4th Sunday of Easter – May 8, 2022

Lectionary Texts

Revelation 7. 9-17, like last week’s reading, is another hymn from John’s vision: a multitude of angels singing praise to God. The vision continues as an elder describes the angels as those who have survived a great ordeal and “washed their robes in the blood of the lamb,” that is, their sins have been washed clean by Christ’s forgiveness.

In Acts 9. 36-43 Dorcas, also known as Tabitha, has died, but Peter brings her to life again. When he says, “Tabitha, get up,” it echoes Jesus raising a little girl from the dead, when he said “Talitha (“little girl”), get up.”

Psalm 23 expresses God’s care as shepherding, accompanying, feeding and blessing us.

In John 10.22-30 Jesus speaks of his love for us, and how we listen for his voice and follow him. “My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me, and I give them eternal life…. No one will ever snatch them out of my hand.”

Preaching Thoughts

Today’s texts reflect on the mystery of grace hidden in suffering. To “wash our robes in the blood of the lamb” is to know we are set free in Christ’s forgiveness, and also to acknowledge that our peace and blessing has come only after hardship and pain. Jesus’ promise to give us eternal life, and that we will never perish, are profoundly comforting. But they are not an escape from suffering. In fact when we do indeed follow him we follow him toward the cross—the willingness to suffer for the sake of love. We can bear to do this because love is both stronger and also more important than death. Jesus’ promise is not that we won’t suffer, or even die, but that love will carry us through all suffering and even death. When we live in harmony with God’s love we live on a plane that is greater than the survival of our bodies—a dimension of life that is eternal and can’t be taken from us. The comfort of Psalm 23 leads us this way: the “paths of righteousness” God leads us on lead right smack dab into the “valley of the shadow of death.” But we fear no evil, for under God’s care the path comes out the other side, to a feast of life and blessing. In our own ways each of us is dead, and God calls to us, “Little one, get up,” and brings us to life.

Call to Worship

1.
Leader: God of love, Creator of life, we hear your voice.
All: You call to us in love, and we answer.
Christ of love, shepherd of your sheep, you lead us out in love.
You walk in love, and we follow you.
Holy Spirit, breath of love, you give us life that cannot be taken from us.
You enliven us now to worship you, and to go forth to serve in love. Alleluia!

2. (Revelation 7.9-12. See Readings below for the whole lectionary passage, 7.9-17 )
Leader: I looked, and there was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, robed in white, with palm branches in their hands. They cried out in a loud voice.
All: Salvation belongs to our God who is seated on the throne, and to the Lamb!
And all the angels stood around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, singing.
Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom
and thanksgiving and honor and power and might
be to our God forever and ever! Amen.


3.
Leader: Christ is risen!
People: Christ is risen indeed!
Christ, our shepherd, you call to us
Lead us to your heart, and guide us in the ways of peace.

We have died, and our life is hidden in Christ.
Receive our old ways of living and grant us new life,
that we may serve you in love, all of our days.
Christ, our gentle shepherd, bless us, and lead us in your ways.
Alleluia! We entrust our lives to you! Alleluia!

Collect / Prayer of the Day

1.
God, you are the gentle shepherd of our souls. Call to us and we will know your voice. Speak to us and we will answer. Go before us, and we will follow. You who give us life, we hunger for your grace. Shepherd us, O God of love. Amen.

2.
God of grace, when we are lost you give us direction. When we are defeated you give us courage. When we are weak you give us strength. When we are dead you raise us to life. Come to the place in our hearts where we are in need, and take our hand, and raise us up with your Word. Amen.

3.
Gentle God, we are your sheep, scattered and hungry. Shepherd us with your presence, lead us by your grace, and feed us with your Word, that we may not only lie down in green pastures in times of rest, but also be loving shepherds for your people in the power of your Spirit. Amen.

4.
Gracious God, you have given us the risen Christ, who shepherds us through all the paths of our life, who protects, nourishes and guides us. Help us to hear his voice, to learn to trust, and to follow, so that we might truly know the infinite, eternal life that you give us, to your glory. Amen.

Prayer of Confession

God of love, we confess we are afraid, and we need your peace.
We do not know the way, and we need your leading.
We are not whole, and we need your shepherd.
Call us out of old lives, and lead us in your ways.

