A moment of contemplation for yourself or on behalf of others on everything from the life-altering to the mundane.

Prayer: A conversation with The Higher Other who lives within each of us. An invitation to vent, to re-think, to ask, and to rest.

Monday, May 1, 2017

Prayers of the People: On the Lamb, 4th Sunday of Easter, '17 Yr A

For Sunday, May 7, 2017, 4th Sunday of Easter, Year A, Readings: Acts 2:42-47, Psalm 23, 1 Peter 2:19-25, John 10:1-10

      Those who had been baptized devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. [Acts 2:42]

      The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not be in want. He makes me lie down in green pastures and leads me beside still waters. He revives my soul and guides me along right pathways for his Name's sake. [Psalm 23:1-2]

      But if you endure when you do right and suffer for it, you have God's approval. For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you should follow in his steps...When he was abused, he did not return abuse; when he suffered, he did not threaten...by his wounds you have been healed...For you were going astray like sheep but now you have returned to the shepherd and guardian of your souls. [1 Peter 2:20b-21, 23, 24b-25]

      Jesus said, "...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 the sheep follow him because they know his voice...Very truly I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep...Whoever enters by me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture. [John 10:2-3a, 4b, 7, 9]

       For Episcopalians, the reading from Acts this week is infused with one of the promises made by us or for us in our Baptismal Covenant: "They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers..."  The three statements of belief and the five promises of the Covenant are a quick refresher and guide to the basics of true Christian living and always worth reviewing regularly whether or not you are of this denominational heritage. [see the Book of Common Prayer pages 304-5, click here: BCPonline]  
      Psalm 23 is, without doubt, the best-known piece of Scripture in the world among multiple religions, denominations, sects, the believers and the non- . The poetic language, ascribed to David, a shepherd in his youth, gives us the most pastoral image of Christ and draws from the real activities of actual shepherds.* In the lesson from 1st Peter, we are given the difficult reminder that we are to suffer what we must but, as Jesus in his Passion, we are not to return abuse in kind. We are to realize that by the wounds of Jesus we are healed because we were going astray like sheep, but you have now returned...  The Gospel also carries the Shepherd theme and comforts us with another serene image, that of Christ as the divine Gate for all we sheep to have salvation in a safe, and abundant pasture. 
      Sometimes the familiar is too comfortable and we must listen again with fresh ears, hearts, and minds. The comfort of the Shepherd in Psalm 23 is easily zoned in on and the other readings more easily left behind. But even this calming pastoral narrative comes with a price. We who want to know ourselves as true and faithful Christians must rouse ourselves from our sheepdom and listen for the Voice that calls, and then follow, in earnest and in confidence. All we "have" on this earthly plain is temporary.  Let us not go astray like sheep, but rely only on the Lamb of God, Jesus the Christ, Risen and Eternal.

*I commend to you a charming and interesting little book, A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23 by W. Phillip Keller, for a closer look at the connections between the Psalm's imagery and real life sheep farming.


Leader:  ~ Shepherd of our Souls, You are our Holy Gate to where we find a calm pasture to shelter and nourish our spirits, where You know us each by our names. Let us hear Your voice deep within us and follow You to salvation and abundant life eternal.
                                                By Your blood we are reconciled
RESPONSE:             By Your wounds we are healed

~ Shepherd of our Souls, as you stood peaceably in front of the political authorities of Your mortal time, grant us courage and confidence to peacefully but persistently urge political leaders of this Earth, this Nation, and this Community, to legislate compassion, equity, and mercy, as well as safety, economic, and environmental justice for all people. We pray especially for: add your own petitions

                     By Your blood we are reconciled
                     By Your wounds we are healed
~ Shepherd of our Souls, anoint the hearts, restore the hope, and give rest from anxiety to all who are enduring illness and suffering of all kinds, and for those who see to their daily needs.  We now join our voices to pray aloud for those in need… add your own petitions

                     By Your blood we are reconciled
                     By Your wounds we are healed

~ Shepherd of our Souls, we entrust the souls of all who have left this life to Your own care, in the consolation of knowing that they now dwell in the light of Your House forever. We pray especially for: add your own petitions 

                     By Your blood we are reconciled
                     By Your wounds we are healed

~ Shepherd of our Souls, as Your representatives in our time, our pastoral shepherds consecrate Your Body and Blood to bring You to us in the Apostles’ teaching, prayer, and fellowship, with glad and generous hearts. Help us to support them in their work with faith and goodwill, that together we, and all Your sheep, may be fed by Your goodness and mercy. We pray especially for: add your own petitions

                     By Your blood we are reconciled
                     By Your wounds we are healed

The Celebrant adds:  O God of Highest Heaven, we are called into Your mystical pasture to live and thrive on the Divine Bread of Life, given by the sacrifice of Christ Jesus. Revive our souls and rekindle our desire to follow You along the right paths of this life and enter into Your glorious and infinite kingdom. We ask this through Jesus the Christ, our Guardian and Shepherd, and the Holy Spirit, Sanctifier of our souls, who together with You, reign as One God, forever, and through all eternity.  Amen.

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