May 3, 2020

  Psalm 23 John 10:1-10 “Abundant Life” I’m sure you’ve already noticed that this morning’s worship is all about sheep and shepherds. When we were planning ahead for the music for this service several weeks ago, I pointed out that the lectionary was giving us Psalm 23 again. It came up just about a month ago during the Season of Lent, and we’re getting it again on this Fourth Sunday in the Season of Easter. As I noted the sheep theme, someone started to sing that wonderful chorus from Handel’s Messiah about the sheep: All we like sheep… have gone astray, have gone astray, have gone astray…. I said, “Yes, that’s an excellent song about sheep. But not for this week.” You see, the readings on this Easter Season Sunday are less about the sheep going astray, getting lost, or messing up. And they’re more about what the shepherds are up to. Today is all about the shepherds, actually. And in particular, the idea that Jesus is the “Good Shepherd” who cares for us (the sheep) and leads us to abundant life. Many early followers of Jesus would have been familiar with describing the promised Messiah as a caring a skillful “shepherd”: The prophets Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel each use such language. And likewise, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Zechariah contrast the good shepherd with “worthless shepherds” who neglect, exploit, and scatter the flock. The prophets used the familiar concept of a shepherd caring for the sheep to describe what they were … Read more »

April 22, 2018

Psalm 23 1 John 3:16-24 John 10:11-18 “One Flock, One Shepherd” We are glad to welcome the Sons (& daughters) of Scotland to our worship today to participate in a special Kirkin’ of the Tartans, and to share food, and fellowship, and Scottish country dancing after the service. I have never led a Kirkin’ before, but I remember my home congregation in Ottawa hosting this service when I was a teenager. St. Giles Presbyterian Church (where I grew up) was a very Scottish congregation. Actually, by the time I was there, it was becoming more culturally diverse, but in the 1950’s and 1960’s, my understanding is that the church was an important place for Scottish folk to gather. Almost everyone was Scottish, and going to the Presbyterian Church was a great way to connect. In the 1980’s and 90’s there was still a remnant of the Scottish crowd, and I remember lots of Scottish accents among the older members of our church. And I was Scottish too (kinda)… a bit Scottish, a bit Irish, a bit Welsh, and a bit English. But I had a Scottish name, at least. When we did the Kirkin’ of the Tartans, I remember my parents being a bit critical of it. “We’re not a Scottish club!” they complained. “We’re a church! And many of us aren’t Scottish anymore. We have people from many different countries, cultures, and backgrounds.” But even if the Kirkin’ of the Tartans is clearly a Scottish tradition, I think it’s … Read more »

February 20, 2011

John 10:11-16 Acts 9:10-19 Ezekiel 34:1-6, 11-16 When you’re preparing to become a minister in the Presbyterian Church in Canada there are a number of steps in the process before ordination. One of those steps is to attend a Guidance Conference. A group of divinity students gathers at Crieff Hills Conference Centre near Guelph Ontario, along with a team of ministers and lay leaders within the Presbyterian Church. And we spend three days in personal and small group reflection on our call to ministry in the church. The process includes a series of interviews and discussions that each student goes through with three counsellors. I don’t remember very much of the content of those conversations when I attended the Guidance Conference, but I do remember that at one point, someone asked me to think about what image I would choose to represent what my role would be as a minister in the church. I remember that I paused for a moment to think about what image to choose. And then I said, “Well, often people use the image of a shepherd for the minister. But I’m not sure how I feel about that. I don’t think that’s the image that I would use for my ministry.” “Why not?” the counsellor asked, and so I had to think and talk about it a little more. “Well, I feel like the shepherd image should be reserved for Christ. Jesus is the good shepherd, and I will only be one of his sheep. … Read more »