As a community separated by a virus but drawn together by faith, we worship today:
- Many of us are praying at 10am every Sunday
- We are joining with worship from all over the country watching BBC1 for Sunday Worship (10:45am) and / or Songs of Praise (1:15pm), although please check the television listings in case these times are moved.
- Revd Graeme Holdsworth takes Holy Communion at 6pm, in his study on behalf of our community
Here is a video letter from the Vicar of Marsden, Slaithwaite and East Scammonden…
Craft activity for younger members of the congregation
There is no theological basis for Christians being edible… but for younger members of the congregation having an excuse to make marshmallow sheep gives adults an opportunity to talk about sheep recognising the voice of the Good Shepherd. I’m not aware of any Biblical support for dunking marshmallow sheep in holy drinking chocolate, but perhaps that could be the moment to discuss life in abundance.
In the following audio file, the Gospel and Collect prayer is read by Carol. I am looking for volunteers to contribute to the diversity of this approach and if you would like to read the Bible for the website, or say prayers please contact the Vicar.
Sermon 3rd May 2020
May the words of my mouth, and the thoughts and meditations of all our hearts, be acceptable to you Lord, our strength and our salvation.
In today’s Gospel reading, we hear that Jesus using parables to talk about his relationship with his followers. Jesus refers to himself as the gate and says of his followers – “I came so that they may have life, and have it abundantly”.
People sometimes call Christians ‘sheep’. We even refer to ourselves as a flock occasionally. Being called a sheep is not a compliment. Wake up sheeple! It is a term used to describe people who are docile, compliant and easily influenced… sheep are supposed to be mindless and follow the herd. The term is often used to describe people who fall for conspiracy theories – people who don’t listen to facts or science. Basically, sheeple are at best unthinking, or at worst mindless.
Thankfully, this wasn’t what Jesus said about us – Jesus didn’t call his followers mindless, Jesus used the example of sheep to show how his followers recognise the difference between the one voice that leads to abundant life, and the voices which would lead us away from this gift.
Jesus says his followers are discerning. Being discerning is very different from being someone who mindlessly follows the voice of the herd.
We live in a world where there are a great many voices, all asking for our attention. We are immersed in a world of advertising, lots of voices wanting us to believe something. Social media is interwoven with adverts that try to look like posts from my friends. Promoted Facebook content with a tag that says: ‘your friend liked this’ – gives me the impression that my friend has shared it with me. This is misleading and is a voice trying to get me to believe a lie. My friends didn’t share this with me, it was a paid for advertising algorithm.
Whether it is social media or any other voice trying to persuade us to buy into an idea, we all need to be discerning. We make choices based on what we hear and believe, and these choices have a major impact on our life.
There is a reason smoking adverts are now banned. It can be a matter of life and death.
In Jesus’ parable, he makes it clear that when it comes to matters of life and death – his followers will be able to discern those who mislead from those who can be trusted.
The parable we hear today is only half the story, Jesus goes on to talk about being the Good Shepherd, but for now we only have the first ten verses… in these Jesus refers to himself as a gate. “I am the gate”, Jesus says. He describes the ability to pass through a gate; to come in and to go out… to come in, like coming home to a safe place; and to go out, like heading into the world.
Jesus is describing a freedom that comes from listening to him – a freedom that leads to an abundant life. Whether eternal and heavenly or whether in this life we have now.
There is a risk of sentimentalising the abundant Christian life as though Christians are somehow separate from the suffering of the world… but this is patently not true. It was never true that Christians had an easy life: from the slaughter of the Roman Circus, to the forced denial of Christ in oppressive regimes. Even simple matters like health and wealth – Christians are not given immunity from coronavirus and there is no lottery win when we pray.
The promise of abundant life is not material wealth and health, instead it is the freedom from the full-stop of death a freedom from fear that gives us the freedom to live life with abundance. Freedom to love, to care, to pray, to give, to share, to love our neighbours as ourselves. To forgive and to let ourselves be forgiven.
My hope for you, whether you are deeply faithful new to faith, unsure of faith or have no faith at all, my hope is that today you will hear and be set free.
Let us pray: Almighty Father, beloved Jesus, Holy Spirit – come and be with us today. Speak to us, in our hearts and minds; of the gift of your love, the gift of faith and the freedom you offer to live life in abundance.