Material for Worship on the Fourth Sunday of Easter

Good morning! As you light your candle and prepare to join in worship with me, Nerys, celebrating the Eucharist in the church this morning, take a moment to listen to any sounds you can hear. Sounds, especially the sounds of voices, have become very important to many of us, deprived of seeing and touching others in the way we used to. In a few years’ time, I wonder what voices we will remember from this period. Will it be the urgent voices on TV telling us to ‘Stay at home’, the cheering voices in the streets on Thursday evenings, the welcome voices of family and friends on the phone or other voices? And what about our inner voices? What have they been saying to us during this last week?

Today is known as Good Shepherd Sunday because the Gospel is always taken from the tenth chapter of John where Jesus reveals his identity to the Pharisees who oppose him, by using parables about shepherds and sheep. As you read John 10.1-10, listen to the contrasting messages of the good shepherd and the thieves.

The sheep that belong to the good shepherd follow him because they know his voice. We can recognise the good shepherd’s voice within us because it leads to life. Christ offers us a life full to overflowing, a life better than we ever dreamed of, but he doesn’t force himself on us. Every evening on the farm, my uncle would walk around his fields to check his stock as his father and his grandfather had done before him. As he came to a gate, he would whistle gently to set the sheep at ease and they would run towards him, knowing that he had some feed in his pocket for them. Christ stands at the gate of our lives, gently and graciously waiting for us to come to him. And when we do, he greets us with the words ‘Peace be with you’, ‘Do not be afraid’. We may indeed be afraid that if we turn to him enormous demands will be made on us or that we will be worn down by guilt. We may have been exploited in the past by people who were only interested in their own good. But Christ is not in the business of destructive behaviour, he is not out to get us, to steal from us or put us down. His love is a self-giving love, he seeks only to enrich our lives by sharing his life with ours. In his keeping we are set free to be ourselves more truly than ever before and to be a blessing for others. He will not force himself upon us. It is up to us to respond to him.

We can use the psalm set for today as our response. Read it very slowly pausing at the end of each line.

The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want.

He makes me lie down in green pastures;

he leads me beside still waters;

he restores my soul.

He leads me in right paths for his name’s sake.

Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I fear no evil;

for you are with me; your rod and your staff—they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;

you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life,

and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD my whole life long.


Our prayers of intercession today have been prepared by the leaders of thirteen Christian churches and organisations across Scotland. We are invited to join with many thousands of people to pray them again tonight at 7 p.m.

Good Shepherd, watch over us today in all we face and experience.
Never leave us or forsake us and journey with us always.
Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer.

Good Shepherd, you know us as no-one else knows us.
Guard us and keep us, as you guard and keep those whom we love.
Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer.

Good Shepherd, we pray for the sick and the lonely;
for the anxious and the bereaved;
for those whose pain is beyond our comprehension.
We stand with them and commend them to your care.
Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer.

Good Shepherd, we pray for the carers in hospitals and in homes
and for all who serve the needs of others.
May their example of living compassion inspire us in our care for others.
Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer.

Good Shepherd, you know the depths of our heart
and the fears which are ours.
Speak into the depths of our heart and calm our fears.
Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer.

Good Shepherd, you know us by our name
and our identity is not hidden from you.
Gather us to yourself as a Shepherd gathers the sheep,
that we might know your Name.
Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer.