21 April 2024

This week the challenge to live the resurrection continues. By combining the Good Shepherd metaphor with John’s call for love and Peter’s proclamation of God’s grace in Christ, the Lectionary has some strong words for leaders, but also for all Christ-followers. God life is to be enjoyed as a priceless gift, but it is also to be received as a transforming influence, and shared as a grace-filled, love-bringing reality.

May the Good Shepherd fill us with life, and inspire us to be good shepherds to others as we worship this week.

Acts 4:5-12: Peter and the other disciples are put on trial by the religious leaders, who ask them by which name or power they have healed the lame man. Peter, in response, tells them that it is by the power of Jesus that the healing has happened. Though they rejected Jesus, he has become “the cornerstone” and is the name through which humanity is saved.

Psalm 23: David celebrates God as his shepherd who provides for him, cares for him, protects him, and in whose house he will live forever.

1 John 3:16-24: As Jesus laid down his life for us we should lay down our lives for each other. We are called to follow God’s command to love one another – in action, not just in word.

John 10:11-18: Jesus proclaims himself as the good shepherd who lays down his life for the sheep, and takes it up again.

If the Easter season is about anything, it’s about restoration, life, and God’s compassionate care for God’s people. These are the themes that come through the readings for this week. In Acts the disciples, who are put on trial for healing the lame man outside of the Temple, proudly proclaim Jesus as the name by which the healing has happened, and by which humanity is to be saved. In David’s famous Psalm, God’s care as shepherd is celebrated, and in John’s letter the love of God that is revealed in Christ’s sacrifice is to be passed on through those who are Christ’s disciples as they choose to love one another and lay down their lives for one another. Finally, in John 10 Jesus proclaims himself as the Good Shepherd who cares for the sheep with commitment and courage, and who lays down his life for the sheep. But, in this loving sacrifice lies the hope of resurrection – Jesus confidently asserts that he will take up his life again. The message is an important one as we reflect on the resurrection over the next few weeks. Resurrection can easily be seen as an individual experience of life beyond the grave, but the Gospel reveals that it is so much more than that. As much as it does offer personal renewal through God’s life, and the promise of eternity, resurrection also calls us to be life-carriers – shepherds who, like Jesus, lay our lives down for others. It is the hope of resurrection that makes sacrifice possible, and that gives us the strength and courage to risk loving and serving others even when it hurts.

Global Application:
There are two obvious implications in today’s theme that present themselves. The first relates to the crucial issue of leadership. The realities of corruption, incivility, self-interest, and petty partisanship are present in pretty much every government in the world. In the corporate sector, greed, quick-fixes, and profit-above-all-else easily taint leaders. Even in the sphere of the church, the temptation to seek fame, wealth, and influence too often takes precedence over compassionate and strong leadership. Like the people of Israel in Jesus’ time, we long for Good Shepherds who lead with grace, compassion, wisdom, and justice. The examples we have – Nelson Mandela, Mother Teresa, Wangari Maathai, Gandhi – inspire and challenge us and give us hope that the leadership our world needs is possible. For those of us who exercise leadership in any capacity, the Easter vision calls us to use our influence to bring life to others, to serve others, and to work sacrificially for the good of our communities. It is this leadership alone that can make a positive difference to the great crises of our time at every level.

The second implication of today’s theme flows from this leadership challenge. It’s the call to recognise that resurrection life is not just a gift for personal blessing, but is a powerful energy that is intended to flow between people, bringing life, wholeness, and justice wherever it flows. As such, the call to love one another sacrificially applies not just to those in leadership, but to every Christ-follower. The resurrection life we celebrate is meant to connect us with others and motivate us to seek their best, contributing in whatever way we can to a world of grace, peace, justice and love. As we seek to live Christ’s resurrected life together, our care and compassion has the potential to address every crisis from poverty to climate change. All it takes is the vision and hope, the courage and commitment and the faith to follow the movement of God’s Spirit and the life that God’s Spirit brings.

Local Application:
God’s compassion for us and God’s desire to restore and enliven us shine through every moment of the Easter season. The mystery and challenge of this divine quest lies in that it operates on personal, local, and global levels. As we begin to live as resurrected individuals, we cannot help but connect with resurrection communities, and that in turn brings the life of resurrection to the world. For most of us, though, the beginning point is personal and local. This means that, first of all, in our families and friendships, and in how we order our lives, God calls us to embody the compassion and sacrificial care of resurrection. Any time our words and actions bring life, joy and peace to others, we share resurrection. Any time we lay down our lives for one another, we manifest resurrection life. Then, as we connect with one another in resurrection communities, we are able to bring life to our neighbourhoods, impacting others with God’s care and grace. This means that much of how we have “structured” and lived our faith as Christ followers may need to change. From excusive communities, we will need to learn acceptance and welcome. From being people of judgment and criticism, we will need to become people of love and forgiveness. From being those who focus only on a few issues that directly affect us, we will need to contribute to causes that bring life to people we may never meet. The life that resurrection brings cannot be contained. It breaks out wherever it can, and those who seek to live resurrection can only follow where it leads. When we try to contain it or control it, we only end up falling out of step with Christ. This means that every action, word and thought can be either the reflection of resurrection, or an obstacle to making it visible. The choice is ours – we can be Good Shepherds who care for and lay our lives down for those around us, or not.

God, You Are Enough (Psalm 23 Paraphrase)
Good Shepherd
A Love So Strong
That Life Would Teach Us

Hymn Suggestions:
The King Of Love My Shepherd Is
Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah
We Shall Go Out With Hope Of Resurrection
God Of Justice (Link to YouTube video)
God Of This City (Link to YouTube video)
Mighty To Save (Link to YouTube video)

A Liturgy for the Breaking of Bread

Video Suggestions:
Psalm 23