The Good Shepherd - Service 17.10.21
with Revd. David Burrow
or watch/listen on youtube here.
This is an audio recording of a live service that takes place at Longholme Methodist Church on Tuesday mornings at 10am.
The book referenced in the recording including the story taken from it is credited to Peter Shilling in 'In a Believer's Ear' published by the Dome Mission, Brighton England and all copyright is with the author.
We hope the audio is clear enough, you may have a better experience listening with headphones, there are also subtitles available on the video, do let us know what you thought of this kind of service.
Hello and welcome to this audio service by the Rossendale Methodist Circuit. What you'll hear shortly is a recording of a service that usually takes place at Longholme Methodist church on Tuesday mornings at 10:00am. This is a live recording so do expect some background noise although we've tried to reduce this as much as we can. The hymns, unfortunately, have to be removed for copywright reasons but we've suggested some links to versions of the hymns below this video. This weeks service is entitled 'The Good Shepherd' and you'll hear Revd. David Burrow begin the service now.
'Shepherding everybody in'
Revd David Burrow: Well that's good because this mornings theme is the shepherd. I just want to say well, morning everyone, and welcome it's kind of good to be back isn't it really. Yeah, so it's nice. Some time ago, Ken leant me this book, 'In a believers ear' by Peter Shilling, and it's based on the hymn 'how sweet the name of Jesus sounds' which we'll be singing later on and if you remember that hymn it has within it a list of the names of Jesus, Jesus my shepherd, brother, friend all the rest. So there's a chapter on each one of these so I thought well we're coming back what a good place to start, with Jesus himself and the Revd. Peter Shilling who's minister at the dome in Brighton, is that right Ken? 'Probably'
So we're going to begin with some words from Psalm 150. 'Praise the lord, praise God in his sanctuary, praise him in his mighty firmament, praise him for his mighty deeds, praise him according to his surpassing greatness, praise him with trumpet sound, praise him with lute and harp, praise him with tambourine and dance, praise him with strings and pipe, praise him with clanging cymbals, praise him with loud clashing cymbals, let everything that breathes praise the lord, praise the lord. Let's pray, father God it is good to be together again, it's good to come and praise your wonderful name, to praise you the God of creation, the God of wonder, but a God who cares for us, a God who directs us, a God who knows us but most of all a God who loves us and so we thank you that we're able to meet together once more to worship you and we come too to confess our sin to say we're sorry for those times we've hurt you and we've caused you pain and caused one another pain and Lord we ask your blessing upon us now and seek your forgiveness knowing that as we come sincerely in confession you reach out and receive us and you offer that gift of mercy and of grace and we hear once again the words of Jesus that our sins are forgiven so we thankyou and we praise you for that gift and we pray that you would fill us again with your holy spirit and go on filling us day by day that we might know that blessing everyday of being filled with your holy spirit walking in your way and enjoying that intimate relationship that we can have with you. So bless us now we pray as we share together in Jesus' name, Amen.
Now I wonder when you lay awake at night as I guess most of us do at different times whether you count sheep or do you talk to the shepherd? I recommend the latter. It's a much more useful and better use of our time during those early hours between whatever it is 2 and 4, quite often. Because you can take your mind off yourself and put your mind onto God and you think about other people and you lift them into God's presence and that helps, hopefully helps you to relax and to go back to sleep. And what better way is there to go to sleep than talking to God? God doesn't mind, he's quite happy for that to happen. We often say you know, Jesus is my Shepherd. That's an amazing claim when you think about it, to say Jesus is MY shepherd, this personal one to one relationship. You know if you ask most people today what they think of God apart from those who will say, don't believe in him, that's just sort of one extreme isn't it, other people might say well maybe some kind of, I believe in something, some kind of abstract notion, or some people might you know, old man in the sky on the clouds and things. Some people might say well I have this impression of God who's scary and judgmental and is going to you know send thunderbolts down. I don't know if people in your family have joked about when somebody says something you know, just stand to one side while the thunderbolt hits after what you've just said sort of thing. And then of course there are those people who ring up and say I want my grandchild Baptising because if the grandchild is not baptised and then dies without being baptised they'll go directly to hell which is something that still exists out there I'm afraid. Some people might say well God, there's all this suffering in the world, what's he doing? He's just uninterested he's a passive sort of existence on the edge of the universe and he's not bothered about us and he's someone who's powerless and to be avoided and yet we don't believe any of that as Christians, we believe that God knows us, look as psalm 139, we believe that God cares for us, we believe that God directs us and that God ultimately of course, loves us.
