They Know His Voice

3 May 2020 by Rev Paul Bartlett in: Online Services

We continue to gather as the scattered people of God, we celebrate Christ Jesus, the light of the world. Thanks be to God! We also acknowledge that where each of us live is on the land of the Dharawal people. We acknowledge their 40,000 years of ongoing stewardship of God’s Creation and pledge to be ambassadors of reconciliation, justice and peace. You are all welcome, as we worship God this day.

 

Let us Pray…

Great Bunji* God, you sent your Son Jesus to be our Saviour, our Guide and our Friend.

At the dawn of this new day, we pray for strength to follow in his footsteps, witnesses of and to his Resurrection in the world in which we live and work. Amen 

 

Rev Lazarus Lamilami 1910 – 1977 The first ordained Aboriginal minister of the Uniting Church. 

*Bunji is an Aboriginal word for Father.

 

HYMNJesus calls us here to meet him (IONA) Tune LEWIS FOLK MELODY

(This version from Songs of Praise gets through the song in just over 2mins, but the clip continues for some time after that) 

Jesus calls us here to meet him 

as through word and song and prayer  

we affirm God’s promised presence 

where his people live and care. 

Praise the God who keeps his promise

praise the Son who calls us friends

praise the Spirit who, among us, 

to our hopes and fears attends. 

 

Jesus calls us to confess him

Word of Life and Lord of All

sharer of our flesh and frailness 

saving all who fail or fall. 

Tell his holy human story

tell his tales that all may hear

tell the world that Christ in glory 

came to earth to meet us here. 

 

Jesus calls us to each other: 

found in him are no divides. 

Race and class and sex and language – 

such are barriers he derides. 

Join the hand of friend and stranger

join the hands of age and youth

join the faithful and the doubter  

in their common search for truth. ©John Bell & Graham Maule

 

PRAYER OF CONFESSION & THANKS

Holy God, your love for us is never ending. Our love for you and each other often ends. Even when we do not deserve it, you come and you call to us. We give thanks for your persistence: for the ways you seek us out and yearn to be in relationship with us. We often give up after a first or second attempt convincing ourselves we’ve ‘done enough’ before walking away.

We can scarcely comprehend such love for it is too powerful and different to our experience of life to understand. And yet, again and again you have shown us that we are loved to bits. Forgive us.

We give thanks for the gift of the Christ who showed us what true love looks like, what true faithfulness means and who was not afraid to follow love’s call, even to the cross. All praise, honour and glory be yours now and forever. In his name, and for his sake, we pray. Amen.

 

NEW TESTAMENT READING Acts 2: 42 – 47 (NRSV)

They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. Awe came upon everyone, because many wonders and signs were being done by the apostles. All who believed were together and had all things in common; they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need. Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having the goodwill of all the people. And day by day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.

 

INTERACTIVE MOMENT (To do after the Service if you wish)

An old Scottish saying says ‘the last part of a person to be saved, is their hip pocket!’

Such was the way Jesus transformed these early followers lives that they had ‘all things in common’ and gave what they had to all ‘as any had the need’. Can you imagine ALL of us letting each other know what ‘possessions and goods’ we had and then to distribute from all we had, to those in need. 

 

If most of the families at EUC owned their homes, with some in employment, some retired with Super, others on a part or full age pension, with some having shares and everyone a bit of money in the bank. Given the house prices in Sydney, totalling that amount would give us at least $40Million! 

 

Imagine what some of those resources could then be used to achieve, while still caring for ourselves. 

Share with someone what is the difference for you between a ‘want’ and a ‘necessity’. 

Give an example or two.

How do you determine what is a ‘necessity’?! 

For example, at home in the way you may budget what you spend and allow for each week. 

How do you decide what to put aside for your church offering? Is that decision made at the beginning of the week out of all you have, or is it determined at the end of the week out of what is left?

How can what you need for your daily life, be a reflection of your deep trust in God, not just individually but as a member of the Body of Christ, the Church, so that others see your life lived with ‘glad and generous hearts.’

 

You might like to read quietly the 23rd Psalm as a closing focus on the One who leads, who protects, who comforts, who sustains and whose generosity towards us knows no bounds:

 

PSALM 23 The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures; 

he leads me beside still waters; he restores my soul. He leads me in right paths for his name’s sake.

Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I fear no evil; for you are with me; your rod and your staff—they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord my whole life long. 



GOSPEL READING John 10: 1 – 10 (NRSV)

“Very truly, I tell you, (the words Jesus uttered on the Cross to the 2nd thief) anyone who does not enter the sheepfold by the gate but climbs in by another way is a thief and a bandit. The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep hear his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice. They will not follow a stranger, but they will run from him because they do not know the voice of strangers.” Jesus used this figure of speech with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them.

So again Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and bandits; but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the gate. Whoever enters by me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly. Thanks be the God!

 

MESSAGE “They know his voice”.

 

When I ring the Older Persons line at Centrelink, after entering my Customer Reference Number I am asked to say the phrase ‘In Australia, my voice recognises me’. Mostly it does, though if I’m a little tired or it’s too early in the day, I might have to repeat the phrase! They have to be sure that it’s me!

 

And who hasn’t answered the phone and on hearing the voice at the other end, instantly recognises the caller even if you haven’t spoken with each other for a long time? People who have been and are an important part of our lives are often imprinted in our memory banks; some of those who have died, often with deep longing, we can still clearly hear their voices speaking to us.

 

I’ve been involved with many hundreds of families over the years who have lost loved ones. 

When visiting their homes and as they reminisce, there will almost always be triggers to many memories of times shared: for example -

“When I think of Dad, it’s his voice of wisdom which I’ll remember”;

“When I think of Mum, it’s her words of comfort and encouragement which I’ll remember”.

Personally, when I think of Rev Dr Bob Brown, my minister at Hurstville when I was in my late 20’s, I will always remember his voice encouraging me in my faith and his belief in me.

Perhaps you can think of people and their voices too…

 

And of course, for each of us there will be voices of people we never want to hear again. People whose presence in our lives because of a whole range of things brings deep hurt, anger, shame, or profound loss. There was a bully at my High School whose threats always reduced me to a quivering mess. He had a particular way of saying ‘Bartlett’ that I never want to hear again!

 

In John’s Gospel reading for this week, the story of Jesus as the Good Shepherd, we hear these immortal and living words “the sheep hear his voice, he calls (to) them by name and leads them out and they follow him because they know his voice” 

 

There are two images I’d like to place before you on a Galilean hillside.

In one, a shepherd, at night, lies across the entrance to the sheepfold, keeping those inside safe and secure; in the morning he gets up and goes off to work in the world. While he is away the sheep hear stories of what’s happening in the world. They become anxious and decide to put more stones on the walls with razor sharp objects on the top to prevent others climbing in. The doorway now has a solid oak door with an elaborate password, for those who wish to enter. Here they are safe and secure as they live in community with like-minded sheep, these followers of Jesus.

 

In the second image, the shepherd also lies across the entrance of the sheepfold, keeping those inside safe and secure. In the morning when he gets up and goes off to work in the world, he says to those inside ‘come follow me’ out into the world. But Lord, we hear stories of what it is like out there. It is safer here! It is this second image that resonates most closely for me with the early Christian model of the church. While meeting together for worship and teaching is important, safely inside the fold, they can only most powerfully live by faith ‘in the world’ as they follow the One who calls to them by name.

 

Notice that in this reading, that Jesus calls to them by name, leads them out and they follow him. 

Here is the key to this passage. It isn’t just that Jesus calls us by name, as a comfort, in a scary world; or that Jesus called Mary by name in the Garden for her to treasure that moment of intimacy.

He calls to us, as he did to her so that we can FOLLOW him out into the world.

 

The Old Testament image of a shepherd is of one where constant vigilance, fearless courage, and patient love for his flock gives his sheep the confidence to live in the world knowing he is always there.

The sheep are not raised to live just in the sheepfold but to truly live by faith in the world.

Knowing his voice amidst all the noise and distraction of daily life is key lest we lose our way.

So what is this voice of Jesus and how will we know it? 

