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Sermon (2) and Liturgy for The Fourth Sunday of Easter - Year A
Acts 2:42-47; Psalm 23; 1 Peter 2:19-25; John 10:1-10
"The Shepherd's Voice"

READING:  Acts 2:41-47; Psalm 23; I Peter 2:19-25; John 10:1-10
SERMON :  "The Shepherd's Voice"

Rev. Richard J. Fairchild
a-ea04su 979000
   The following is a more or less complete liturgy and sermon
   for the upcoming Sunday.  Hymn numbers, designated as VU are
   found in the United Church of Canada Hymnal "Voices United".
   SFPG is "Songs For A Gospel People", also available from the UCC.

   Sources: The Eucharistic Preface and the Benediction are based on
   those of Nathan Nettleton ( for Easter 4a,
   2002.  The Prayers of the People are adapted from those found in
   "Prayers For Sundays and Season: Year A", Liturgy Training
   Publications, 1998., pp 60-61.  The children's story is based on
   narrative by by Roland McGregor ( as found at
   his site ( in 2002. See the
   notice included with the story below.

GATHERING AND MUSICAL PRELUDE                            (* = please stand)

L  The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, 
   and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.
P  And also with you.
L  Praise be to God, 
   the gatekeeper has opened the door to the fold.
P  Jesus is the gate.  
   Whoever enters by him will be saved.
L  Praise be to God, 
   the shepherd has come to give us life and that abundantly.
P  Jesus is the Good Shepherd.  
   He calls us by name.
   He leads us day by day.   
   He watches over us.
L  Listen for his voice.  And rejoice in his care.  
   All others are but thieves and robbers 
   who seek to destroy what God has made.
P  We know the voice of our Shepherd 
   and we will follow him.

* INTROIT: "This is The Day" (verse 1)                             - VU 412

Gracious God - we give you thanks and praise for the day you have made, for
the life you have given, and for the love you have poured out.  We thank
you for Christ Jesus our Shepherd and for how he calls us by name and leads
to safely to the waters that refresh and well up to eternal life.  We thank
you for the bread of heaven to earth come down and for the wine of
salvation that lifts us up to you in glory.  Help us to render to you all
the praise and honour you so richly deserve and to worship you in truth and
righteousness in this hour and all the day through.  Amen.

* HYMN:  "Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Give Thanks"                     - VU 179

CHILDREN'S TIME:  "Monsters Under The Bed"
Object    Story
Source    Based on material by Roland McGregor, ( 
          All rights reserved.  Permission to share this material with any
          individual provided that you include the source with his e-mail
          address and this copyright notice (2002) Material found at 

Theme     The Good Shepherd Watches Under Us and Keeps Us Safe.

I would like to tell you a story about a boy named Brian. One night, after
everyone had gone to bed, Brian opened the door to his parents' bedroom and
quietly walked over to his mother's side of the bed and said, "Mommy, there
is a monster under my bed." 

"What?" said his mother. 

"There is a monster under my bed. Can I sleep with you?", he said. 

"Let's go see that monster," said Brian's daddy. 

"No, I don't want to see it," said Brian. 

What do you think they should do? 

Well, first they turned on the lights. They turned on the lights in the
parents' bedroom. They turned on the lights in the hall.  Then they turned
on the lights in Brian's bedroom.  Brian's daddy went around the bed
pulling up the covers so they could all see under the bed.  Brian's daddy
stood on one side of the bed.  Brian and his mother stood on the other side
of the bed. 

"Now," said Brian's daddy, "When I count to three, we are all going to get
down on the floor and look under the bed." 

"I don't want to," said Brian. 

"We can do it," said Mommy, "I'll hold your hand." 

So Brian's daddy counted, "One, two, three...", and they all got down on
the floor to look under the bed.

"What do you see?" asked Brian's daddy. 

"Nothing," said Brian. 

"I see you." said Brian's daddy to Brian.

"I see God," said Brian's mommy. 

"Nuh uh," said Brian. 

