The Voice Of The Shepherd

CALL TO WORSHIP: God is our shepherd. He knows our names, and He has called us all to be here today. Let us make ready to worship the One who knows us, loves us, and guides us in the right way.

Gracious and welcoming God, Jesus says that He is the gate for the sheep, but what kind of gate is He?

Some gates are locked and barred, so that nobody can get in.
We thank You Lord that in Jesus, all are welcome.

Some gates are big and heavy, so that only strong people can get in
We thank You Lord that in Jesus, all are welcome.

Some gates can only be got through if you are very clever.

We thank You Lord that in Jesus, all are welcome.

Thank You Lord, that You do not want anyone to be left out. Help us to remember that Jesus Himself is the gate, and make everybody welcome in His name as we worship You today. Amen

HYMN 323: I WILL SING THE WONDROUS STORY-StF

PRAYER OF ADORATION
Loving Lord, we praise and worship You because Your love surrounds us wherever we are, whatever we may be doing. You understand what we need. You speak to our souls, and fill our hearts and minds with deep peace.

You guide us in the best possible way, knowing what is right for us. Even if our lives are full of difficulties and problems, You are still with us, helping us to deal with our troubles. Your goodness towards us is like a cup overflowing with the sweetest water.

From life’s beginning until its end, You will never leave us, and when life is over, we will live with You forever.

Loving Lord, we praise and worship You because Your love surrounds us, now and always. Amen.

TALK FOR ALL: The Jobs of a Shepherd (JOHN 10:1-10)

This week’s Bible readings have a special theme. They talk about what it means to be a shepherd.

Do you know anything about shepherding that you could share? What types of work does a shepherd do?

Wow, you sure know a lot about shepherding – which is kind of funny, because we don’t see too many shepherds around these days, do we? They were very common when Jesus was alive though, and the Bible is full of shepherd stories – not to teach us about the real work of shepherds back then, but to help us understand something very important about Jesus.

Jesus is a special kind of shepherd. He doesn’t have a flock of sheep – he has a flock of people – and we’re them. We are Jesus’ sheep!

That’s kind of a funny thought, isn’t it? We aren’t really sheep of course, but the Bible helps us to understand that Jesus does the same things for us, that an actual shepherd does for his sheep.

You see, shepherds have three important jobs: herding, tending and protecting.

When we say that shepherds “herd,” we mean that one of their jobs is to gather their sheep into groups. Where do we gather together because of Jesus? That’s right! We come to church to learn about God and to celebrate being a part of his family. So that’s one way, isn’t it?

Shepherds are also responsible for “tending” their sheep. This means they take care of them. They feed them and clean them and take care of them when they’re sick. (Hey, your parents are kind of like shepherds too!) Jesus doesn’t come and feed us lunch or dinner, but he feeds our minds and he fills our hearts with love – so in that way he tends to us too.

Finally, shepherds have the important job of “protecting” their flocks. Just like a real shepherd would try to keep his sheep from danger, Jesus watches over us and protects us from harm.

Do you see why the Bible says that “The Lord is my shepherd?” I want you to listen carefully as we share today’s readings and see how many times you hear about shepherds and sheep. I think you’ll be surprised!

PRAYER: Dear God, thank you for being our shepherd. We are so lucky to have you herd, tend and protect us. Amen.

CONFESSION AND THANKSGIVING:
Lord of all, of every time and space, we read that the first followers of Jesus spend much of their time learning about Him, meeting with each other, and praying. We come to You to confess that we are not always very good at doing any of those things.

We are content with the Bible stories that we know, and not always ready to learn more. We do not always want to discover how Your Holy Spirit is working in the world today.

We like to mix with the people that we get on with, and do not look around to see who is alone or unhappy.

We busy ourselves with all kinds of tasks, but do not find time to pray. Forgive us Lord for neglecting these essentials, and for all the other ways in which we do not seek to build up Your body, the church.

We thank You that when we are truly sorry, Jesus says ‘Your sins are forgiven.’ Show us how to build each other up, and to help each other as we seek to become better disciples of our Lord Jesus, in whose name we pray. Amen.

READING: JOHN 10: 1-10

HYMN 252: JESUS THE LORD SAID, I AM THE BREAD-StF

SERMON: THE VOICE OF THE SHEPHERD (JOHN 10:1-10)

A father was reading the paper and decided to share what he’d been reading with his teenage son. The article claimed that children today suffered from a lack of attention and which caused low educational achievements at school. Furthermore, the article said that children today are lazy, have little concentration and barely possess any listening skills at all. When he was finished the father asked, “Well, son what do you think about that study.”

