Revised Common Lectionary: Acts 4:5-12; Psalm 23; John 10:11-18; 1 John 3:16-24

We continue our Easter celebration by reading through Acts and hearing the stories of the early Christians in the short time after Jesus’ resurrection. Peter and the other disciples continue to proclaim to the religious leaders and the crowds that gather that Jesus is the Messiah, that he was crucified and was raised by God. They continue to witness to Jesus. As Jesus, when he performed miracles, always glorified God and not himself, so the disciples when miracles occur glorify Jesus and not themselves. Jesus, who emptied himself, becoming humble to the point of going to the cross, gave his life for others and for God, and so we, too, live for others and for God, not for our own glory.

Psalm 23, the most famous psalm, sings of God as our shepherd, the one who walks and guides us throughout our life, who never leaves our side. The shepherd stays with us even through the valley of the shadow of death, but also guides us to the still waters and green pastures.

As we stay with the shepherd image, we hear the words of Jesus in John 10:11-18, Jesus the Good Shepherd. Jesus takes the shepherd image further–not only will God never leave our side, Jesus will give his life for us. Jesus’ desire is that we will follow him, that we will know his voice and follow his ways. We are called to Jesus, and Jesus calls us into God’s love.

And the voice of Jesus calls us to love one another. In 1 John 3:16-24, we are reminded that the greatest commandment is to love one another. In Matthew, Mark and Luke, the greatest commandments are twofold: to love God with all one’s heart, soul, mind and strength, and to love one’s neighbor as one’s self. In John’s Gospel, however, the New Commandment is just one, and it is to love one another (John 13:34). The writer of 1 John carries this tradition forward, reminding us to believe in the name of Jesus, and to love one another.

The Good Shepherd lays down his life for his sheep. The sheep know the voice of the Good Shepherd. So we have come to know the voice of God through the voice of Jesus, calling us to love one another, with a love that puts others before ourselves, with a love that is humble and looks to God’s ways instead of our own greed and desires. We are reminded that this Jesus shows us God’s love, and that God is the Shepherd who will never leave our side, through good times and bad, through the valley of the shadow of death–God is always present.

Call to Worship:
Leader: Listen, God is calling you!
People: We hear the cries of the hungry children in our community and around our world.
Leader: Look, God is seeking you!
People: We see the homeless in our streets and shelters in need.
Leader: Reach out, God is taking your hand!
People: We feel the hands of youth reaching out in need of help, guidance and friendship.
Leader: Search your heart, God is calling you!
People: The home-bound and the sick are in need of our prayers and companionship.
Leader: Listen, God is calling you!
People: We hear You, O God! We see You, O God! We feel You and we perceive You, O God!
All: Come, let us worship God, who calls us into this world to do justice, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with God.

Prayer of Confession:
Loving God, we confess that we have failed to hear Your voice calling us, though the cries of the world are deafening. We are overwhelmed with the need to the point we feel helpless. How can we possibly make a difference? Forgive us, O God, for failing to act because the problems seem too big for us. Forgive us, O God, when we become focused on our own problems and worries instead of seeing Your face in our neighbors and around the world. Call us back to You, so that we might hear Your voice, seek Your ways, and love our neighbors as ourselves, our brothers and sisters in You. In the name of Christ, the one who lays down his life for all of us, we pray. Amen.

Assurance of Pardon:
The Lord is our Shepherd, we shall not want. The Good Shepherd guides us to green pastures and leads us to still waters. The Good Shepherd restores our soul. We are forgiven. We are renewed and we are loved. Go forth sharing this Good News. Amen.

Prayer:
Gentle Shepherd, we know Your voice. We know Your call upon our lives. Open our ears and our hearts to answer Your call and to follow You, even when it is difficult, even when we do not want to. Help us to turn away from the voices of the world that call us to want more, to desire what others have, to work for earthly success. Call us again so we can hear Your voice and see Your face in the faces of our neighbors around us, so that we can help lead others to still waters and green pastures, where all have enough to eat and live. May we work towards Your vision of justice and peace in our world. In the name of Christ, our Good Shepherd, we pray. Amen.

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