Sunday, April 22, 2012

4th Sunday of Easter - B

Texts: Acts 4:5-12; Psalm 23; 1st John 3:16-24; John 10:11-18

Call to Worship
L: In the presence of God, we gather:
P: people burdened and looking for comfort;
folks whose spirits need a makeover.
L: Like little children, we surround God:
P: hoping for that touch which will refresh us;
longing to be embraced in arms of love.
L: We look, and find a feast has been prepared for us:
P: bread which will give us life anew;
the cup which overflows with grace and hope.

Prayer of the Day
On the lonely paths through life,
you are smoothing the way for us.
In the barren soil where we till our souls,
you are nurturing us with love.
Wherever we are, we find you,
Crafter of Creation.

When we go to fill the emptiness
of a hungry world,
you are handing us the bags of food.
When we see children struggling
to get past the potholes of poverty,
you are waiting with the gifts
we can use to smooth their way.
Wherever we are, we find you,
Shepherd of God's little ones.

At the corner where anger
intersects with judgment,
you are handing out bottles
filled from peace's spring.
At every opportunity we have
to share goodness and mercy,
we find our pockets stuffed
with simple acts of kindness.
Wherever we are, we find you,
Shepherd's Spirit.

Wherever we are, we find you,
God in Community, Holy in One,
even as we pray as Jesus has taught us, saying,
Our Father . . .

Call to Reconciliation
We wander from hope to hope, thinking the next person,
the next book, the next new thing will lead us in the ways
in which we long to live. Yet, if we open our eyes and
pay attention, we will see the Good Shepherd, the One
we will bring us into the kingdom of God's mercy and
hope, even as we confess all the foolish mistakes we
have done, and all the wrong turns we have made.
Join me, as we pray saying,

Unison Prayer of Confession
You long to fill us with your comfort and peace,
Still Waters of Grace, but we continue to take on
more anxiety, more worry, more fear. You would
comfort us in the gentleness of your hope, but we
welcome the embrace of a world spinning more and
more out of control. You would feed us with more
than we need, but we continue to hunger for the
sweet sensations offered to us by temptation.
You keep your promises and offer us forgiveness
and mercy all the days of our life. May we keep our
eyes focused on the path you have shaped for us; may
we listen to the call of the Good Shepherd who leads
us into your joy, that kingdom prepared for us by
Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior.

Silent prayers may be offered

Assurance of Pardon
L: This is the good news: wherever we are, God
is with us; whoever we are, God forgives us,
and offers us new life.
P: Surely goodness and mercy are the companions
we have been longing for, faithful friends as we
continue our journey as God's people. Amen.

The Great Prayer of Thanksgiving
L: May God be with you.
P: And also with you.
L: Beloved of God, lift up your hearts.
P: We lift them to the One who leads us
where we need to be.
L: Little children, give thanks to the Lord our God.
P: Our praise is continually offered to our Heart,
our Shepherd, our God.

Holy God,
Planter of green pastures where we might be fed;
Pooler of waters which nourish us forever;
Shaper of paths which lead us into your presence:
all that you made is beautiful and good
and given to those created in your image.
Sadly, our wisdom leads us to choose hunger
over the feast you prepare for us;
we thirst in the deserts
when we could drink deeply
from your grace;
we stumble off those paths
leading to your holy presence.
Yet you continue to seek us out,
to bring us home to your kingdom,
preparing a feast for those who will not respond
to your gracious invitation.

Therefore, we lift our voices to you day and night,
with those gathered around your throne
and with those who struggle to be faithful today,
singing your praise and our thanksgiving:

P: Holy, holy, holy Lord, God of goodness and mercy.
Ggreen pastures and summer nights are full of your glory.
Hosanna in the highest.

Blessed is the One who lays down his life for your children.
Hosanna in the highest.

Holy are you, Shepherd of all people,
and blessed is Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior,
one with you in every respect.
For your name's sake,
he left the green pastures
to climb the garbage heap of Golgotha;
he waded out of the living waters
to be drenched with the abuse of the world;
he wandered the streets of the kingdom
covered with the dust of sin and death
to lead us into the kingdom of joy.

As we seek to follow the Good Shepherd
into all the places he would lead us,
we celebrate that mystery we call faith:

P: The Good Shepherd walked through the darkest valley;
the Good Shepherd prepares a Table for us;
the Good Shepherd abides in us.

Pour out your Holy Spirit
upon these gifts of the bread and the cup
you have prepared for your Table.
As the bread which is broken
makes us whole,
and the cup overflows with your grace,
so pour us out for others:
so we may offer shelter
to those who have no home;
so we may comfort those
whose hearts are broken by the world;
so we may share food
with all who ache from hunger;
so we may guide the thirsty
to the pools of life we have found.

And when our journey is ended,
when we are at home in the soft, green pastures,
resting by the still waters, we will find that Feast
of grace, mercy, and hope you prepare for us,
and we will join with our companions
from every time and place, singing joy to you:
God in Community, Holy in One. Amen.

© Thom M. Shuman