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, April 19, 2021

Prayers of the People: Catch Up! ~ 4th Sunday of Easter '21 Yr B

For Sunday, April 25, 2021; Readings: Acts 4:5-12, Psalm 23, 1 John 3:16-24, John 10:11-18

     Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, "Rulers of the people and elders...This Jesus is 'the stone that was rejected by you...it has become the cornerstone.' There is salvation in no one else... 
[Acts 3:8, 11-12a]

    The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not be in want...Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I shall fear no evil; for you are with me...Surely your goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever. 
[Psalm 23:1, 4, 6]

    How does God's love abide in anyone who has the world's goods and sees a brother or sister in need and yet refuses help? Little children, let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action. 
[1 John 3:17-18]
      I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father. And I lay down my life for the sheep. I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. I must bring them also, and the will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd. [John 10:14-16]

        The poetry of Psalm 23 speaks to us in the simplest of terms that belie the intricacy of its depth. Jesus would, of course, have known the psalm and it is a perfect pairing to his continuing "discussion" with the religious authorities in this week's Gospel of John.
     The symbolism in this well-known Psalm is far more complex and fascinating than just the obvious image of a man walking down a country lane with a big staff and a dog, the shepherds of the arid regions of the middle east separating sheep from goats, or the pretty girl of nursery rhymes with a bow on her crook as the sheep dutifully follow. Along with the earlier verses in John 10 (which I encourage you to read), taken line by line we can see, feel, and almost hear Jesus, our Shepherd, with us, reviving, caring, comforting, and anointing. Watching over us, preparing our table, restoring us; nothing we need is withheld. 
      Our Good Shepherd's job is never done. The demands on real living shepherds are constant and endless. Sheep are peculiarly needy and helpless creatures, quite restive, and even self-destructive at times. They can stand still for hours or bolt into stampede because an apple drops unexpectedly from a tree. The shepherd must keep continuous vigil against disease, insect infestations, predators, pecking-order fights, escape artists, water, and food supplies. Sheep will NOT lie down unless they are completely contented and secure. A special oil mixture that the shepherd prepares and swabs (anoints)  around each sheep's head and nose keeps deadly insects from burrowing and causing panic, disease, and injury, and the sheep is calmed for at least a little while. Then there are shearing and lambing seasons...*
      The sheep know their shepherd's voice and it comforts them. Do we know the voice of our Shepherd? Do we stand by as those in our own or other flocks are in need and refuse ~ or neglect ~ to give help? Jesus, as Peter told those in religious and political authority after the Crucifixion, was the Cornerstone of our Salvation rejected and executed by them. But Jesus, the Good Shepherd stood firmly, and peacefully, in the midst of their persecution, and laid down his life for us, his sheep.
       Some days I feel pretty sheepish and need that still small voice of God as reminder to get back into the flock, to follow and, in confidence, abide in the one who abides in us. Time for this sheep to answer the Shepherd's call, again, and catch up with the flock. C'mon along!

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


Leader:  ~ Holy Christ, Loving Shepherd, lead our souls to Your verdant pasture to lay aside our earthly wants for your eternal shelter. May our hearts and minds be nourished by Your Word and Sacrifice, learn to know Your voice as You know ours, and answer Your call.

                                         Jesus, Cornerstone of our Salvation
    RESPONSE:          Let us love in truth and action

~ Holy Christ, Loving Shepherd, in the violence, hatred, and desperation of Your times, You stood peaceably as those in authority maligned and executed You. Grant us courage and fortitude in our own desperate times to stand up, peacefully yet persistently, to urge the political leaders of our Planet, our Country, and our Community, to legislate and participate in peace, equity, and mercy, as well as economic and environmental justice for all. We pray especially for: Joseph, our President; Kamala, our Vice-President; add your own petitions

                                                       Jesus, Cornerstone of our Salvation
                                                       Let us love in truth and action

~ Holy Christ, Loving Shepherd, comfort the hearts, restore the hope, and give rest from anxiety, for all who suffer in body, mind, or spirit, and for all who provide love and support. We now join our hearts together to pray for those in need… add your own petitions

                                                       Jesus, Cornerstone of our Salvation
                                                       Let us love in truth and action     

~ Holy Christ, Loving Shepherd, we give great thanks, through our mortal tears, for those who have gone through the darkest valley to now live again and dwell forever in the brightest light of Your Holy House. We pray especially for… add your own petitions

                                                       Jesus, Cornerstone of our Salvation
                                                       Let us love in truth and action

~ Holy Christ, Loving Shepherd, we pause in this moment to offer You our other heartfelt thanksgivings, intercessions, petitions, and memorials… add your own petitions

                                                       Jesus, Cornerstone of our Salvation
                                                       Let us love in truth and action      

~ Holy Christ, Loving Shepherd, with glad and generous hearts our Earthly Pastoral Shepherds break and sanctify the Bread of Life to bring You to us in prayer and teaching. Bless them in their work with and for us, that together we may feed all Your sheep with goodness and mercy. We pray especially for: add your own petitions

                                                       Jesus, Cornerstone of our Salvation
                                                       Let us love in truth and action

The Celebrant adds: Almighty God, Master of Creation, as You have anointed us for all the days of our lives, infuse us with the desire to walk the right pathways, gather all Your sheep into one flock, and to love, serve, and abide in and through the Risen Christ. We ask this though Jesus, our Shepherd and Redeemer; and the Holy Spirit, Sanctifier of our souls; who together with You, reign as One God, forever and ever. Amen.

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