"Well, I think about seeing God," said his mommy.  "You were thinking about
seeing monsters under your bed.  I'm thinking about seeing God under your
bed.  We know God watches over us when we sleep. Maybe God watches under us

Brian had never thought about that.  "God watches under us" that seemed
like a good idea to Brian. 

Brian's daddy said, "As long as we are here on our knees by the bed, why
don't we say another prayer so we can all go back to bed." 

And they did just like this:  "Dear God we thank you for watching over us
and watching under us, and the next time we think about seeing monsters
under the bed help us think about seeing you under the bed because we know
that you are bigger than any monster.  Amen." 

God watches over us like a shepherd watches over his sheep.  He watches
under us too - and to left and to right - to the front and to back.   Keep
God in mind, look for him like Brian's mother did and listen for his voice
whenever you feel in danger - and the monsters will go away.

   Loving God - we thank you for watching over us - and we thank you
   for watching under us.  - Help us to think of you - and to listen
   for your voice - and to remember your care - when we feel frightened
   - and when we are worried.   - We ask it in Jesus's name.  Amen 

   And in the word's Jesus taught us, let us say the Lord's Prayer:

   Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name; thy kingdom
   come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.  Give us this
   day our daily bread; and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive
   those who trespass against us; and lead us not into temptation, but
   deliver us from evil.  For thine is the kingdom, the power and the
   glory, for ever and ever.  Amen

SONG  "Genesis" - by Children's Choir (or "The Third Time"- by Pam Filfil)

- Welcome and Announcements    
- Birthdays and Anniversaries     
- Special Matters      
- Sharing Joys and Concerns

  Open my ears that I may hear voices of truth thou sendest clear
  and while the wave notes fall on my ear, everything false will disappear.
  Silently now I wait for thee, ready, my God they will to see.
  Open my ears, illumine me, Spirit divine!

   (NIV)  They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the
   fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.  Everyone was
   filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by
   the apostles.  All the believers were together and had everything in
   common.  Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as
   he had need.  Every day they continued to meet together in the
   temple courts.  They broke bread in their homes and ate together
   with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favour
   of all the people.  And the Lord added to their number daily those
   who were being saved.

L  This is the Word of the Lord
P  Thanks Be To God

RESPONSIVE READING:  Psalm 23 (VU 749) & The Gloria Patri (Sung)    -VU 749

   (NIV)  For it is commendable if a person bears up under the pain of
   unjust suffering because he is conscious of God.  But how is it to
   your credit if you receive a beating for doing wrong and endure it? 
   But if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is
   commendable before God.  To this you were called, because Christ
   suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in
   his steps.  

   "He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth."   When
   they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he
   suffered, he made no threats.  Instead, he entrusted himself to him
   who judges justly.  He himself bore our sins in his body on the
   tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by
   his wounds you have been healed.  For you were like sheep going
   astray, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of
   your souls.

L  This is the Word of the Lord
P  Thanks Be To God

* HYMN: "He Leadeth Me"                                            - VU 657

   (NIV)  "I tell you the truth, the man who does not enter the sheep
   pen by the gate, but climbs in by some other way, is a thief and a
   robber.  The man who enters by the gate is the shepherd of his
   sheep.  The watchman opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to
   his voice.  He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.  When
   he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his
   sheep follow him because they know his voice.  But they will never
   follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they
   do not recognize a stranger's voice." 

   Jesus used this figure of speech, but they did not understand what
   he was telling them.  Therefore Jesus said again, "I tell you the
   truth, I am the gate for the sheep.  All who ever came before me
   were thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them.  I
   am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved.  He will come
   in and go out, and find pasture.  The thief comes only to steal and
   kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it
   to the full.

L  This is the gospel of our Risen Lord
P  Praise be to you, Lord Jesus Christ.

SERMON:  "The Shepherd's Voice"

   O Lord, we pray, speak in this place, in the calming of our minds
   and in the longing of our hearts, by the words of my lips and in 
   the thoughts that we form.  Speak, O Lord, for your servants listen. 

