Elizabeth Bryson’s Good Shepherd Sermon

Acts 9: 36-end, Psalm 23; Revelation 7: 9-end; John 10: 22-30

Jesus said: ‘My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me.’ (John 10:27)

One hot day in August 1978, while we were travelling on a coach between Jericho and Jerusalem; we saw a Bedouin Shepherd leading his sheep up the steep, dry, rocky hillside to find a ‘green pasture’. The sheep were walking in a line following the shepherd. We were thrilled to see this amazing sight and it brought alive for us the words of Jesus saying ‘My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me.’ (John 10:27)

In Psalm 23 David rejoices that ‘The Lord is my shepherd’ who ‘makes me lie down in green pastures and leads me beside still waters.’ (Psalm 23:1-2)‘Sheep won’t drink of running water’, and so as well as leading the sheep to grass to eat; the Shepherd had to find still water for them to drink. We sang in our Opening Hymn The king of love my shepherd is who leads us to verdant pastures. On my walks I sometimes walk by fields of sheep and I have noticed that in a field the sheep feed most of the time.  

The Bible is described as spiritual food (Hebrews 5: 13-14) because through reading the Bible we can come to believe in Jesus and grow in a relationship with the Lord. Jesus said: ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No-one comes to the Father except through me.’ (John 14:6) On the Alpha Course we hear that the actor David Suchet came to faith in Jesus through reading a Gideon Bible in a hotel room. The Bible equips us to serve God and people better as reading the Scriptures will build us up in the faith so, as St Paul says we will ‘be complete and proficient, well-fitted and thoroughly equipped for every good work.’ (2 Timothy 3:17) We will feel more confident to share our faith with others, talk about Jesus and how the Lord has helped us. Just as the sheep keep on chewing the grass; so we should read the Bible every day and spend time thinking and reflecting on the passage, so we can learn from what we read and grow closer to Jesus.

 ‘All Scripture is inspired by God,’ (2 Timothy 3:16) so it is helpful to read all of the Bible and not just the well-known passages. In the Bible, the Old Testament contains books of law, history, prophecy and poetry. We read about the Patriarchs and the Prophets. The New Testament has the four Gospels telling us about the life, death and resurrection of Jesus then the history of the Early Church in Acts, letters and prophecy. It is good to read the Bible every day so we let the word of Christ dwell in us richly. (Colossians 3:16)

The reading from Acts today is the amazing miracle of the raising to life of Dorcas called Tabitha. I wonder whether Peter remembered when he had been with Jesus in the room of Jairus’ daughter who had died and Jesus raised her to life with the words ‘My child, get up’ (Luke 8: 51-55). Peter said ‘Tabitha, get up’ (v.40). How wonderful that Tabitha was restored to life and when people heard about this miracle ‘many believed in the Lord’ (v.42). Peter served and cared for people and later he wrote to other Church leaders exhorting them to ‘Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, serving as overseers… when the Chief Shepherd appears you will receive the crown of glory.’ (1 Peter 5: 2, 4) This can encourage us to serve, help others and pray for the sick.

The reading from Revelation is a vision of heaven showing those who have witnessed and given testimony about their faith in Jesus and martyrs who have died for their faith in Jesus are honoured in heaven. Jesus the Good Shepherd is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. John tells us: ‘I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no-one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands…… They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb….For the Lamb at the centre of the throne will be their shepherd; he will lead them to springs of living water. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes”’ (Revelation 7: 9-17).

In this book Customs and Costumes in Bible Days we are told: ‘In a flock with a good, shepherd it is a strange fact that every sheep seems to feel the need every day of a few minutes’ contact and fellowship with the shepherd. First one and then another will come out from the flock and stand beside the shepherd, sometimes rubbing its head against his knee while the shepherd fondles him. And this is repeated by every sheep in the flock. If sheep feel this need of fellowship with their master, how much more should we feel the need of daily contact with our Good Shepherd, who longs to pour out His love to us.’ Reading the Bible and praying are good ways to spend time with Jesus our Good Shepherd. Sometimes a phrase or event stands out as being really amazing and that is a way that God can speak to us through the Bible.

I recommend Maidstone Bible Week in the evenings this week at The Life Church when there will be excellent Bible Study Talks which will be inspirational with the theme ‘Lord, we don’t know what to do….’  This is about looking to God in times of struggle.

Jesus said: ‘My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me.’ (John 10:27)Jesus knows each of us by name! Just as on Easter Sunday morning we heard that Jesus said ‘Mary’ (v. 16) to Mary Magdalene; so Jesus knows and calls us all by name. 

At Confirmation Services the Bishop says the names of each candidate ‘……… God has called you by name and made you his own….’ Like the sheep spending time with the shepherd; let us all spend time with Jesus the Good Shepherd who knows us all by name, loves us and wants to draw us closer.

How wonderful that today God calls Riley-Dean by name and Riley becomes a member of Jesus’s family and a sheep in Jesus’s fold through baptism. It is very special today that Dylan, Charlotte, Leyla, Roman and Riley are admitted to Communion so they can be spiritually fed through sacramentally receiving Jesus at Communion. Let us all come to Church every week to receive the spiritual food of the body of Christ at Communion and be sheep that grow closer to Jesus through receiving this food that He gives us to spiritually nourish and sustain us. At Communion at this Mass we can receive the spiritual food of the body of Christ ‘that we may evermore dwell in him, and he in us.’We feed on and receive Jesus sacramentally at Communion. 

Earlier in John Chapter 10, before the passage in our Gospel today, Jesus said: ‘I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice.’ (John 10:16) Let us all pray for those known to us who do not yet know that Jesus the Good Shepherd loves them; praying that they will hear the voice of Jesus the Good Shepherd calling and caring for them.  Let us invite them to Church and be ready for Jesus to show us what to say and how to help these people come to know the love of Jesus. 

We rejoice today that 77 years ago it was VE Day in 1945 with Victory in Europe ending the Second World War in Europe. We give thanks for the many years of peace in Europe while we continue to pray fervently for peace to come to Europe once more with the withdrawal of Russian forces from Ukraine so that peace can be restored to Ukraine. 

Let us be sheep who hear the voice of Jesus the Good Shepherd and keep following. Let us be ready to hear God’s call to ways we can serve, help others and be active members of this Church family.

 May we all grow into closer relationship with the Jesus the Good Shepherd by praying, reading the Bible and receiving Holy Communion. Amen