The boy half-heartedly lifted his head and said, “What was that again, Dad?”

Sometimes we don’t listen, do we? We do that with our parents and our spouse and our children. Sometimes we do that to God and Jesus, our Shepherd, too. Sometimes we’re just content to be in the presence of the Shepherd. But sometimes we get so absorbed in what we’re doing, what we’re thinking, with ourselves, that we don’t listen.

Let’s look at the passage for today John 10:1-10 and see what Jesus has to say about listening to “The Voice of the Shepherd”.

As we think about this passage today it tells us that The Voice of the Shepherd Goes Before Us, The Voice of the Shepherd Guides Us, The Voice of the Shepherd Protects Us and The Voice of the Shepherd Tells Us Who We Are.

The Voice of the Shepherd Goes Before Us

Maurice Boyd tells the story of Hugh Redwood, who was a celebrated lay preacher in England. He was in great demand as a speaker. During one period of his life, Redwood passed through a difficult time. He had some very hard decisions to make and wasn’t sure what he should do. He was tempted to just give it all up, to run. He asked God for guidance, but as sometimes happens, it seemed that no guidance was given. The heavens were silent.

One evening he went to have dinner with some friends before going on to address a large public gathering. When the meal was over his hostess suggested he go to the study, put his feet up, and relax beside the fire. Redwood was glad for a little bit of peace and quiet, so that’s what he did. As promised, he found a fire burning. As he sat down in one of the chairs, he noticed that on the table beside the chair was a KJV Bible. He picked it up and discovered it was open to Psalm 59. He began to read, and when he came to the tenth verse he found these words underlined, “The God of my mercy shall prevent me.”

The word prevent as used in the King James Version of the Bible means “to go before.” This is how John Wesley developed the idea of “Prevenient Grace”. The text means, “The God of my mercy shall go before me.” Sure enough, someone had written a paraphrase of the text in the margin, “My God, in His loving-kindness, shall meet me at every corner.” Those words were so powerful and became like a lamp turning on for Hugh Redwood. Later he made his hard decisions, and they proved to be wise ones. He didn’t run away but went on to accomplish great things and to live a useful and fulfilled life.

“The God of my mercy shall go before me. My God, in His loving-kindness, shall meet me at every corner.” Or as the twenty-third psalm puts it, “The Lord is my Shepherd.”

I personally find great comfort in that idea. The Good Shepherd goes before us to prepare the way, which means there is no place that we go that the Shepherd hasn’t already been. He’s already made sure the path is clear and safe. There may be hardships, there may be mishaps, there may be struggles but The Good Shepherd has already seen those and knows how to help us negotiate through the treacherous territory. He has already prepared a way for us to get through. All we have to do is continue to listen to His Voice. The Voice of the Shepherd Goes Before Us.

The Voice of the Shepherd Guides Us

And when we prepare our hearts through prayer and worship we are able to more fully and more clearly listen to “The Voice of the Shepherd”. And when we listen, The Voice of the Shepherd Guides Us.

At the age of forty-seven, Nick Thomas found himself unemployed and under tremendous financial pressure. He had had a successful career in the Air Force and the insurance business, but a series of financial reversals had set him back and the failure of his own consulting business had left him with no place to turn. He didn’t know what to do.

Frustrated and seeing no way out, Nick’s wife, Liz turned to prayer. Every morning she’d be in church praying that something good would happen to change their fortune. She was in church one morning, praying about their dilemma, when she thought she could almost hear the words, “Make the mustard.” Her family had a mustard recipe from Russia, and every Christmas she made this special mustard and gave it to her family and friends as a special gift. At first she ignored the words. But they kept coming more and more persistent.

Reluctantly she told Nick. Who, of course, thought she had gone mad. Liz had no idea from where or whom the voice came from. But after considerable discussion and prayer Nick and Liz decided to listen to the voice. She prepared a substantial amount of the mustard. They packaged it and then called on a local cheese shop. The manager tasted it and immediately bought out their entire inventory. Within three months they had cracked the highly competitive New York major deli market.

I believe that because the Thomases committed their troubles to prayer and looked expectantly to God for guidance, and listened for the Voice of the Shepherd, God gave them the direction they needed. You see, The Voice of the Shepherd Guides Us.

The Voice of the Shepherd Protects Us

Not only that, but The Voice of the Shepherd Protects Us. I say that because you have to make sure that the voice you are listening to is the right voice. You see there are a lot of voices out there vying for your attention and loyalty. There are a lot of voices that want you to think they are “The Voice of the Shepherd”. When in reality, they are the voice of the thief Jesus describes in verse 10.

