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Trinity United Church
Easter 04
April 25, 2021
Zoom Worship

“Connection not Perfection”

To view the livestream of the ZOOM worship, CLICK HERE for video.



Acknowledgement of Territory
The United Churches of Canada
repudiates the doctrine of discovery
that assumed these lands were unoccupied
when European explorers and settlers first came here.
In humble appreciation,
we acknowledge that Trinity United Church rests
on the unceded territory
of the Coast Salish peoples,
the Kwikwetlem First Nations.

Prelude/ Lighting of the Christ Candle: CLICK HERE for video.

Call to Worship:
In the noise and the chaos
   we follow the voice of love.
In the midst of joy and celebration,
   we follow the voice of love.
Surrounded by sorrow and trouble,
   we follow the voice of love.
Confronted with doubt and longing,
   we follow the voice of love.
Assured of promise and rejoicing,
   we follow the voice of love.
Let us follow the voice of love and join in worship.

Prayer of Approach
We are your people, O God –
the sheep of your pasture,
the flock you have gathered.
Lead us beside still waters;
teach us the way of righteousness;
and feed us at your table;
through Jesus Christ, our good shepherd. Amen.*

*Feasting on the Word Liturgies for Year B vol 1, pg162

Hymn: “When I Needed a Neighbour” VU 600
CLICK HERE for video.

Affirmation of our Faith: “A New Creed”    CLICK HERE for video.


Retelling Our Ancient Story:
Aesop’s Funky Fables, "The Boy Who Cried Wolf" by Vivian French and Korky Paul 

Hymn: “Make Me a Channel of Your Peace” VU 684
CLICK HERE for video.

1 John 3:16-24

16We know love by this, that he laid down his life for us—and we ought to lay down our lives for one another. 17How 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?
18 Little children, let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action. 19And by this we will know that we are from the truth and will reassure our hearts before him 20whenever our hearts condemn us; for God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything. 21Beloved, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have boldness before God; 22and we receive from him whatever we ask, because we obey his commandments and do what pleases him.
23 And this is his commandment, that we should believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us. 24All who obey his commandments abide in him, and he abides in them. And by this we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit that he has given us.
John 10:11-18

11 ‘I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 12The hired hand, who is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and runs away—and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. 13The hired hand runs away because a hired hand does not care for the sheep. 14I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, 15just as the Father knows me and I know the Father. And I lay down my life for the sheep. 16I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd. 17For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life in order to take it up again. 18No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it up again. I have received this command from my Father.’

This is the witness of the early church. Thanks be to God!

Message: CLICK HERE for video.

Good Shepherd,
you have called us each by name,
and we know your voice.
Open the gate for us
that we may enter your Holy Presence
and receive your word.
We pray that your Holy Spirit
will strengthen us as we listen,
reflect and comment on your word.
May we be devoted to the teaching of your Word,
that through that word,
we may hear your voice
and follow it into eternal life.
In the name of the Good Shepherd we pray.

I’m going to confess at the outset that Good Shepherd Sunday is not one of my favourite celebrations in the Christian Calendar. I am really resistant to the description of followers of Jesus being “sheep.” Christians need to be critical thinkers, and by critical, I don’t mean criticizing, but able to exercise responsible, intelligent, discernment.

When I post on the sign outside, “For the Love of God, do what Dr Bonnie says,” I am not recommending blind obedience to our leadership. I am asserting that we can, and must, trust the authority of scientific methodology and medical expertise that Dr Henry and her teams represent.

We are not being “sheep” by observing social distancing and getting vaccinated. We are exercising responsible discernment and leadership.

Having said that, welcome to Good Shepherd Sunday.

In all three years of the lectionary cycle, The forth Sunday of Easter is "Good Shepherd Sunday." We usually hear the 23rd Psalm on Good Shepherd Sunday, though our current worship format has prevented us from reading the Psalms. And we hear from John chapter 10, which is a long discourse on "The Good Shepherd."

The previous chapter of John, John 9, is the rather long story of the man who was born blind. The story concludes with Jesus accusing the Pharisees of blindness. We are given to understand that Jesus is talking about a “different kind of blindness." Jesus then immediately embarks on this extended illustration of the "Good Shepherd."

I’m pointing out here that the illustration of the “Good Shepherd” is actually being offered as a contrast to “blindness” of the previous chapter. Sheep are not understood as “blindly following,” but rather they see something others might not be able to see.

I don't usually do three point sermons, but there are, in fact three things I would like to observe about the illustration of the "Good Shepherd" in today's reading.

First, this is one of the "I AM" statements. Seven times in the Gospel of John, Jesus says a kind of special "I AM," we call them the great "I AM"s.
1) I am the light of the world
2) I am the bread of life
3) I am the true vine
4) I am the way, the truth and the life
5) I am the resurrection and the life
6) I am the gate, and gatekeeper
7) I am the Good Shepherd

The "I AM" statements are a reminder of the story from Exodus, chapter 3, When Moses is before the burning bush. God has told Moses to go back to Egypt to liberate the Israelites and Moses asks, "But who will I say has sent me." And the burning bush replies, "I AM that I AM." The bush responds with the four letter word, yod hey vav hey. We sometimes see it translated as Yawheh or Jehovah. "I AM" is the first name of God in the Hebrew Scriptures.

