Worship Resources for April 30, 2023—Fourth Sunday of Easter

Revised Common Lectionary: Acts 2:42-47; Psalm 23; 1 Peter 2:19-25; John 10:1-10

Narrative Lectionary: Paul’s Mission, Acts 13:1-3; 14:8-18 (Matthew 10:40-42)

The Revised Common Lectionary continues with lessons from the early church in Acts. Following the manifestation of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost, we learn that awe came upon everyone in Acts 2:42-47. The new believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teachings, and became a new community that shared their resources with each other, broke bread together, worshiped and fellowshipped together. Their faithfulness was observed by others as they had the “goodwill of all the people,” and new believers came to join them every day because of how the Spirit was lived out in their life together as a community of faith.

The Shepherd’s Psalm of Psalm 23 has long been attributed to David, but this ancient song of assurance and comfort while facing evil and death continues to speak to us today of God’s faithfulness and steadfast love. God is the one who provides for us and cares for us as a good shepherd, and will be with us through life’s greatest challenges and loneliness. Even in the face of evil, God’s blessings overflow, and we know God is present with us, now and always.

The Epistle readings for the season of Easter are from 1 Peter. In this week’s selection of 2:19-25 (coming after next week’s selection of 2:2-10), the writer of 1 Peter identifies Christ’s suffering with that of the Suffering Servant in Isaiah 53. The writer assures the believers in the early church who were struggling that their suffering was in solidarity with Christ, who also suffered unjustly. The writer states that Jesus suffered on the cross for sin, so that sin would not have a hold on humanity. In Christ, believers have healing and hope, even while they suffer. Christ is our shepherd, the one who guards us and has delivered us from the sin of the world.

The Gospel readings turn to John for the remainder of the season. In John 10:1-10, Jesus speaks of the shepherd as the one who guards the sheep and is the gate, for the sheep know the shepherd’s voice and know how to enter through the gate. Anyone who does not enter by the gate are thieves and bandits, those who want to cause harm to the sheep. Jesus as the gate wants to save the sheep, while others want to steal and kill (in the first century, there were others claiming to be the Messiah before Jesus). Jesus shared this metaphor but those listening did not understand that he wanted to lead the people to eternal life, not to a temporary safety, but an eternal assurance of God’s faithfulness.

The Narrative Lectionary turns to Paul for the remainder of Easter, though in this lesson is Luke’s account in Acts of Paul’s mission in 13:1-3 and 14:8-18. In 13:1-3, the Holy Spirit speaks to some of the leaders gathered at the church in Antioch, calling Barnabas and Saul (Paul). In Lystra, a disabled man approached Paul and listened to him speak. Paul turned to the man, calls him to stand upright, and the man was able to walk. Immediately the crowds identified Paul and Barnabas as Hermes and Zeus, and the priest of Zeus wanted to offer a sacrifice. Paul and Barnabas insisted that this was the work of the living God, the one who made all heaven and earth and the sea. Paul and Barnabas were simply human beings, not gods. There is only one God, the God who provides for everyone and all things. But it was hard to convince the crowds otherwise.

The supplementary verses of Matthew 10:40-42 contain Jesus’s teaching to the disciples about welcome and hospitality, and that the one who welcomes Jesus welcomes not just him but the one who sent him. Those who welcome a prophet receive a prophet’s reward. All are called to welcome and receive one another as if God is among them.

In this season of Easter, we remember that Christ was present with the disciples after his resurrection before his ascension. We think of Christ as our Good Shepherd, the one who is with us always and is calling us to listen to his voice. We are reminded that there is no other shepherd who would suffer for us and knows when we are suffering. Christ calls us into fold, and we are not alone. We are also reminded that in the early days, the first followers of Jesus came together in community, sharing in worship and fellowship together and witnessing to others by their way of life. Others were drawn to their practices and sharing so joyfully and faithfully of Christ. When Paul began his ministry, he did not bring healing and hope to people so they would worship him, but so they would know Christ. Even when others thought he was a god, he pointed them back to Jesus. The early church did the same, with awe and wonder and deep joy as they fellowshipped with one another, they shared the Good News in all their actions as well as their words. May we be inspired by those early believers and leaders, and listen to the voice of Christ who calls us into community with one another.

Call to Worship
Awe and wonder, gladness and generosity;
May we witness God’s love in community.
May we share in worship and fellowship together,
Knowing God’s faithfulness and steadfast love.
God calls us to share what we have with those in need,
For our own hearts and lives are full of God’s abundance.
The Shepherd is calling you by name, listen to their voice,
For you belong to God, and we belong together in Christ.

Prayer of Brokenness/Confession
God of the Covenant, You called us from the beginning to be in community. You covenant with us through our ancestors to be our God, and You promised to be faithful in steadfast love. You have always remained true to us, though we have strayed from You. Remind us that Your covenant is written on our hearts, that even when we are faithless, You remain faithful. Instill in us the hope that we always can find forgiveness, healing, and peace in You, our Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer, the maker of the unbreakable Covenant that is love in our hearts. Amen.

The Lord is our Shepherd, the one who leads us in safety and assurance, providing for us out of an abundance of steadfast love. There is nothing we can do that will separate us from God’s love in Christ Jesus. Know the Good Shepherd in your life, and listen for Christ’s voice. Go forth and help one another to know the voice of love that is in their heart, that they are God’s beloved child. Listen to that voice yourself, for You are God’s beloved. God is well pleased with you. Share the good news. Amen.

God of Peace, bless us with peace in our heart. May peace be on our tongue; may we speak truth in love. May peace be in our gut, to calm the rage we feel; may our anger be channeled into positive work for justice. May peace be in our hands, to help those in need, rather than to harm those who’ve hurt us. May peace be in our soul, for we are not alone. God of peace, we know You are with us, in the friends who share their love with us. Bless us with peace, now and always. Amen.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.