Following new guidance by the Diocese, live-streaming from the Church is at the moment not allowed. Prayers, readings and reflections (audio file included) are available below:
The Fourth Sunday of Easter 3 May
Today's Sermon is available as an audio recording here. Press play to start.
Third Sunday of Easter
Faithful Shepherd, feed me
In the pastures green;
Faithful Shepherd, lead me
Where thy steps are seen.
Hold me fast, and guide me
In the meadow way;
So, with thee beside me,
I shall never stray.
Daily bring me nearer
To the heavenly shore;
May my faith grow clearer,
May I love thee more.
Hallow every pleasure,
Every gift and pain;
Be thyself my treasure,
Though none else I gain.
Day by day prepare me
As thou seest best,
Then let angels bear me
To thy promised rest.
Almighty God whose Son Jesus Christ is the resurrection and the life: raise us, who trust in him, from the death of sin to the life of righteousness, that we may seek those things which are above, where he reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.
Acts 2:42-47, 1 Peter 2:19-25, John 10:1-10.
Lord make us good shepherds in places where we may have influence, helping our families, friends and neighbours and those with whom we work.
Bless all who are leaders in our communities and grant them grace to work for the common good in these difficult times.
We pray for the sick and for those who sacrifice themselves and their safety to care for them. We pray by name for; Otto Lein , Bill Scott and Charlie Chesser.
We pray for those who have passed through the gate of death and entered into eternal life. We pray for the recently dead; David Johnson and Colin Tolworthy.
One Shepherd, One Flock
The theme of the Gospel, One Shepherd, One Flock, is not recognisable as we look at the state of the Christian Religion today. With two thousand years of Christian history behind us, it is empirically untrue to say that there is unity of Christians in one flock. Whereas it is undoubtedly true that all who profess and call themselves followers of Christ would acknowledge one Shepherd in Christ Jesus, we are far from being one united flock: we are many and disparate flocks.
There was disagreement from the earliest days of the apostolic mission between the circumcision party and the non-circumcision party. S. Paul’s Epistles bear testimony to splits within communities and between communities. Different interpretations of the same evidence arose and Church Councils had to be convened to determine what was right belief and what was wrong belief. The Nicene Creed that we say on Sunday is the product of one such Council. Councils made clear that Christian doctrine was never fixed by the will of an individual, or by particularly learned leaders, or by local, provincial preference, but by the united action of the whole Body of Christ. Heresies continued to arise and to fall away and Councils could not prevent all disputes and differences of theological, doctrinal or ecclesiological principle becoming major cracks in the edifice of the Church. The great split between Eastern Orthodoxy and Western Christendom occurred in 1054 and remains, despite much ecumenical congruence, unresolved and unreconciled. Within Western Christendom the protestant Reformation caused another fundamental crack and division in the Body of Christ. It seems never ending.
The unity of his followers is that for which Christ prayed and it is the animating principle that should be a constant reproach to the continued scandal of division. The vision of universal unity is set before us in the language and imagery of this morning’s Gospel. The Church is likened to a sheepfold, the sole and necessary gateway to which is Christ. The Church is, in this image, “the flock of which God himself foretold that he would be the shepherd, and whose sheep, even though governed by human shepherds, are … nourished and led by Christ himself, the Good Shepherd, the Prince of Shepherds, who gave his life for his sheep.”
The Acts of the Apostles provide a different, but no less telling, image. The Lord compared himself to the stone which the builders rejected, but which was made into the corner-stone. On this foundation the Church is built by the Apostles and from it the Church gains solidity and unity. That is the impeccable theory; the historical record and contemporary practice are far from the ideal.
Jesus calls all people to seek him, to know him and to love him. He calls together all who are scattered and divided by sin into the unity of his family, into the unity of the Church. It was for that purpose that he sent his Son as Redeemer and Saviour. The name, Jesus, Emmanuel, God with us, signifies that God is present in the person of his Son, made man for universal redemption from sin. Through his Incarnation Jesus united himself to all people and through his Passion and Death he united himself to their suffering and offered the means of rescue and liberation. To perpetuate his saving mission he sent his Apostles to preach his name, to convert and to bring all people into the one fold and family.
By virtue of the sacrament of Baptism all followers of Christ, whatever their expression of that discipleship, do share a unity. However, we need to recognise that Baptism is not the end of the journey but a beginning, a point of departure. Baptism sets us on a path towards a complete profession of faith, a complete incorporation into the system of salvation such as Christ himself willed it to be, and ultimately towards a complete integration into Eucharistic communion. Only then will the scandal of disunity cease to disfigure the image of Christ.
Unity is a gift from Christ; gifts are unmerited and ought to be received graciously by the recipient. We have been less than gracious in accepting Christ’s gift of unity. As history all too depressingly demonstrates, we have made a mockery of one flock, or one family. What is required of us as a Church is greater fidelity to our vocation to unity; a growing commitment to holiness of living, which is always the indispensable precondition for doing God’s will. The end of unity can only be the common union of the Eucharist, of the sharing in that common meal which is the great sacrament of unity, the sacrament of God’s universal love in Christ Jesus, the participation in the Body and Blood of Christ which signifies the unity of the Body of Christ, the Church. The breaking of his Body and the spilling of his Blood on the altar is the ultimate expression of our unity with his sacrifice, and our unity one with another in him, through him, with him. In his suffering and death endured in his humanity Jesus became the full and perfect instrument of the divine love, the love that seeks the salvation of all people.
But the terrible circumstances of the time, amid the desperation and the desolation, mean that we cannot, at least in this parish, join the celebration of this great sacrifice of unity with the Crucified and with each other in church. That hurts. But we can approach the altar in our hearts and in our homes, we can unite ourselves heart, mind and spirit with the Sacrifice of Christ.
It is the unsaid prayer every time we approach the altar, in church, or in our hearts, to unite ourselves in the sacrament of Christ’s Body and Blood with the angels and archangels, with the whole company of heaven, with our departed brothers and sisters, with one another, with all those offering the sacrifice at other altars beyond our denominational boundaries: the prayer that Christ’s will be accomplished, one Church, one Faith, one Lord. The Risen Christ will be truly glorified in the authentic expression of the universal Church, one, holy, catholic and apostolic. And this morning we can say: My Jesus, I believe that You are present in the Most Holy Sacrament. I love You above all things, and I desire to receive You into my soul. Since I cannot at this moment receive You sacramentally, come at least spiritually into my heart. I embrace You as if You were already there and unite myself wholly to You. Never permit me to be separated from You.