe came upon everyone, because many wonders and signs were being done by the apostles. All who believed were together and had all things in common; they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need. Day 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, praising God and having the goodwill of all the people. And day by day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.
Hymn: Jesus lives, thy terrors now can, O death, no more appal us.
Our Gospel Reading: John 10: 1-10. Jesus, the Good Shepherd
You can just read the Gospel below or play this reading of it.
Very truly, I tell you, anyone who does not enter the sheepfold by the gate but climbs in by another way is a thief and a bandit. The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep hear his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice. They will not follow a stranger, but they will run from him because they do not know the voice of strangers.” Jesus used this figure of speech with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them.
So again Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and bandits; but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the gate. Whoever enters by me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.
Hymn: The Lord is my Shepherd
Today’s Reflection: from Rev. Jane Cresswell, our Vicar
Today’s gospel reading ends with what has always been one of my favourite verses of the Bible. “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” What an amazing promise! But what exactly do we understand by abundance?
If we approach it from a human perspective, undoubtedly it means different things to different people. For me it is about family and friends, good food and wine, exploring beautiful places around the world, discovering new things and revelling in the variety of God’s amazing and diverse creation. I chose this particular image because it illustrates so vividly the joy of new adventures.
For others abundance may be more about material wealth and beautiful possessions. And perhaps as you read this, other things have sprung to mind … exquisite art, awe-inspiring music, brilliant literature.
But these are all human interpretations. And there is nothing wrong with any of them in their place. But what does Jesus actually mean? What is abundant life from God’s perspective?
Earlier in today’s gospel we read about Jesus the good shepherd and the way in which he loves, protects and calls his sheep by name; and today’s psalm proclaims with confidence that the Lord is our Shepherd and so we want nothing as he leads us to pasture and water and accompanies us faithfully through the darkest days of our lives until we finally pass through death and enjoy being in his presence for ever in the fulness of eternity. The 23rd psalm in particular has been a comfort to many generations grieving the loss of loved ones and finding in its words that promise of God’s presence and care in life, in death, and for eternity.
This fourth Sunday of Easter is often called “Good Shepherd Sunday”. And perhaps that holds the clue. An abundant life is one lived in the presence of God who is our shepherd, who cares for us and tends us, knows us and calls us by name, from whom we will never be separated.
Even in these strange times when we may have lost, at least temporarily, the things we think we need for abundant living, this remains true. And that is cause for rejoicing. It is of course what those first Christians understood only too well as they rejoiced and praised God together daily as the Acts passage relates.
We may at times find it hard to be aware of God’s presence if we have tied our awareness to being in the church building or to the freedom to explore and experience the world or to the presence of loved ones. But that does not mean God has abandoned us, only that we are struggling to tune in to his presence in the here and now.
The Good Shepherd calls us by name and when we stop fretting over what we cannot do and cannot have, we discover him standing beside us offering us all that we need for the present moment.
Anthem: The Lord’s my Shepherd [based on Psalm 23, music by David Palmer]
Our Prayers for Today: The intercessions relate to each verse of the hymn; The King of Love my Shepherd is. You can hear the hymn and prayers and follow the words below.
The King of love my shepherd is, Whose goodness faileth never; I nothing lack if I am his And he is mine for ever.
Lord, you have a purpose for each and every one of us. Lead us to explore your purpose in our lives, help us by your grace to understand our roles as Christians in your world, and guide us to carry out your plan and live for your glory.
Where streams of living water flow My ransomed soul he leadeth, And where the verdant pastures grow With food celestial feedeth.
Lord, feed us with your true faith; the faith that trusts you alone for salvation and not our own merits; the faith that shows itself in life and conduct and not just in religious forms; the faith that is strong enough to hold you fast in bad times and not only in good.
Perverse and foolish oft I strayed, But yet in love he sought me, And on his shoulder gently laid, And home, rejoicing, brought me.
Lord Jesus, we pray for all who feel lost; those without a sense of direction and purpose in their lives, those who feel lonely, those who have been wronged or have wronged others. Help us to hold out the hand of your generous love that they may feel your presence in their lives.
In death’s dark vale I fear no ill With thee, dear Lord, beside me; Thy rod and staff my comfort still, Thy cross before to guide me.
We hold up before you, our God and Father, those who have died. Grant them your peace and let light perpetual shine upon them. We pray for all those grieving the loss of loved ones. Comfort them in their sorrow and lift them from the depths of grief into the peace and light of your presence.
Thou spread’st a table in my sight; Thy unction, grace bestoweth; And O what transport of delight From thy pure chalice floweth!
Lord Jesus, we bring before you those in special need of your healing power in their lives; those who have lost their jobs, those without sufficient money to live, those whose families are in conflict, those who are worried about their health. Lord, save us from being so wrapped up in our own concerns that we forget the needs of others and so busy that we fail to bring them what help and comfort we can.
And so through all the length of days Thy goodness faileth never; Good shepherd may I sing thy praise Within thy house for ever.
Lord, since we know not what lies ahead of us in life’s journey, guide our future steps in the way of your will; for in fulfilling your plan for our lives, we shall be doing what is best for us, and most for your glory.
Bless to us, O God, the road that is before us. Bless to us, O God, the friends who are around us, Bless to us, O God, your love which is within us. Bless to us O God, the light that leads us home. [Ruth Burgess]
This Week’s Notices
- Our Anthem today: Our thanks to Anna and Florence for their wonderful singing today, and of course to Neil and Tony for enabling it to happen!
- 2.6 Challenge: Last Sunday, members of our congregation took part in the 2.6 challenge (organised in place of the London Marathon) by walking, cycling, going up and down stairs and lots more! About £200 was raised for our church. Many thanks to all who took part. If you would like to know more about what people did, click this link.
- Wednesday Compline: Last Wednesday, we had fifteen people for the lovely evening service of Compline. It is led by Jane and Suzanne and we are on Zoom 8:45 for 9:00pm and it lasts about 20 minutes. If you would like to join us next Wednesday, just drop Jim a line on firstname.lastname@example.org and he will send you the link.
- Increasing numbers of our congregation are also enjoying the Diocese of Oxford ‘Church at Home’ service at 10:00am at oxford.anglican.org/livestream You can also download the order of service.
- Action on Coronavirus: Our congregation will be interested to hear that Lucy-Anne Taylor is one of 500 volunteers for the first trial of a vaccine being developed by Oxford University. Following her injection, she will now keep a symptom diary and be monitored medically and for the development of anti-bodies over the next month. There are also some valuable new prayers related to our current situation in the Personal Prayer section of this website.
- Helen Grellier: We heard the sad news this week that Helen Grellier had died; just three weeks following the death of her husband, Aleyn. Helen will be well known to many in our village particularly as the ex-headteacher of our school. We can remember her with gratitude for all she did for many people in her earthly life and we can pray for her daughter Fran and all the family.
That is the end of our worship for today but if you have an extra five minutes to spare and would like a sort of ‘voluntary’ to send you off in peace and contentment, try this….