And as we believe that Jesus is God, we believe that Jesus is our Shepherd, so that each one of us can say, Jesus is MY shepherd. You know how important that was and still is of course during the days of lockdown to know that God is there with us caring for us and directing us and loving us. So where do we start with this idea of God as shepherd, Jesus as shepherd and I guess if I ask you that question most of you might say well psalm 23, you know, the Lord is my shepherd I shall not want he makes me to lie down in green pastures leads me beside still waters and all the rest of that but I don't want to start there because the best place to start is Ezekiel chapter 34, and here we find the prophet Ezekiel preparing us for Jesus, the coming of Jesus, the leaders of Israel, of the nation in those days called themselves the shepherds of the people but they were anything but in the way they acted. They were self seeking, they looked only to their own self interests and they didn't mind what that cost other people and I guess down through history we've seen leaders like that who seek only their own power and their own self interest. And you know it's a good template if you like, the opposite of that which is to care for others, to measure our own leaders against, whether they be government leaders, local government leaders, church leaders, or any other leaders for that matter. So because the leaders of Israel of the time were not doing what they were supposed to do, as shepherds, Ezekiel went for them, he really went for them. And in Ezekiel chapter 34 verse 2 it says this, 'Oh Shepherds of Israel who have been feeding yourselves, should not shepherds feed the sheep? You eat the fat, you clothe yourselves with the wool, you slaughter the fatlings but you do not feed the sheep. The weak you have not strengthened, the sick you have not healed the crippled you have not bound up, the strayed you have not brought back, the lost you have not sought and with force and harshness you have ruled them.' Hard words for the shepherds or so called shepherds of Israel, which meant of course that when they were behaving that way that the sheep were scattered, the sheep became prey to predators and the sheep who were the people of course, they lived in fear. And so Ezekiel condemned the leaders and said, in verse 10 of that chapter, 'God is against the shepherds' and then he told them what God would do, that God would put a stop to their evil, God would rescue the sheep from these evil doers and that God himself will become their shepherd, shepherd of the sheep. And then Ezekiel makes a statement in God's name, he says this, this is God speaking through Ezekiel, 'I myself will search for the sheep and will seek them out, I will rescue them, I will feed them, I myself will be the shepherd of my sheep, I will seek the lost and bring back the strayed and I will bind up the crippled and I will strengthen the weak, I will feed them in justice.' And in response to that some 500 plus years later along comes Jesus claiming to be that very shepherd, Jesus says 'I am the good shepherd' and if we want to find out more about that then we have to go to John, John's gospel and John chapter 10, where Jesus echoes Ezekiel's words and it's a good little bible study that to do, to put Ezekiel 34 alongside chapter 10, because Jesus also highlights the work of the bad shepherds, he contrasts his claim to be the good shepherd with what they claimed to be. So in John chapter 10 in the first 5 verses we read these words, Jesus is speaking he says 'Very truly I tell you, anyone who does not enter the sheepfold by the gate but climbs in by another way is a thief and a bandit' so these are the bad shepherds, climbing over the wall as it were, 'but the one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep, the gate keeper 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.' So on the one hand we've got a thief and the robber and the other hand we've got Jesus who is the door to the sheepfold we've got the strangers voice not being recognised by the sheep but the sheep recognising Jesus' voice, the shepherds voice. The bad shepherd doesn't know the sheep, Jesus knows the sheep by name. The thief comes to kill and destroy, Jesus comes to give life and to give abundant life because if you go on and read a little bit further in verse 7 Jesus says 'I am the gate for the sheep, all those 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 kill and destroy, I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.'
