Thought for the Week April 25th 2021
4th Sunday of Easter
“I’ve won the Lottery!” and I think that maybe you have too. I’m not talking about any kind of money lottery but instead one to make you far richer, spiritually that is, I am in fact referring to the Revised Common Lectionary NRSV lottery! Yes, it’s true, I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw the readings for today, all four numbers came up and I punched the air with delight. Now, I should probably explain what I’m so excited about, but where to start?
Ok, The Lectionary, most churches follow a Lectionary which plans out the scripture readings for the church’s seasonal calendar, so we Christians are all following a similar if not the same pattern of spiritual nourishment found in God’s Word. It follows the same format throughout the year, which is:
1st Reading – Old Testament or Acts (during Easter)
2nd Reading – A Psalm
3rd Reading – from an Epistle or Acts
4th Reading – From one of the four Gospels
Now, the selection rationale behind the four scripture readings of the day is not known to me and I cannot find the methodology behind the choices made, therefore I and most people I know, make the assumption that there must be a common theme to be found, one that links them all together. Sometimes you can find one and sometimes not (finding a connection across all four readings in my experience is very rare) but one thing is for sure, there is most certainly a spiritual message or lesson to be found within the text, it’s the getting to it that can be the challenge and it can feel like a bit of a lottery as to what may be revealed.
Be honest, how many times have you sat in church and listened to the Readings being delivered aloud, only to think “nope don’t know what that was all about” and then perhaps thinking “never mind, the sermon will sort all that out for me”, I know I have, although it has to be said there have been occasions where I was left bemused by the sermon offering too!
So, let’s for a moment just give a thought for that chosen person standing up there delivering their deciphered message, harvested from the scripture parcels that the Lectionary has somewhat enigmatically provided. You’ve been asked to deliver a sermon this coming Sunday so you grab the Lectionary hoping that at least one of the readings is going to hold the theological golden ticket, one that will provide an inspiring sermon to both illuminate and nurture the faithful sitting before you, oh the nervous tension as you get to your Sunday slot but can you deliver?
Well, for me having now written a number of sermons, homilies etc I can tell you that when I get the requesting telephone call, I go straight to my Lectionary to find my lottery results. There have been times when those readings have taken me days of contemplative scrutiny, often stressing out as time whittles away and praying (lots of) for divine inspiration to help me find a message that will be of some use to at least one person listening on the day. It really can be that challenging at times, so much so, that I now have a real empathy with and a newly found appreciation of, all those other preachers whom I thought had sold me short on my Sunday Sermon, simply because I could not relate to their interpretations.
A good Thought for the Week ahead then, one for all of us, would be to consider the challenges for those that provide us with Christian learning through their scriptural insight, in whatever form it takes, and of the difficult extracting process it might present before they feel they can share it with us. A thought that may also serve to remind us that even if their message does not resonate within both our hearts and mind on the day, that we should still hold it in high regard, as I believe there is not a preacher of any worth, would take on the responsibility of interpreting the Holy Book without the utmost of sincerity and respectful reverence, essential virtues that this privileged task both commands and deserves.
Today though, being Lectionary Year B and the 4th Sunday of Easter, I found what for me was the winning ticket, as all four readings, in my humble opinion, reveal a message from God that needs no close scrutiny, no decoding, no interpretation and certainly no sermonising by me, they are a joyful collection of scripture from which I believe everyone will discover their own spiritual enlightenment, simply by reading them. Just to emphasise my point on their wholesomeness, I have provided you with all four readings (normally I would only choose one or two) and might I suggest that to get the best out of them you find some quiet time to be with Our Lord, today or in the week ahead, read them slowly and ponder upon each one before moving to the next. Why not try being the presiding preacher and see if the Holy Spirit will reveal a message for you to share, if you feel you can’t then just enjoy them for the peace and comfort they offer, either way you’re sure to be a winner and all the richer for it. Amen.
Heavenly Father we give you our deepest thanks and praise for the most precious of gifts, that which is your written Word,
For the vitality, comfort, guidance and wisdom it provides to us
your children, each and every day of our lives,
Holy Spirit we ask that you bring the words of scripture to life within our hearts and minds, illuminating a path of righteousness towards
our Father and His glory.
Blessed Lord we thank you for today’s readings and ask that your Holy Spirit helps each of us to find a personal message within it, be with us as we spend time faithfully immersed within the text.
For our first Reading we give praise to the courage of Peter before his accusers
Dear Lord give us the same courage to do what is right in your name so the world will know your name.
For our second Reading we give thanks for the sustenance found within the beautiful sentiments of Psalm 23
Dear Lord, we ask that you be by our side in the darkest of times, take away our fear,
Lead us into the greenest of pastures and always revive our souls so that we may dwell in your house always.
For our third reading we give thanks for the understanding of Christian love.
Dear Lord help us your children, to turn our knowledge of real love into truth and action, so that we may then lay down our lives in service to you and to others who need it, just as you commanded.
In our fourth Reading we give thanks and praise for the Lord’s divine protection.
Dear Lord, you are indeed our protector, our Good Shepherd
and we your vulnerable flock.
Come find us when we are lost, hold us close when the wolf is near,
One world, one shepherd, one flock, forever.
Reading 1: Acts 4:5-12 – New International Version
5 The next day the rulers, the elders and the teachers of the law met in Jerusalem. 6 Annas the high priest was there, and so were Caiaphas, John, Alexander and others of the high priest’s family. 7 They had Peter and John brought before them and began to question them: “By what power or what name did you do this?” 8 Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them: “Rulers and elders of the people! 9 If we are being called to account today for an act of kindness shown to a man who was lame and are being asked how he was healed, 10 then know this, you and all the people of Israel: It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed. 11 Jesus is “‘the stone you builders rejected, which has become the cornerstone.’[ 12 Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.”
Reading 2 – Psalm 23
The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
2 He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
3 he refreshes my soul.
He guides me along the right paths
for his name’s sake.
4 Even though I walk
through the darkest valley,[a]
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.5 You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
6 Surely your goodness and love will follow me
all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord
Reading 3 1 John 3:16-24 – New International Version
16 This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. 17 If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? 18 Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.
19 This is how we know that we belong to the truth and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence: 20 If our hearts condemn us, we know that God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything. 21 Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God 22 and receive from him anything we ask, because we keep his commands and do what pleases him. 23 And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us. 24 The one who keeps God’s commands lives in him, and he in them. And this is how we know that he lives in us: We know it by the Spirit he gave us.
John 10:11-18 New International Version
11 “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 12 The hired hand is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it. 13 The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep.
14 “I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me— 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep. 16 I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd. 17 The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life—only to take it up again. 18 No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father.”