As we journey through these uncertain times, each day Sean will to seek post a thought or reflection, a Bible verse or a prayer.
Sunday 3rd May 2020
“I am the gate for the sheep”
(Please note – this is not the material being used for the evening service at 7.00 pm)
In our meeting together let us remember that we worship the God who created this world, the God who spoke through his prophets from generation to generation, led his people from captivity to liberty, healed the sick, fed the hungry and was faithful even when faced with rejection. The same God who wants all people to be drawn to his love and grace, to know his forgiveness and the joy of his Salvation. Let us put aside all that hinders and join together in worship and praise.
In the passage below from John's Gospel lJesus says I am the gate or door for the sheep and then again simply I am the gate or door (both are correct translations from the Hebrew). How are we to understand this saying? And what significance does it hold for us today? Perhaps we are glad of the doors and gates that keep us safe in lockdown. Or perhaps there are times when these doors and gates feel more like barricades keeping us prisoner or preventing us from entering the homes of loved ones, friends or neighbours or even our church buildings. And we long to break them down. And once again go freely out and in. And I’ll come back to this. But first let me tell you a story.
As most of you are aware we have had two puppies join the manse in the space of a year. Last year Melville arrived, as an 8 week old golden retriever puppy. He is our fourth retriever so we thought we knew all we needed to know about puppy-proofing the house and garden… as it turned out we had forgotten quite a lot in ten years!
Over the course of the winter of 2018/19 I have been busy building raised beds in a section of the manse garden so that we could grow some fruit and vegetables. To protect these beds and their contents from the unwanted attention of dogs he put up a piece of fencing and fixed an old rusty metal gate that we found lying abandoned in the garden. Unfortunately, within 48 hours of his arrival Melville discovered he was small enough to get through between the railings in the gate. So we hurriedly blocked them up with a piece of netting. Then he discovered the fun of digging and managed to tunnel his way under the gate – until we blocked that off too. But woe betide us if we forgot to shut the gate - he was into the vegetable area like a shot enjoying the wooden beds, the smells, the vegetation, building himself a nest in the midst of it all!
Eventually we were sure we had made the vegetable patch puppy-proof. Until Spring of this year when Magnus the Westie pup arrived…. well! Last week he found a new way into the vegetable garden and encouraged Melville to follow him. There the partners in crime spent a happy few minutes wreaking absolute havoc! Whether we will get any strawberries at all this year remains to be seen. And trying to get hold of replacement garden canes to support the vegetables has been a real challenge during lock down.
For Melville and Magnus it seems that that old rusty gate to the vegetable patch leads into puppy heaven – and they are determined to find their way in there!
I share that story with you because surely it is the picture of a gate into heaven that lies behind the saying of Jesus, “I am the gate”. In the Bible doors and gates are mentioned many times and often they relate to entering or accessing the kingdom of God, the kingdom of heaven. We might think of the challenge of entering the kingdom by the narrow door. Or, perhaps more reassuringly of the promise, knock and the door will be opened to you. Or the words of that Easter hymn about Jesus himself
There was no other good enough
To pay the price of sin
He only could unlock the gate of heaven
And let us in.
‘Very truly, I tell you, anyone who does not enter the sheepfold by the gate but climbs in by another way is a thief and a bandit. 2The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. 3The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep hear his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 4When he has brought out all his own, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice. 5They will not follow a stranger, but they will run from him because they do not know the voice of strangers.’ 6Jesus used this figure of speech with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them.
7 So again Jesus said to them, ‘Very truly, I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. 8All who came before me are thieves and bandits; but the sheep did not listen to them. 9I am the gate. Whoever enters by me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture. 10The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.
In the bible the opening of that gate or door into heaven leads to two things – truth and life. First of all the person for whom the gate is opened is offered a new insight into heaven or eternity or life beyond the present. That person catches a glimpse of a new truth about God and his purposes for the world and the future. But the opening of that gate permits two way traffic. So the second thing that the opening of the gate does is to allow God’s life to flow out into the world. In John’s Gospel these two things, truth and life come together in Jesus. So Jesus is not only the one who opens the gate but he is the very gate or door to heaven. In him we see God’s life and love at work and he promises to share this life with us now and for all eternity.
It is perfectly natural to long for a time when the physical doors and gates are once again open to us. But in the midst of that longing, perhaps these doors and gates that are keeping us safe could also be reminders to us of the door and gate to heaven that we find mentioned so often in the bible. Let us pray that Christ who is that gate will open up for us fresh glimpses of the future which God desires and this world sorely needs. And let us carry in our hearts the words of the psalmist
The Lord shall keep thy soul
He shall preserve thee from all ill
Henceforth thy going out and in
God keep forever will.
• The NHS, its staff in hospitals and GP practices as well as the other emergency services and volunteers
• Scientists and others engaged in the struggle against Covid-19
• The Government and Scottish Parliament as they seek to manage the pandemic
• Those suffering from or bereaved by the corona virus
• Family, friends and neighbours, those most affected by the lock-down
• Other people and situations who are in your hearts today.
• The Church that we might offer a faithful witness to Christ through this time
• Crossreach and in particular their work with the elderly and vulnerable adults
• The renewal of the church and revival in Scotland
Prayers for Others
Good Shepherd Guide us and lead us
Glory to you, o Lord
You have triumphed
Over the powers of darkness
Raise us up to new life
That we may live to serve you
We give you thanks for the Church
Scattered at present
Like bread broken and spread
Through hostile valleys,
Yet one in mind and spirit
United by your love for the world.
Help us to share that love
Always ready to reach those
Who are wrestling with the
Steepness of the way that lies ahead.
Good Shepherd Guide us and lead us
Lord Jesus, You offer a light for the journey
We pray for all who walk in darkness
And in the valley of the shadow of death
We continue to pray for
All those caught up in the struggle
against Covid 19
Today we remember especially
Staff in hospitals and GP Surgeries
Care Homes and Funeral parlours
We pray for our Queen
and her government
And all world leaders
as they make
Decisions that impact on the lives
Of millions of people.
We pray for scientists, researchers,
providers of PPE
And all those providing essential services.
May our clapping and our actions
Show integrity and courage
Good Shepherd Guide us and lead us
As you have opened for us
The gate of everlasting life
Help us to live life to the full
Even when that has to be lived
within our four walls.
We pray for all those for whom
This lockdown period feels more like prison
Those who are unwell
Those whose mental health is suffering
Those who have an underlying condition
And find life difficult at the best of times
Those who are on the receiving end of abuse
Those who are grieving the loss of a loved one
Those who are missing family and friends
And the celebration of life’s key milestones.
We give thanks for modern technology
That makes contact with others easier.
Help us use it wisely and well.
Good Shepherd Guide us and lead us.
Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. You will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us. Save us from the time of trial and deliver us from evil. the kingdom, the power and the glory are yours, now and forever.
May God’s blessing surround you each day
As you love him and walk in his way
May his presence within guard and keep you from sin
Go in peace, go in joy, go in love.
Blessed be your name - Matt Redman