Readings

1. (Revelation 7.9-17)
Leader: I looked, and there was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, robed in white, with palm branches in their hands. They cried out in a loud voice:
All: Salvation belongs to our God
who is seated on the throne, and to the Lamb!
And all the angels stood around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, singing:
Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving
and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen.
Then one of the elders addressed me, saying, “Who are these, robed in white, and where have they come from?” I said to him, “Sir, you are the one that knows.” Then he said to me,” These are they who have come out of the great ordeal; they have washed their robes and
made them white in the blood of the Lamb. For this reason they are before the throne of God,
and worship God day and night within the temple,
and the one who is seated on the throne will shelter them.
They will hunger no more, and thirst no more;
the sun will not strike them, nor any scorching heat; for the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd,
who will guide them to springs of the water of life,
and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.

Response / Creed / Affirmation

(Ezekiel 34.11-16)
Leader: Thus says the Lord God:
All: I myself will search for my sheep, and will seek them out. As shepherds seek out their flocks when they are among their scattered sheep, so I will seek out my sheep. I will rescue them from all the places to which they have been scattered on a day of clouds and thick darkness.  I will feed them with good pasture, and they shall lie down in good grazing land, and they shall feed on rich pasture on the mountains of Israel.  I myself will be the shepherd of my sheep, and I will make them lie down, says the Lord God.  I will seek the lost, and I will bring back the strayed, and I will bind up the injured, and I will strengthen the weak, but the fat and the strong I will destroy. I will feed them with justice.

Listening Prayer

(suitable as a Collect, preparation for hearing scriptures, or invitation to prayer)

Gentle shepherd,
we listen for your voice,
the voice of love, the voice of eternal life.
We listen, ready to follow.

Eucharistic Prayer

[The body of the prayer may be read responsively or by the presiding leader(s) alone.]

1.
God is with you.
And also with you.
Lift up your heart.
We lift them up to God.
Let us give thanks to the Holy One, our God.
It is good and beautiful to give God our praise.

God, you are our shepherd, we are not in want.
You make us lie down in green pastures;

you lead us beside still waters;
you restore the breath of life in us.

[Sanctus]

Blessed is the one who comes in your name,
and Blessed is Jesus, your Anointed.
He leads us in right paths for his name’s sake.
Even though we walk through the darkest valley,
we fear no evil; for Christ our shepherd is with us;
his rod and his staff— they comfort us.

[The Blessing and Covenant] *

You prepare a table before us in the presence of our enemies;
you anoint our head with oil; our cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow us all the days of our life,
and we shall dwell in your house our whole life long.

[Memorial Acclamation]

Pour out your Holy Spirit on these gifts of bread and cup,
that they may be for us the body and blood of Christ.
Pour out your Holy Spirit on us,
that we may be for the world the Body of Christ.
[Amen]

2.
God is with you.
And also with you.
Lift up your heart.
We lift them up to God.
Let us give thanks to the Holy One, our God.
It is good and beautiful to give God our praise.

Creator God, Source of all Being, Giver of Life, we thank you.
Your grace creates this world, and all that is in it.
You speak us into being. Your voice calls us to life.
You lead us beside still waters, and renew our life.

When we wander you are faithful.
When we are imprisoned you set us free.

You send us Jesus, the shepherd of our souls,
who leads us in paths of justice and compassion.
We thank you, and with all Creation we sing your praise.
     (Sanctus)

Blessed are all who come in your name,
and blessed is Jesus, your Christ.
He fed and healed the broken. He gathered the outcast.
He broke all walls of division, all systems of privilege and exclusion.

He has walked with us through the valley of the shadow of death:
for his revolutionary love he was crucified, but you raised him from the dead.
His presence comforts us, and we are not afraid.

