17 April 2016

The celebration of life continues, this week with a story from the early church of Tabitha being raised from death, and with Jesus proclaiming himself as the Shepherd whose sheep know his voice and who find life in him. There is comfort here for all who are wrestling with the forces of death, however big or small, in their lives.

May you continue to know the life of Easter in your worship this week.

READINGS:
Acts 9:36-43
: Peter raises Tabitha of Joppa, which brings many people to faith.

Psalm 23: David’s famous Psalm of thanksgiving, praise and confidence in God for the gift of life.

Revelation 7:9-17: The hosts of heaven praise God, and the martyrs rejoice in the God who is their Shepherd.

John 10:22-30: Jesus speaks of himself as the Shepherd of his followers who are the sheep he cares for, and who know his voice.

REFLECTIONS ON THEME:
The season of resurrection continues, and this week is brought together with the ‘Shepherd’ metaphor, which appears in three of the four readings. The two underlying messages that emerge appear to be: 1) In Christ life is to be found even in the face of death – from Peter’s raising of Tabitha, to the Psalmist’s confidence of travelling through the valley of the shadow of death to finally dwell in God’s house, to the heavenly gathering of those who have died as martyrs in the persecution of the church, to Jesus’ promise that his sheep receive eternal life from him, this message is clear. 2) The Shepherd is also a messianic, and a subversive, image. Where the leaders of Israel had failed to be faithful shepherds, and where the Roman Empire had slaughtered followers (sheep) of Christ, Jesus stands as the one who has died but has risen – defying the death-dealing powers that be, and winning life and security for his sheep. This week, then, we are called to embrace the life of Christ which defies death, and which subverts all the forces of evil and Empire that robs us of life, and we are called to be “good shepherds” in the way of Jesus who bring life to those under our care.

CONNECTING WITH LIFE:
Global Application:
In the midst of all of the bad news that the world brings us of war, violence, crime, climate change, and death, the message of resurrection is both a comfort and a call to remain strong and courageous in working for a more just and peaceful world. In addition, this week’s readings speak a prophetic message to those in any kind of leadership, challenging them to be true, life-giving shepherds, and calling us to hold them accountable, while retaining our primary allegiance to Jesus as the one true Shepherd. On a global level this means that we must actively oppose unjust laws and structures that rob people of life. Wherever there is poverty and need, we can oppose international debt structures and unjust trade practices that make such poverty worse. Wherever power is abused and there is corruption, we can support organisations and initiatives that call for transparency and we can blow the whistle on those who are corrupt whenever we encounter them. Wherever there is war and violence, we can work for peace and support any initiatives that contribute to peaceful resolution of conflict and to regulation on the trade and ownership of firearms. In any way that we oppose the forces of death in our world, we contribute to the growth and celebration of life. In addition, in whatever situations we exercise leadership, we can follow in the serving and sacrificial footsteps of Jesus, seeking to be good shepherds in bringing life to those for whom we care. In all of these ways we embrace the resurrection as a daily, lived and life-giving reality.

Local Application:
The dual theme of this week is an invitation to Christian communities and individuals to enter more fully, and more practically, into the Easter journey. On the one hand, we all face the threat of death – the big deaths of loss of loved ones or personal tragedy, and the small ones of broken relationships or difficult life circumstances – and we need to be reminded that life is found in the midst of death. The comfort this message offers is also a call to keep faith, to continue to strive to live in compassionate and life-giving ways, and to live our own leadership – as parents, educators, business or community leaders – as good shepherds, providing, protecting and guiding those under our care. Ultimately, when justice fails in any community, it is both a crisis of leadership and a crisis of faith. The resurrection addresses both needs, and gives us the resources we need to engage the hurting places in our world. If each individual sought to bring life to each person he or she encountered each day, and if each person sought to be a good shepherd to others, our communities would be places of equality, sufficiency, peace, justice and celebration. May we learn to be life-giving shepherds like this!

RESOURCES FOR WORSHIP:
Prayers:
Invincible Life
God, You Are Enough (A Psalm 23 Paraphrase)
Where Are The Leaders?
Good Shepherd

Hymn Suggestions:
The King Of Love My Shepherd Is
Saviour, Like A Shepherd Lead Us
The Lord’s My Shepherd
Abide With Me
Never Let My Hunger Die
Blessed Be Your Name (Link to YouTube video)
Always Forever (Link to YouTube video)
Your Grace Is Enough (Link to YouTube video)

Liturgy:
A Simple Communion Liturgy

Video Suggestions:
Psalm 23
I Raise Dead Things

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