Fourth Sunday of Easter Lessons & Brief Meditation

FIRST READING:  Acts 2:42-47   [People of the Shepherd – Leaning on love and learning to love.] 

This is a description of the life and the work of the early Church. The Christian community’s enthusiasm and openness gave evidence of God’s transforming power. The people willingly shared possessions, prayers, food, fellowship, and love for God and for one another. They radiated so much joy and gladness in their hearts, in their fellowship, and in their worship that the author of Acts (the same person who wrote Luke) wrote that other people could not help but like them and eagerly join them. How is your/our congregation’s life and fellowship like and unlike that described in this reading? What could you/we do to help your/our church be more like this? Some suggest that the author of Acts was being too idealistic and not very honest (like some of President Trump’s not-so-true COVID-19 press conference “factual” boasts and “scientific” medical musings!). Perhaps this is so. But we should never become too comfortable with hollow substitutes… and we should never think of “Church” as being an individual rather than a corporate experience… and we should always dare to open ourselves to God’s Spirit with a sense of expectancy and excitement.

PSALM:  Psalm 23   [People of the Shepherd – guided, nurtured, protected, promised!] 

How many people have heard these words and been comforted and encouraged? Like the psalmist, like biblical Israel, like many people of strong or even wavering faith, we too can take comfort in knowing that God is our Shepherd on our life journey. Let God guide your path, give you hope and strength, and walk with you, even through shadowed valleys of crisis, grief, and your own final breath! Trust in God. Keep trusting.

SECOND READING: 1 Peter 2:19-25   [People of the Shepherd – blessing God in spite of suffering.] 

It isn’t always so easy to do the right thing.  Here the author speaks truthfully of the difficulties, hardships, rejection, and suffering that Christians might face because they are trying to live faithfully and to love fervently.

Some people say, “Believe in God and you don’t have any troubles.” What do you think? How might our own refusal to suffer bring more suffering to others? We should understand and accept, even as we look at the example of Jesus Christ, that such challenge and suffering is part of our calling. And we should follow his lead because he is the shepherd who has saved and delivered us for a better life now and secure life beyond our earthly journey. By his wounds, you have been healed!

 

GOSPEL READING:   John 10:1-10   [People of the Shepherd – saved, free, alive!]

Jesus calls himself both “the gate” and “the gatekeeper” for the sheep; and beyond today’s reading, he also declares, “I am the good shepherd” (John 10:11,14). In a world of false shepherds – thieves and bandits who seek to sneak in by some other route than “the gate” to steal, kill, and destroy us sheep – Jesus protects us and watches over us and opens the door, the way, the gate to “pasture”, to abundant life. Would you know abundant life if you saw it? Do you have it now? May you always listen out for, recognize, and trust the voice of Jesus Christ! He is the one who has laid down his life for us, who loves us sacrificially. He knows his own and his own know him.

A BRIEF MEDITATION

The Fourth Sunday of Easter each year is often called “Good Shepherd Sunday.” The image of Christ as shepherd might seem outdated in times and places where sheep and shepherds are not that common. Yet we modern folks continue to be attracted to these images and the Biblical passages that lift them up. Don’t we all long for guidance, protection, and strength in a world filled with much chaos and confusion, with dangerous situations and dangerous people? Don’t we all need a GOOD Shepherd to lead us, to give us life? And might we then become “junior shepherds” to others in order to protect and guide, to rescue and heal, to feed and to assure? 

Get life. Love Christ. Serve Christ. Live, love, and serve others like Christ did.

There are so many wandering around this world lost and hurt, like sheep without a shepherd.

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