One of the good things that happened recently was the visit of the United
Church Moderator, the Right Reverend Marion Pardy to our congregation.  She
really enjoyed her time with us - eating the wonderful food you prepared -
and speaking to us and taking our questions.  

I took the Moderator and Kim MacMillan, our Presbytery Staff person on a
tour of our church the next morning before they left for Revelstoke and
points closer to Vancouver - and she was quite impressed with our plans for
building onto the congregation and how much money we had managed to raise
for it already.  Her prayers are with us as we seek to begin the building
later this Summer.

The Moderator's visit provided us with a good example of one aspect of what
it means in today's gospel reading about the good shepherd and the sheep,
when Jesus says :

       He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.  When he
       has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and
       his sheep follow him because they know his voice.

Her visit provided us with a good example of what it means for us to know
and recognize the voice of our  Shepherd - of our Lord - Christ Jesus - in
how we reacted to what she had to say about certain issues.
In the mid-east at the time of Jesus - sheep did indeed know the voice of
their shepherds,
   and indeed they did then - and still do now - flee away from the voice
   of other shepherds, the voices of people whom they do not know,
       and they did - and still do now - follow the voice of the one they
       do know: the one who tends them carefully, the one who truly would
       lay down his life for them.

Sheep in the mid-east were not raised up to be slaughtered at a year old,
rather they were raised primarily for their wool - and remained in the
flock all their lives.

They had a relationship with their shepherd that spanned a number of years,
a relationship in which they had time to become familiar with the shepherd
and with the places that the shepherd would lead them -
   those still waters and green pastures that the 23rd Psalm speaks of
   where our souls can be revived
       as well as the places of danger that one often needs to travel
       through to arrive at a good place, those places where the shepherd's
       crook and rod protect us from natural hazards and from the hazards
       spoken of in the gospel reading - the thieves and robbers who steal,
       kill, or destroy.

Jesus - in speaking of himself says:  

   "The sheep know the voice of their shepherd - and they follow him,
   but they will never follow a stranger - in fact they will run away
   from him because they do not recognize a stranger's voice."

The problem that we have today, and indeed it has always been a problem:
   - is in coming to recognize and know the voice of Christ our Shepherd
   in the midst of all the voices that speak around us 
   - and how to recognize and know the voice of Christ our Shepherd and in
   the midst of the all different voices that speak within us - within our
   own hearts and minds.

And this is never so crucial when it comes to those in our midst 
   - those who are our brothers and sisters 
   - those like our Moderator and the General Council of our Church
   - and those like Kim MacMillan and the elected officials of our
speak to us about critical social and political issues and make suggestions
to us about what we might think and what we might do in response to those

Because of our trust for these people of our great church, 
   we sometimes uncritically accept all that they have to tell us 
   as being the voice of Christ speaking to us.
Or - as is more often the case - because of our lack of trust in these
people of our great church, because of our conviction that they are always
too liberal, or too radical, or too out of touch of reality,  
   we end up regarding them - who are our brothers and sisters in the
   faith - as "them" - as "those people from Toronto" - as the enemy as it

And all that they have to say, when we don't like what they say, 
   we see as not being anything at all like the voice of Christ 
       and we flee away as sheep flee from the voice of one who is not
their shepherd.

It is a problem.  

And it is not a new problem - it is to be found in every denomination in
the world that has more than one congregation - and it is found even in
those churches - those community churches - where there is only one

The problem is - how do we decide what the Lord is telling us?  
How do we know what we are hearing either around us - or within us 
- is right or wrong, good or bad?

It is not enough, my friends, to say to oneself "Well, Richard, well Shary
- well Gil - our Shepherd will never say anything to us about how we do
politics or how we run our business affairs - that Jesus was and is only
concerned about our souls." 

It is not enough to say that because that quite simply is untrue.   