And then we come to the bit after that where Jesus really moves to this wonderful crescendo as it were, it's the hired hand when danger comes, runs away and I always remember doing an assembly on this it's one of my favourite assembly's about Jesus the good shepherd, so we have a stuffed sheep, a toy stuffed sheep about that big, good size and I've got my shepherds crook and I also have some other stuffed toys usually a lion and a wolf and a bear and the best bit is when I pretend to be the bad shepherd who runs away when these come, cause all the children are just screaming you now, 'Oh it's a bear!' There I go running away. 'Oh it's a lion!' running away and of course everytime this happens, the animal comes and pinches the sheep, all good fun. But then of course we're going to be Jesus, the good shepherd, and then you get your shepherds crook turn it around and sort of play golf with the lion, the bear and the wolf. And the kids are going 'Oh no!' cause you're going to hit these stuffed toys. But it makes the point doesn't it! You know you've got this image, and this would have been an image that I mean we don't understand because we don't see bears and wolves attacking our flocks around the fields but in Jesus' day this was for real you know, and if a shepherd you know, a sheep was taken by a wolf or something or a lion, then the shepherd had to go and get part of that sheep back whether it be an ear or a bit of foot or something to prove that this sheep had been taken by a wild animal and he'd not allowed it to be stolen. So it was a real picture for these people who were listening to Jesus for Jesus to paint. So, Jesus says, he is the good shepherd so when we sing, Jesus my shepherd, as we will do soon, what do we mean? Well we mean that Jesus cares for us, he cares, well let's start with, let's go back a second. Jesus first of all knows us, let's go back to the order we had before, Jesus knows us, he knows us by name an we recognise his voice and to know somebody by name in biblical times was really important because as you gave somebody your name you were giving them knowledge about you because people were named in particular ways for a particular reason, so I don't know if you know what your name means, today, you know. My name David means beloved of God, so that's alright I can go with that. And as soon as I give that name to somebody then they'll know something about why I was named that way because of what my parents thought, but in Jesus' day it was far deeper than that as well. So Jesus knows us and then of course Jesus cares for us. I mentioned before the sheepfold out in the fields of Jesus' day of course and they were like a pen, high walls to stop anything climbing over but no gate on the door so there's nothing there to stop anybody going in and out as it were so the sheep are taken in at night and then the shepherd used to lie down and sleep in the doorway so any sheep that was thinking of wandering out would wake the shepherd up and any wild animal that was thinking of wandering in would wake the shepherd up so the shepherd showed his care physically by protecting them throughout the night so Jesus knows us and Jesus the good shepherd cares for us.
Photo by Stefan Widua via Unsplash
And then Jesus directs us, he guides the sheep, the sheep follow him and of course again with shepherds these days we drive them in front of us don't we you know you get on your 4 by 4 these days, not in my day we used to have to run after them and we would drive the sheep forward and they try to run away from us of course and often did and then when it was my particular moment as it were it would be a case of the sheep would turn round look at me and think he's the weakest link and charge straight for me and I've probably told you before of one that went past my head as it leapt towards me and I dived out of the way and my dad let it be known that I wasn't a very good shepherd, so, cause all the other sheep followed this one of course so all these hundreds of sheep, we had to go back down to the bottom of the field and bring them back again to put them in the pens such was the shepherds life for me, ah dreadful, and it was raining at the time of course. But in Jesus' day the sheep knew the shepherds voice, they'd grown up with that shepherd, from being born and so they recognised his voice. And there's that wonderful story of a tourist in the holy land stood at the well where the water was given to the sheep and all these shepherds came with their particular flock and came to the well and the water was poured into the troughs and the sheep were all mixed up having a drink of water and then the shepherd would shout his sheep and his sheep would leave and follow him away, all the other sheep would ignore him and then another shepherd would shout and all his sheep would follow him so the tourist decided he'd have a go at this and he asked one of the shepherds could he borrow his sort of his hat and his cloak and everything, his staff and he would shout for that shepherds sheep, and they just ignored him completely, nothing to do with the clothing, nothing to do with the staff it was all to do with the voice. So the shepherd called his sheep and they followed him. So, Jesus the shepherd knows the sheep he directs them and they follow him and whether that's by quiet waters or the green and pleasant pastures or through life's more challenging times the steep and rugged pathway, whether that's of course the valley of the shadow of death. We follow knowing that Jesus is there with us, he is the ultimate companion in life if you like, as the good shepherd and he gives us that sense of peace that sense of security he gives us a sense of purpose and always he gives us that sense of hope because there's always hope and finally we know that Jesus loves us. He loves us so much that he actually says 'I lay down my life for the sheep' I lay down my life for the sheep and good shepherds were expected in Jesus' day to be willing to fight against the wild animals and against the bandits to protect the sheep.