So in the Gospel of John, when Jesus utters "I AM," it isn't just any "I am" but the GREAT I AM. We are to understand, that according to John, Jesus’ voice is the same voice that came from that burning bush. This isn't just the fully human Jesus speaking now, this is Jesus, the presence of God speaking: I am the light of the world; I am the bread of life; I am the true vine; I am the way, the truth and the life; I am the resurrection; I am the gate and gatekeeper; I am the Good Shepherd.

Whatever follows an "I AM" statement has the authority of the whole scriptural tradition behind it.

Today we hear, "I am the Good Shepherd" and we learn a little something about what that means.

The second observation I want to make about the passage has to do with the distinction Jesus makes between the Good Shepherd and the hired hands. Now, a part of me wants to argue, wait a minute, isn't anyone who cares for sheep a shepherd? But Jesus makes a distinction between hired hands and the one to whom the sheep belong. The sheep do not belong to hired hands. The sheep belong to the Good Shepherd. And then the Good Shepherd is described: The Good Shepherd lays down their life for the sheep; the sheep know the Good Shepherd and the Good Shepherd knows the sheep.

We could have some conversation about who the hired hands are. Are they world leaders? The emperor in Rome? The Priests in the Temple? the Roman governors? The scribes and Pharisees? Is it possible that some hired hands are better than others even if they are not themselves the Good Shepherd? John doesn’t help us out much on these details, though we could take some educated guesses.

The third observation I'll make is that Jesus says, "I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice."

While the Shepherd knows the sheep. And the sheep know the shepherd. The sheep may not always know the other sheep, especially the ones that belong to a different fold.

We need to remember that Jesus, in this same chapter, also claims to be the gate and the gatekeeper, the way by which sheep come and go from the fold. Not us. We do not control who is "in" and who is "out." The Good Shepherd who is also the Gate and the Gatekeeper does.

There is only one Good Shepherd. Jesus.

We sometimes talk about ministers leading their flock. However, there is only one Good Shepherd and that's Jesus, the Risen Christ. Ministers are sheep among sheep. At best, ministers are hired hands. Hopefully, ministers are good, rather than bad hired hands who help the sheep hear the voice of the Shepherd. But it is always the Shepherd's voice for which we should be listening.

How do we recognize the Shepherd’s voice?

The last several weeks we’ve been talking about recognizing the Risen Christ. That is why the stories of the appearances come first in the Easter season. We will recognize the voice of the shepherd in familiar ritual, story and song. We will recognize the voice of the shepherd, in community caring for one another the best they can. We will recognize the voice of the shepherd in justice, kindness and humility.

May we go from our time together listening for the voice of the Good Shepherd. May we care for our fellow sheep and may we remain open and receptive to the sheep from other folds who might surprise us along the way. Amen.

Special Music


Prayers of Thanksgiving and intercession:
“Hear our prayer, O God” VU

Hear our prayer, O God;
Hear our prayer, O God;
Incline your ear to us,
And grant us your peace. (X2)

We pray for the church in every place…
[We pray for all people of all faith traditions, and no faith traditions, atheists and fundamentalists…
We pray for the United Church of Canada and our leaders, and courts;]
Gather us together and make us one,
one in ministry and mission to the world,
so that there will be one flock, one shepherd.
God of goodness and mercy, hear our prayer.

Hear our prayer, O God;
Hear our prayer, O God;
Incline your ear to us,
And grant us your peace.

We pray for the nations of the world…
Anoint all leaders with your wisdom
so that they will use their power
to help the poor and defend the vulnerable.
God of goodness and mercy, hear our prayer.

Hear our prayer, O God;
Hear our prayer, O God;
Incline your ear to us,
And grant us your peace.

We pray for this community…
[we pray for our volunteers, our Governance Team, our staff members, our membership, and those who receive our services]
Strengthen those who work each day to
heal the sick, welcome the outcasts,
and help sisters and brothers in need.
God of goodness and mercy, hear our prayer.

Hear our prayer, O God;
Hear our prayer, O God;
Incline your ear to us,
And grant us your peace.

We pray for friends and loved ones…
[We pray for Brian, Lynn, Gladys, Joan, John, Terry, Wendy, Mary, Muriel, John, Sheila, Debbie, Morve, Wayne, Katherine,]
Comfort all who are suffering;
walk with them through dark valleys
and restore them, body, mind, and soul.
God of goodness and mercy, hear our prayer.

Hear our prayer, O God;
Hear our prayer, O God;
Incline your ear to us,
And grant us your peace. (x2)

Loving God, by the power of your Spirit,
help us to keep your commandments
and to love one another with the love of Jesus,
in whose name we pray…*

*Feasting on the Word, Liturgies for Year B vol 1, p 162ff

The Disciples’ Prayer: “Our Father” VU 960
CLICK HERE for video.


Hymn: “You, Lord, Are Both Lamb and Shepherd” VU 210
CLICK HERE for video.

Commissioning and Benediction:
God knows us by name and cares for us beyond understanding.
   God goes with us as we leave this place.
In paths of joy,
   God celebrates with us.
When we face hardship and testing,
   God endures with us.
When we are separated and alone,
   God brings us back.
When our time passes into God’s time,
   God’s eternal love will bring us home.
God is always with us and will never leave us.


The God beyond us,
the Christ within us,
the Spirit beside us,
the three all around us,
be with you now and always. Amen.