Much of what Jesus had to say concerned our attitudes and actions regarding
money  and most of what he said and did  - even when all he was doing was
healing people and casting out demons and telling folk to love and forgive
one another - was regarded as political enough to get him into deep, deep,
trouble; so deep that ultimately the decision was made to silence him by
hanging him from a cross.

One person's politics is another person's religion 
- and one person's religion it often turns out is someone else's politics.  

How else do we explain why Christians are being killed in ever increasing
numbers in our world today simply because they bear the name of Christ?

How else do we explain the promise within the Book of Revelation - the
promise that we, like Christ himself - will be regarded as lambs to be
slaughtered by the great power that will seek to dominate the world before
the great and terrible day of judgement - that day of hope and vindication
that will come after a third of all life on this earth is destroyed?.

No - it is not enough for us to say - uncritically - unreflectively - that
what some people say to us in the name of the Lord about this or that
matter is wrong.

Nor is it enough for us to say - uncritically - unreflectively - that what
some people say to us in the name of the Lord about this or that matter is

What it is for us is to listen to the various voices around us and those
within us (not that we always have much choice about it) and then 
   - in prayerful reflection 
   - in diligent study of the word 
   - and in quiet and peaceable dialogue with others whose wisdom we know
   to be Christ like
ask ourselves - "What is it that what Jesus would do?  What is it that the
Spirit is placing on my heart?"

What is it that Jesus would do?   About the Mid-East?  About same sex
marriages?  About the war in Iraq?  About hunger and HIV in Africa?  About
rampant obesity amongst our children?  About out of control consumerism and
the tendency we have to seek our own happiness without regard to what is
moral - without regard for the needs of others.

Such questions my friend can only be answered by us - and for us - as
individuals and as a congregation if we enter into a continuous
relationship with the Lord and with one another,
   - a relationship like of the sheep to the shepherd and the sheep to the
   rest of the flock
   - a relationship in which we spend time with one another 
       - eating - resting together in silence - playing - clustering
       together and supporting one another in times of danger - praying -
       listening - and listening some more.

And even then the answers that we receive in our hearts may not be the same
one that comes into the heart of another,
   though I think you would be surprised about how often in fact the
   answers we get are the same when we try in all earnestness to listen
   for Christ - and to follow his voice.

The important thing is not that we come up with "THE ANSWER" 
   but that in listening and struggling with the issues in our lives and
   in the life our community that we live the answers that we already have
   been given by our Shepherd: 
       those answers that the Moderator referred to when she spoke to us
       about having Holy Manners
   those answers already spoken so clearly by our Shepherd; answers, like
   these given by the Holy Spirit to the Apostle Paul when we wrote to the
   Thessalonian Church:

       God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive
       salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ.  He died for us so
       that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together
       with him.  Therefore encourage one another and build each
       other up, just as in fact you are doing.

       Live in peace with each other...  Encourage the timid, help
       the weak, be patient with everyone.  Make sure that nobody
       pays back wrong for wrong, but always try to be kind to each
       other and to everyone else.  Be joyful always; pray
       continually; and give thanks in all circumstances, for this
       is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.

Our Shepherd's voice is clear about how we should live and act
   it is clear about what our attitude should be to those who are both our
   friends and those who we might regard as our enemies.

And if we have trouble figuring out just what the Shepherd is trying to
tell us about the big issues within our families - and our society and our
world - we cannot go wrong by doing those things that the Shepherd has
already told us to do in a clear and obvious way - and trusting that no
matter what - no matter what the valley of the shadow of death we are
wandering in is like - no matter what dangers surround us - that if we keep
on following the voice we already know - the voice we have already heard -
that our shepherd will keep us safe and bring us to God's house where we
will be able to dwell forevermore.

If we persist in listening to and following the voice of our Shepherd in
the little things, the things that relate to how we ought to love God and
how we ought to love one another
   and if we devote ourselves. as did the first church after the day of
   Pentecost, to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the
   breaking of bread and to prayer,
then we will discover an ever increasing clarity within us about what God
is saying and about what God wants us to do;
   and we will discover too an ever increasing sense of peace among us and
   within us, a peace that endures - even when thieves and robbers try to
   steal it away,a peace that brings praise and glory to our God because
   of what others see in us.

