Call to Worship
You who bring good tidings to Zion
Say, ‘Here is your God’
He tends his flock like a shepherd
And gathers the lambs in his arms
He carries them close to his heart
And gently leads those who have young
Hymn 147 – All creatures of our God and King
Prayers of Adoration and Confession
Creator God, maker of colour, sound, texture, movement, and the ceaseless beauty in living things, we bless you.
Creator God, maker of granite and mustard seed, of grey cloud and starlight, of earthquake and heartbeat, we bless you.
Creator God, maker of lambs and calves, of sheep and cattle and hens and pigs and pheasants and deer, the birds of the air and fish in our rivers, we bless you
Creator God, maker of all that is unseen, of all that has been, of all that words could never capture, we bless you. We bless you for your making, your trusting, your loving, your never-ending goodness.
Let us confess the faults and failings in our lives: Eternal God, our Guide and Shepherd, we strayed from your ways like lost sheep, We have not always loved our neighbours; we have not always been good stewards of the land and creatures in our care. We trust in your son, Jesus Christ, who on the cross took on himself the sins and failings of us all. Give us grace to amend our lives, and faithfully follow in your ways.
Almighty God, who forgives all who truly repent, have mercy upon you, pardon and deliver you from all your sins, confirm and strengthen you in all goodness, and keep you in life eternal; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. Our Father..
Hymn 462 – The King of Love my shepherd is
Readings: Acts 1: 1-11
Luke 15: 3-7
Hymn 550 – As a deer
O Creator God, who has made us to live together, to love one another and to love the land on which we live: we pray for ourselves, that we may have the grace to preserve, for those who come after, the beauty of our landscape the traditions of our people
and the strength of our local community. Amen
One of the joys of living in this area is the wonderful countryside and how it changes with the seasons. One of the joys of Spring has been the first sight of new birth, be it flowers growing in the garden, leaves opening on trees, but especially seeing lambs appear in the fields. Some appeared early, whilst the further up the valleys, the later the lambs appeared. But it has been a real joy to see them.
What is it about lambs? They are fascinating, both in themselves as creatures, so vulnerable, so attractive, and also because of the place they occupy in our Christian heritage, for sheep are mentioned so often in the Bible, with David as a shepherd and Jesus portrayed as the Good Shepherd. But it is easy, especially for those who live at a certain distance from a muddy field, to idealise, romanticise, the life of shepherd and sheep, imagining a carefree, simple life. We imagine Jesus in a brilliant white gown, looking after an occasionally wayward, but basically benign flock.
I always remember a friend of mine, working as a shepherd for several months up in Sutherland, and she talked about how hard it was and how from day one she was blistered and bruised. She spoke of how the animals had their own ideas of what was good for them and how they could somehow run faster and think more quickly than she could. But she came to love them so much and could well relate to the image in the Bible of the Shepherd, being willing to love and nurture and even sacrifice their own life in service of their flock.
I am reminded of a quotation from Thomas Merton, who wrote ‘Good Shepherd, you have wild and crazy sheep, in love with thorns and brambles. But please don’t get tired of looking for me. I know you won’t! For you have found me. All I have to do is stay found.’
Jesus says, ‘The sheep know my voice and follow me’. The sheep knows the shepherd’s voice from times of stress and danger, as he or she does the best to keep the flock together and safe from danger. They know the voice in times of relaxation; in the wind and cold of winter and the heat of summer. The relationship is hard won, but the sheep trust the shepherd, because again and again the shepherd has led them through the toughest of times into new life.
That’s maybe why in the story Jesus told about the lost sheep, the shepherd goes to such lengths to find the sheep that had gone astray. In our world today, the loss of one out of a hundred wouldn’t necessarily make us raise an eyebrow. Surely making sure that the 99 left are safe is what matters more? But no, the shepherd is concerned for the one which is lost, because the shepherd knows the sheep and loves the sheep, has a passion for the sheep. It represents the passion that God has for us – and indeed for those who are lost. It is the wonderful hope of the Gospel to care for the lost, that they might know the embrace of God. The High Commissioner told the General Assembly this week of a drug addict in Glasgow who thanked the local minister because his presence gave hope of a better way.
We have to have a passion for those who are lost or confused or anxious about how they will survive nest winter, just as a shepherd has a passion for the flock.
Today is Ascension Sunday, when we read about Jesus ascending into heaven. They had been with Jesus, but now he was leaving them, and they were feeling bereft. The disciples were gawking after him, but the angels told them to stop staring upwards, but to start looking around them and to move forward. Jesus was still with them, but in a different way. They had to be Christ to the world, and they moved forward and turned the world upside down – because they had the passion of Christ.
We are called to look around us – at creation with the lambs and calves, with the crops and the hills, and realise that we need to adjust our living to save it. We have to look around to those struggling with inflation or with the effects of the war in the Ukraine – and reach out. We are called to reach out for the lost lambs and bring them home, where there will be joy in heaven.
Hymn - Great God of all creation
Prayers of Dedication and Intercession
We give for many reasons – we give because it is good for us and frees us from the consumerism that poisons our souls, we give because we believe that our money and resources should do good and, through our giving, the church uses our money to make a difference through ministry and charity in and beyond our local communities, we give, above all, because God gave and showers us with grace and blessings and we wish to express our gratitude what we, ourselves, have received. We may gave in the plate in church, we may give through standing order, using an envelope or writing a cheque – however, we give, God rejoices in our cheerful giving. Let us pray:
All good gifts around us come from you, O God, and we return, through our gifts, something of what you have given us. Help us through our time, talent and treasure, to co-operate with your work of renewal of Creation,
that, at the end, we may rejoice with you forever.
For the friendship and support of our communities, for the beauty of hills and valleys
We thank you, Father.
For the changing weather and seasons, the dawns and sunsets and the starry nights:
We thank you, Father.
For the fields and pastures which provide food for our flocks and water from stream or river:
We thank you, Lord.
For our ewes, with their own wisdom; for their strength and care as mothers:
We thank you, Lord.
For lambs, for the miracle of their birth, and for the bounding joy of their young life:
We thank you, Lord.
We pray that our lambs may be free from sickness, and safe from attack by animals and birds:
We pray that all who care for the sheep may be given wisdom and endurance and may receive a just reward for their work:
Living Lord God, the blood of the people of Ukraine is crying out from the
ground, crying to you, crying to us. And so we too cry to you in the name
of our crucified and risen Lord.
We pray for all who are living in grief, danger or fear, urging that in these
dark times they may not lose hope.
We pray for all those who have been forced to flee from their homes,
and for countries who make them welcome.
We pray for world leaders that they may have courage and faith, wisdom and discernment, to stand for truth and justice; that in the face of
unbridled power, violence may cease.
Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.
We give you thanks in this Jubilee week of celebration for the faithful witness of Elizabeth, our Queen, for her devotion and joy in service, for
her steadfastness in times of trouble. Grant that she may be to others a source of hope, that they may come to know more fully your Son Jesus
Christ, who is alive and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now
and for ever.
Hymn 439 – Look ye saints, the sight is glorious
Now go in peace to enjoy the earth, and care for creation in partnership with God, who in Christ has honoured and blessed us. And the blessing of God almighty, Father., Son and Holy Spirit, be among you and remain with you always. Amen