On the farm, my sister, you know she looks after the sheep and she cares for them greatly and one or two of them know her voice when she calls them because she gave them names because they were pet lambs at birth because their mother died or they were a triplet, and when she calls they come to her but in the end my sister breeds sheep for meat, to eat. And the wool is worth nothing, unless of course you breed marinos and that wonderful marino wool but that's another story isn't it. But the regular sheep in the fields that you see around us their wool is worth nothing but in Jesus' day sheep were kept primarily so I read for their wool, and so they, because that was the important part unless of course they were the odd the perfect sheep who would be kept for sacrifice to God so that was unfortunate if you were perfect I suppose, probably a whole new sermon about being perfect, that's quite good, I'll think about that one. So the sheep, the sheep were so precious to the shepherd and to the owner of the flock and as I said the shepherd had to be willing to lay down his life for the sheep so Jesus when he said 'I lay down my life for the sheep' couldn't have been any clearer about how the God of heaven and earth is the good shepherd who knows us, who cares for us who directs us and who loves us. I'm just going to read to finish with, a little piece from this book, a little story about shepherd about a man who was a member of Peter Shilling's Church, he lived a long and good life we're told and he'd worked a lot with young people to tell them about Jesus and lead many to Christ and he says there are many Methodist ministers today who owe their Christian faith to this man who was called Ray. But the question he poses is, how did Ray become a Christian? Well Ray loved walking and one day when he was a teenager he was out walking on his own and a thick mist came down which obscured everything and if you've ever been along the hills in the mist and the mist comes down you'll know how scary that can be. And in that mist he totally lost his way and had no sense of direction at all, he began to get frightened but as he tried to control his feelings of panic he heard a flock of sheep in the distance. He decided he would follow the sound to where they were, as he made his way towards the sheep the words of psalm 23 came to him, words that as a child he had learnt, but up til then hadn't fully understood but on that day it all began to make sense. '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 paths of righteousness for his names sake, even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I fear no evil, for you are with me, your rod and your staff, they comfort me.' and Ray said there and then the heart of the Christian faith all fell into place, 'I committed myself to live my life under the leadership of Jesus, my shepherd.' Jesus my shepherd. That's a wonderful story isn't it of how one man came to know Jesus because of that picture he had of Jesus as his shepherd. So next time you can't get to sleep, don't count sheep, speak to the shepherd. Amen. And so next week you know what's coming, after shepherd came? Brother. So you can follow that verse every week and you'll know what's coming next.
Ok we're going to pray just for a few minutes and I'll just leave some time of quietness and if anyone wants to pray out loud do feel free to pray out loud but I'll begin and we'll close with the Lord's prayer at the end. So let's pray. Lord Jesus you are our shepherd and we can all say that you are my shepherd and we thank you for that and we thank you that you love us, you direct us, you care for us and you know us and because you know us, you know the concerns of our hearts and minds you know those things and those people that we really really cry out to you for and so we come to you now to bring our prayers bringing to you those people in those situations where we would love to see your love at work and your power at work so in the stillness we bring these prayers to you.
Congregation member: Heavenly Father, how wonderful it is to come back on a Tuesday morning and praise you and be here all together in your name. Let's think of those who aren't here with us today maybe for specific reasons, maybe they didn't know, maybe they're caring for loved ones, maybe they're too fearful to come out. Maybe they're on holiday. We think about them, we will know many by name in our own hearts and thoughts and we know that you heavenly father will be thinking and comforting and encouraging them in their own little world of worries and happiness and maybe sadness. Amen.
Revd. David Burrow: Father as we think of those who are close to us, we also remember those who are suffering in other places and we remember the people of Afghanistan who like the people in Ezekiel's day find themselves with shepherds who do not care for their people and the people live in fear and we pray that you would move over that nation with the power of your spirit and bring peace and that people might turn to you and know your presence and know that wonderful intimate relationship that it is possible to have with you through Jesus. And Father we pray too for other nations that are torn apart by suffering and war like Syria and Yemen, Ethiopia and Eritrea. Lord again we pray for you to move in those places and we pay against the powers of evil that seek to run those nations and we pray for our own leaders that they might be good shepherds seeking only the good of the people, that they might seek your face and seek your wisdom, that they might understand something of what it means to be known by you to be cared for by you and to be lead by you and Lord we thankyou for those of our leaders who do walk in your way and we pray that you will strengthen them and give them the words that they need to say that you would fill them with your spirit, they they might speak out for you on behalf of the people and Lord we pray for your church, pray for your church around the world and we thankyou for those places where it is growing, multiplying and we pray for our Christian brothers and sisters where they are persecuted for their faith, where to be one of your sheep is to risk imprisonment, persecution and even death. Father we just pray for Sara and Samira as they prepare for their baptism and we ask your blessing upon them as we look forward to that day. Father we pray for your church here in Rossendale and we pray especially for those churches where they're still seeking a minister or a vicar, St Mary's here in Rawtenstall and St Mary's Goodshaw and St Pauls, for Kay Street Baptist and for others too up and down this valley, we pray for those who are responsible for those appointments and we pray that you would give them the wisdom and the knowledge and the understanding that they need as they discern your will in those decisions. Father we thank you for as sheep of the good shepherd we are all one in Christ and we thankyou that together you live amongst us as you guide us as you care for us, as you love us and you want to work with us to build your kingdom, a kingdom of justice, a kingdom of joy, a kingdom of wonder, a kingdom of love. So Father as we thankyou that we can meet together once more we bless you in the name of Jesus who taught us to say together, Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name, they 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. And let's share the grace together, May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy spirit, be with us all evermore, Amen.
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