Our Mid Trent Team Prayer
Come, Holy Spirit:
fill the hearts of your faithful people
and kindle in us the fire of your love.
Strengthen your church here in Mid Trent:
increase our numbers,
deepen our faith
and pour out your love, through us, on our communities.
We ask these things in Jesus' name.
God we praise your name and ask for your blessing and help to
Raise awareness of our Churches in the Mid Trent Team. We offer
Ourselves to be your disciples within our community; to bear
Witness by our daily lives, so that all whom we meet will see the
Truth of your living word and believe in the
Hope you have promised us through your Son, our Saviour, Jesus Christ.
And an acrostic prayer for growth by Joan Makinson
Please click on Church Services to view larger image.
We try to make our church services as friendly as possible. Please don't worry about getting things 'wrong'. Even if they notice, people won't mind. At Communion services, everyone is equally welcome, whether you feel able to share the bread and wine or prefer just to stay seated for a time of quiet. Finally, we are interested in you, not what you are wearing - but note that in the winter you will need to wrap up warm in some of our churches!
and for Lichfield Diocese daily prayer please click this link
Released for Mission
Growing the Rural Church
On the fourth Sunday in Easter Derek preached on:
John chapter 10, v22 - 30
Today is sometimes referred to as 'Good Shepherd Sunday.'
For the next five Sundays, the lectionary Gospel readings take us back to the period before Jesus' crucifixion, to remind us that Easter vindicates Jesus' earlier teaching and actions. Here he is in Jerusalem for the festival of dedication (Hanukkah) in late November/early December.
The Jews here have heard his teaching in Jerusalem, teaching that has often proved controversial because of Jesus' claim to speak and act for God. Does this mean that he sees himself as Israel's 'messiah' (in Hebrew, 'anointed one')? This is a slippery term, with no single meaning in Jesus' day. He is forced to set out his understanding of what it is to be God's anointed. Earlier in the chapter, Jesus spoke of himself as the good shepherd, who lays down his life for the sheep, only to take it up again (10.1-17). This image, drawn from the Old Testament, sees political leadership as a form of pastoral care, something that is reflected today BUT NOT SEEN when we refer to politicians as 'ministers'.
Jesus persistently points away from himself to the divine source of his authority. 'The Father and I are one'. Nothing short of the glory of God is being revealed in the risks Jesus takes to extend his loving care to the whole family of Israel.
The links between the readings
Jesus the good shepherd looks after his flock with an indestructible care (John 10.28-29), something that Peter the apostle-shepherd draws on in a place of sadness and loss (Acts 9.40-41), and that heaven celebrates in the victory of the Lamb of God (Revelation 7.17).
In Acts, Peter prayed and then followed the example of Jesus, restoring Tabitha to life - just as Jesus had raised the centurion's slave and Jairus' daughter. Does our church community demonstrate resurrection confidence? Do we ever try risky things? Peter's act brought local fame (v.42). Are we too afraid of being accused of exhibitionism, or stepping out of line, or glory-seeking? How can the Spirit strengthen and support us, both as an individual and as a church, in taking 'good' risks - and gaining 'good' publicity - as we seek to care, to heal and to bring in the kingdom…and sometimes to defy the world?
Several disciples are mentioned in this passage: Tabitha who does practical good works; Peter who prays and heals; Simon who offers hospitality; and even two problem-solving messengers who fetch Peter. How good are we at fostering all the gifts available, or potentially available, among our members? Do we seek people out, as the messengers did Peter? Do we encourage those with special gifts to use them? Conversely, do we ever discourage the exercise of gifts that lie outside our comfort zones?
Does Acts 9 have anything to say about priorities? Is healing more important than making practical provision for the well-being of others? Are some gifts more 'spiritual', more worthy, holier? Or is the church sustained by the exercise of many gifts in mutual support? What can we learn from this passage about working together, sharing, and respecting the diverse gifts of others, whether male or female, friends or strangers?
Many of our churches find their numbers declining, their buildings in need of repair, and a spirit of gloom descending. 'Consolation' often has something of a bad name: a consolation prize, consoling yourself with (e.g.) chocolate, offering consoling words (instead of doing something). Is this necessarily deserved? Would our church life be improved by more emphasis on imagining glory and less on accepting and managing a dispiriting here and now? When exploring the future for our church communities, can we offer a positive vision in faith that the Spirit will fulfil all promises?
In today's gospel reading the focus is not so much on Jesus as the Good Shepherd as on the readiness of the sheep to listen to his voice. 'The sheep that belong to me listen to my voice,' Jesus says. How do we listen to Jesus' voice?
So how do we respond to all these questions. The letters 'WWJD' have become popular. They stand for 'What would Jesus do?' It's a good question but it is not always easy to know the answer. Jesus lived his earthly life 2000 years' ago in circumstances very different from ours. He knew nothing of nuclear weapons, the internet, computers or the possibility of people walking on the moon. There are dangers in deciding what Jesus wants us to do on the basis of hunches, guesses or feelings. When people hear voices or claim to have seen visions, we are usually suspicious. So how do we hear the voice of Jesus?
One important way in which we learn what Jesus would do is similar to the way in which we learn what other people would do. We learn from parents, husbands, wife's, friends, those whom we respect and to whom we are close.
Something similar happens in our relationship with Jesus. If we spend time with him in prayer or in reading the scriptures, if we listen to others who are trying to follow him, maybe go regularly on retreat or spend time before the Blessed Sacrament we grow to know him, and this can enable us to see how he would have us act. It is true that Jesus lived 2000 years' ago but the Risen Christ is present with us today as our contemporary by the power of the Holy Spirit. In prayer we become conscious of Christ' presence and of the guidance he gives us. The test that we really are trying to listen to Jesus and to follow him is that we find he is leading us to eternal life, to a new quality of life in which we find new strength to love and serve others. In Revelation, we were given a wonderful picture of people of every nation, ethnicity and culture worshipping the lamb. In the poetic language of this book the lamb and the shepherd are one. The image of Christ as the lamb is a powerful one because in the culture of his day people who were seen as like lambs were humble and meek. Lambs were also offered in sacrifice in the Temple twice a day and at Passover every family was supposed to slaughter a lamb. Jesus dies as a lamb in sacrifice to reveal God's love and forgiveness for sinful human beings. The lamb is on the throne because Jesus conquered not by using the strength of a lion but by showing the meekness of a lamb, humbling himself and assuming the form of servant.
But the lamb is also the shepherd, leading his people to springs of living water and wiping the tears from their eyes. Following the shepherd, we find new life, we become citizens of the kingdom and see the first signs of God's new creation. This does not mean all problems are taken away from us. Loved ones still die; evil still stalks the earth. Still, we can trust the Good Shepherd to care for us. His resurrection is a sign and promise that we will follow where he has led. We do not have the qualities that Jesus had. But if we believe then the unique nature of Jesus in relation to God changes the way we too relate to God. This is a shocking truth that many Christians do not have the courage to claim for themselves. In Christ we enter a partnership with the Loving, Living God that is characterised by intimate independence.