Bob’s Famous Ice Cream Parlor in Bethesda, Maryland, was robbed, but manager Nathan Peabody was warned in time. Moments before the robbery he was contacted by telephone. The voice said, “Are you the manager? Listen carefully; don’t panic. This is the police. You are going to be robbed. Do NOT resist. Let the robber have your money. We will be waiting right outside your store and we need to catch him with the money on him. Thank you for your cooperation.”

Sure enough, a man with a scruffy beard and a knife came in demanding money. Mr. Peabody took all of his cash out of the drawer and gave it to him. Peabody watched as the robber left the store, waiting for the cops to close in. Instead, the robber just got in his car and drove away. And as he saw the taillights disappear in the distance he realized what had just happened. He realized that the call hadn’t come from police headquarters after all. But from the thief.

Jesus was right, [John 10:10] “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. [He] came that [we might] have life, and have it abundantly.”

Listening to The Voice of the Shepherd helps us in making hard choices, choices about who we are and what we believe and what is really important to us. The Voice of the Shepherd Protects Us. And by listening to The Voice of the Shepherd, He helps us choose.

The name “Christian” is our birthright. From the moment of our baptism and our birth into the Kingdom of God, the Good Shepherd promises to lead us to green pastures and beside the still waters. He promises to restore our souls and leads us through the valley of the shadow of Death. The Voice of the Shepherd Protects Us.

The Voice of the Shepherd Tells Us Who We Are:

Phillip Keller in his book, A SHEPHERD LOOKS AT PSALM 23, tells us that sheep are very fearful creatures. They simply won’t lie down unless they sense the shepherd very near. They need to know that he’s present. We’re like that. Jesus was right when he said we are like sheep without a shepherd. Not all of us but some of us. And we’re fearful when we don’t feel we belong or loved.

Bishop Gerald Kennedy once told about a young girl who lived in an apartment in a big city, and after supper in the summer the children on the block gathered in the streets to play. But after a while one would say that she had to go home because her mother told her to be in before eight o’clock. Or a father would whistle and a boy would have to leave. A mother would call and others would have to go. The girl said, “They would all go. It would get dark and I would be there all alone, waiting for my father or my mother to call me in. They never did.”

How sad. There are children who don’t know the voice of a caring parent, who never get called in or called home. They can do whatever they want as long as they don’t get into any trouble or inconvenience the parents. When what they really want, what they really need is someone to care. Someone to call their name, with love, not filled with derision, someone to reach out and let them know they matter.

Sometimes, children grow into adults who, even after hearing all the promises of the God who loves us, who calls us by name, who gave His life for us, they still persist in living outside the flock. They question the voice of the Shepherd or the sincerity of the Voice. They question the other sheep in the flock, whether they will accept them or not. Or worse, they don’t think they can be worthy of that love, even after the Shepherd has rescued them and has bent down to give them refreshing water.

But that really doesn’t matter to God, it really doesn’t matter to the Shepherd. That’s why He came. That’s why He gave His life on the cross. He loves you.

The Shepherd loves those who don’t want to have anything to do with Him. He even loves those sheep who wander away, who are distracted by the little clump of enticing greenery and suddenly find themselves separated from the rest of the flock.

That’s when the Shepherd comes searching for them and brings them back into the fold and reminds them where they belong and to whom they belong. Why? Because “The Voice of the Shepherd Tells Us Who We Are.”

Jesus said: “the sheep hear [the Shepherd’s] voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.”

The Voice of the Shepherd is there whispering His love for us. Calling us and wooing us into an ongoing relationship. The Voice of the Shepherd Goes Before Us, The Voice of the Shepherd Guides Us, The Voice of the Shepherd Protects Us and The Voice of the Shepherd Tells Us Who We Are.

All we have to do is tune our hearts and souls and ears to The Voice of the Shepherd.

Jesus calls but he’s not as annoying as the Verizon guy, you won’t hear, “Can you hear me now?” But if your heart and soul and ears are tuned to Christ you will hear The Voice of the Shepherd. Are you listening? AMEN

This is the Word of the Lord for this day.

HYMN 443: COME LET US SING OF A WONDERFUL LOVE-StF

PRAYERS OF INTERCESSION: PRAY FOR WHATEVER OR WHOEVER YOU WANT TO PRAY FOR

HYMN 481: THE LORD’S MY SHEPHERD, I ‘LL NOT WANT-StF

BLESSINGS