 

His is the voice of Truth. Truth because Jesus alone brings in his own life on earth the wonderful news of God’s love, for each one of us made as we are in God’s image. Of the awe-full truth that we have turned away from the One who made us and gone our own ways living like ‘sheep without a shepherd’.

 

His is the voice of the followers of the Way. A way of life so in touch with our Creator, a life so lived in the company of those who are his disciples sharing all they had in common with those in need that His Peace, His love, His forgiveness lives in and through our lives. We follow his footsteps on this Way.

 

His is the voice of Life. I have called you to myself, grafted you to me so that you may live with a joy and a vitality that is not dependent upon how you feel or what you may have achieved; but is rooted in His abiding promise which has conquered the grave, Life is stronger than death. I am with you always!

 

Only this voice of Jesus brings out the very best in us, only this voice of Jesus, cares as much for others as it cares for self, only this voice of Jesus can lead us out of the security of a sheepfold into the world which Jesus still loves and still uses our hands, feet and voices with Good News for all whom we meet.

Amen.

 

HYMN: Who is this Jesus? Tune SLANE (Be thou my vision)

(If you open another window for the service, you can hear the music with one window, and sing to the words at the same time with your second window)

Who is this Jesus, whose voice we have heard

Whose actions reveal and illumine God’s word

Whose stories surprising new insights impart

Whose Gospel is joy for the humble of heart?

 

Who is this Jesus, whose light we have seen

Whose shinning in splendour turns barren earth green

Whose rising in glory prevails over death

Whose Spirit of wisdom gives beauty and breath?

 

Who is this Jesus, whose love we have known

Whose hunger and pain were as real as our own

Whose pow’r and compassion are with us to heal

Whose life in abundance we share in this meal?

 

Delores Dufner OSM ©2011 by GIA Publications

 

PRAYERS FOR EACH OTHER

Jesus is the Good Shepherd whose love and compassion defines the way he values, seeks after, cares for and equips his people for ministry in the world. His compassion announces that the hurt people experience is to be taken seriously, that hurt ‘following those whose voice does not care for them’ is not to be accepted as normal and natural but is an abnormal and unacceptable condition of humanity.

 

Therefore, we pray for – all whom we can think of who are hurting, those others do not care about, those who have become dis-engaged from life, overwhelmed by the rocks, crevices, briar bushes and the ‘voices of strangers’ who have not and do not care for them in their daily lives…

 

We continue to pray for all health and allied health staff who seek to provide a mantle of safety for us all in this time of COVID-19 and for those who have contracted the virus and those who mourn the death of those claimed by it. WE continue to pray for our political leaders as together the National Cabinet seeks a way forward. We pray that our longing for personal freedom will never be at the expense of our obligations to those we live with, in our familiar and extended community families.

 

We bring our own prayers, as the Spirit prompts and leads us… 

 

WE SHARE BREAD IN REMEMBRANCE…

I am inviting you to now make yourself a cuppa, find a large piece of bread and break it, remembering all that Jesus did and all that is broken in the world…As you eat it slowly, deliberately, eat it in remembrance of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection, and be thankful. 

Name out loud the places where Christ’s presence, healing and Peace is desperately needed and also the people who are close to you in your waking and sleeping…

 

OFFERING As you are able, please continue to support our congregation financially…

 

HYMN TIS 414 ‘There’s a spirit in the air’ vs 1, 2, 3 & 6 Tune NOTTINGHAM TIS 599(ii)

(If you open another window for the service, you can hear the music with one window, and sing to the words at the same time with your second window)

There’s a spirit in the air

Telling Christians everywhere

Praise the love that Christ revealed

Living, working in our world.

 

Lose your shyness, find your tongue

Tell the world what God has done

God in Christ has come to stay

Live tomorrow’s life today.

 

When believers break the bread

When a hungry child is fed

Praise the love that Christ revealed

Living, working in our world.

 

May the Spirit fill our praise

Guide our thoughts and change our ways

God in Christ has come to stay

Live tomorrow’s life today. ©Brian Arthur Wren 1936 – 

 

BLESSING & BENEDICTION

The love of God, the enveloping fellowship of the Holy Spirit and the compassion of Christ, delight in who you are and in whom you are becoming, now and until the day God makes all things new. Amen.