     (The Blessing and Covenant) *
As long as we break this bread and share this cup
we remember his death and resurrection, until he comes again.
Therefore, remembering these your mighty acts in Jesus Christ,
we offer ourselves as a living and holy sacrifice,
in union with Christ’s offering for us,
as we proclaim the mystery of our faith:

     (Memorial Acclamation)

God, you prepare a table for us that unites us with our enemies.
You anoint us with oil; our cup overflows.
Pour out your Holy Spirit on these gifts of bread and cup,
that they may be for us the body and blood of Christ.
Pour out your Holy Spirit on us,
that we may be for the world the Body of Christ.
By your Spirit may we spread your goodness and mercy all our days.
For we dwell in your presence forever and ever.
(Amen.)

____________
* The Blessing and Covenant
[I usually don’t print the words. I want people to be looking at the bread, not their bulletins.]

On the night in which he gave himself for us
Jesus took bread, blessed it,. broke it, and gave it to his disciples,saying,
“Take and eat; this is my body.”
In the same way, after the supper he took the cup,
blessed it with thanks and gave it to them, saying,
“Drink of this, all of you. This is my blood,
poured out for you and for many, in a new Covenant,
which is the forgiveness of sin.”
As long as we break this bread and share this cup
we remember his death and resurrection, until he comes again.

Prayer of Dedication / Sending

Gracious God, we give you our gifts as symbols of our lives. Receive them with love, bless them with grace, and use them according to your will. Trusting in your gentle leading, may we follow you into the world to share your love and to do your will, to tend the lost and wounded and hungry for the sake of the healing of the world, in the name and the Spirit of Christ. Amen.

Prayer after Communion

Gracious God, we thank you for this mystery in which you have given yourself to us. You have fed us in the green pastures of your love. Call us out now, and lead us in paths of love and justice for the sake of the healing of all Creation, in the power of your Spirit and the company of the risen Christ. Amen.

2.
Gracious God, we thank you for this mystery in which you have given yourself to us. You lead us beside clear waters and restore our souls. Send us into the world, in the name of Christ and the power of your Spirit, with deep trust in your care, the deep peace of your presence, and the deep compassion of those who have been given your love to share with others. Amen.

Suggested Songs

(Click on titles to view, and hear an audio clip, on the Music page)

Communion Songs for Easter set to familiar tunes
Eight songs of invitation to the table, set to these melodies:
All Creatures of Our God and King,
Infant Holy, Be Thou My Vision,
The Gift of Love / Water Is Wide,
Morning Has Broken, Fairest Lord Jesus.

Easter Eucharistic Responses
Sanctus, Memorial Acclamation and Amen set to:
All Things Bright and Beautiful (Includes Preface
)
Christ the Lord is Risen Today
Fairest Lord Jesus
Morning Has Broken
Now the Green Blade Rises


Dear Gentle, Watchful Shepherd    (Tune: O Sacred Head Now Wounded)

Dear gentle, watchful shepherd,
you lead us as we graze,
and guide, us when we wander,
to find again your ways.
And when we stray in darkness,
alone and lost and weak,
unseen, you still are with us,
your dear ones whom you seek.

We pray for those who struggle
through life all on their own,
who find no path to guide them,
who think they are alone.
You fold them in your mercy
in every lonely place,
and with your hand upon them
you bless them with your grace.

O lead us, loving shepherd
to seek the last and lost,
to love them with your passion,
and serve at any cost.
Send us to find the lonely,
forgotten and ignored:
it’s there that we shall meet you,
our saving, healing Lord.


Fulfill Your Love In Me       (Original song)

Refrain:
Fulfill your love in me, O Loving Spirit,
fulfill your love in me, O Heart of Love.

Verses:
Speak the name Beloved in my deepest soul.
Hold me in your heart, your gentle loving.

Heal me with your mercy and your tenderness.
Bring to life the grace in me to love you.

Give me grace to love my neighbor as myself,
freely, with the love with which you love me.


Psalm 23      (Tune: Be Thou My Vision)

God is my shepherd; I have all I need. God
Makes me lie down in green pastures to feed.
By the still waters God gently will lead.
Love, you’re my shepherd. I have all I need.

Yea, though I walk through the valley of death, I
fear not, for you are as close as my breath.
For you are with me, your staff and your rod
they are my comfort, my shepherd, my God.

You set my table before all my foes. You
pour out your blessing; my cup overflows.
Goodness shall be with me wherever I roam,
and I will live with you, my Heart, my Home.