And that my friends is no small potatoes in a world in which peace -
- peace between nations and peoples 
- and peace in the inner heart of men and women everywhere
is a rare commodity.

Praise be to God for his goodness and his love - day by day.  Amen.

O God, your goodness and mercy follows us all the days of life.   You have
made Jesus, whom you raised from the dead, the gate through which we, the
sheep of your flock, may come and go in safety and in peace.  Through him
and in him you promise abundant life to all your children, both those near
and those far away.  We pray you, O God, protect the sheep of your flock
from all who would destroy.  Keep us safe in the fold of the one whose
voice we know, the one who bore our sins on the cross and by whose wounds
we have been healed....  Lord, hear our prayer...  (And in your love

We pray, O God for the Church, that all those baptised in the name of the
Lord may hear and heed the voice of the shepherd who calls us to unity and
that he may raise up in our midst those who lead with courage serve with
love....  Lord, hear our prayer...

We pray, O God, for the World, that the rich nations may share justly the
abundance of the earth that belongs to all people and that there may be
peace between nations and peoples - especially O Lord, we pray for the
peace of Jerusalem...   Lord, hear our prayer...

We pray, O God, for those who are oppressed, afflicted or in need.  
Especially we remember those who have been robbed of innocence and joy by
the abuse of others and those who suffer for their witness against
injustice and greed, and those who are homeless or without food and water. 
Lord, hear our prayer...  Lord, hear our prayer...

WE pray O Lord, for our young people - that they may find in our community
an authentic and attractive witness to the joy of life in Christ - and that
in their homes there may be peace instead of strife and alienation.... 
Lord hear our prayer....

We pray, O Lord, for our families and for our neighbours - and for all
those whom you have placed upon our hearts this day.   Hear the prayers of
thanksgiving and intercession we make for them as we name them aloud before
you at this time....  BIDDING PRAYER.......Lord, hear our prayer...

Eternal and Compassionate God, we pray to you through Christ Jesus our Lord
and Saviour, he who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy
Spirit - one God, forever and ever.  Amen

* SHARING GOD'S BLESSINGS:  As the Offering is presented all stand for the
Doxology (Praise God From Whom All Blessings Flow - VU 541) and Prayer of

   O God, Shepherd and Overseer of our Souls - abundantly you give to
   us blessings both spiritual and material.   According to what you
   have given we would give so that the work of your Son might be
   advanced in our world and so that your name might be praised and
   glorified by all people.  Accept and bless these offerings from our
   hands the offerings we make now in our hearts....  We ask it in the
   name of Christ Jesus.   Amen.

PASSING OF THE PEACE We greet those around us with a sign of peace
(handshakes or hugs) and words like "The peace of the Lord be with you". 
This ancient tradition is an appropriate response to the peace that God
gives to those who hear and do his word.

 * COMMUNION HYMN:  "As We Gather At Your Table"                   - VU 457

   COMMUNION EXPLAIN - Our table, the table of our Lord, Jesus Christ, 
   is an open table.  All who desire to receive from  it may receive
   from it.  Today we receive Communion by coming forward to one of the
   two stations in front of the Table.   We receive by intinction, 
   which means that you are asked to tear a piece of bread from the
   loaf and then dip into the cup.  As you take the bread the server
   will say "the body of the Lord broken for you" and as you dip the
   bread into the cup the server will say "the blood of Christ poured
   out for you".  A traditional response to these words is "Amen" or
   "And also for you".   Finally, those who find it difficult to come
   forward & would like to be served - please raise hand)

L: The peace of the Lord be with you.
P  And also with you.
L  Lift up your hearts.
P  We lift them up to the Lord.
L  Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.
P  It is right to give God thanks and praise.

It is indeed right to give you our thanks and praise, O God, for you spread
a banquet of abundant life before us and invite us to eat and drink in

In the first of your wonders and signs you created the earth, tending it
with goodness and love.  You created a people for yourself and gave them
your law that they might know your voice and follow in your ways.

When we wandered away like lost sheep, stumbling through death's dark
valley, you sent us your Son, Jesus Christ, who endured unjust abuse and
suffering and returned only mercy and life.  Calling us to attend to his
voice and return to you, he bore our sins in his body on the cross, and
when you raised him he freed us to follow him, our shepherd and the
guardian of our souls, along sure paths to life in abundance.  Therefore...

L  ...with all angels and saints we praise your holy name saying: 
P  Holy, holy, holy, Lord,
   God of power and might,
   Heaven and earth are full of your glory,
   Hosanna in the highest.
   Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord,
   Hosanna in the highest.

 L We remember, O Father, in accordance with his command, how Jesus, on
   the night he was betrayed, took bread and gave you thanks and praise
   (as we now thank you for this bread, O Lord) and then  broke it, and
   gave it to his disciples, saying, "Take and eat, this is my body,
   broken for you".  

   We remember too how, when the meal was done, he took the cup, and gave
   it to his disciples saying, "Take and drink, this cup is my blood, the
   blood of a new and everlasting covenant for the forgiveness of sin -
   poured out for you and for many.  As often as you drink it, do so in
   remembrance of me".

L  Praise be to you Lord Jesus, firstborn from the dead.
P  Dying you destroyed our death, 
   rising you restored our life.  
L  We thank you, most loving God
   and we proclaim the mystery of our faith.
P  Christ has died, 
   Christ is risen, 
   Christ will come again.

L  Loving God, send your Holy Spirit upon us and upon these gifts and make
   them Holy.  May the bread we break may be for us communion in the body
   of Christ, and the cup of blessing which we bless may be for us
   communion in the blood of Christ; and that being built up in love we
   may be strengthened in the unity of the faith and come to full maturity
   in Christ our Lord.  Amen.

THE DISTRIBUTION: Please come up the aisle  in a double line to receive the
   elements from one of the two stations - taking the bread and dipping it
   in the cup - consuming it - and then returning to your seats by the
   side aisles.
       The table of the Lord for the people of the Lord.
       Come all you who hunger and thirst for righteousness
       and receive that which God has prepared for you.

L  Let us pray - Father we thank you for the gifts you have given to
   sustain us in our daily walk with you.
P  We praise you for Christ Jesus, our shepherd, 
   who loves us and calls by name.
L  We thank you, O God, for how he laid down his life for us, and for how
   you raised him up from the grave so that he might always watch over us.
P  Help us to always listen for his voice 
   and to follow him day by day.   Amen

PROFESSION OF FAITH: (The New Creed: VU 918 or inside cover)
L  Let us proclaim our Faith....
P  We are not alone, we live in God's world.
   We believe in God: who has created and is creating,
       who has come in Jesus, the Word made flesh, 
       to reconcile and make new, 
       who works in us and others by the Spirit. 
   We trust in God.
       We are called to be the Church,
       to celebrate God's presence, 
       to live with respect in creation,
       to love and serve others, 
       to seek justice and resist evil, 
       to proclaim Jesus, crucified and risen,  our Judge and our Hope.
   In life, in death, in life beyond death, God is with us.   
   We are not alone.  Thanks be to God.

* DEPARTING HYMN:  "I The Lord of Sea and Sky"                     - VU 509

* COMMISSIONING (Unison):  In the power of the Holy Spirit we now go forth
   into the world, to fulfil our calling as the people of God, the body of
Go in peace and love and care for another in the name of the Lord;
- and may God lead you to places of rest and renewal;
- May Christ Jesus give you life in abundance; 
- And may the Holy Spirit fill your hearts with gladness and generosity,
both now and forevermore.   Amen.

* CHORAL BLESSING:  "Go Now In Peace"                              - VU 964

copyright - Rev. Richard J. Fairchild 2005
            please acknowledge the appropriate author if citing these sermons.

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