Community of Christ

COVID-19  Ongoing Response

Worship Resources - 25 April 2021

Worship Suggestions

Fourth Sunday of Easter

PSALM 23

The Lord Is My Shepherd

Additional Scriptures

Acts 4:5-12; John 10:11-18; 1 John 3:16-24; Doctrine and Covenants 50:8g


Worship Setting

Display or project several images associated with sheep and shepherds as people gather and during the Prelude.

Prelude

Welcome, Joys, Concerns

Welcome on what sometimes is known as Good Shepherd Sunday, acquiring its name from our focus scripture, Psalm 23, as well as the first verse of today’s gospel reading from John 10 in which Jesus says, “I am the Good Shepherd.”

Ask congregants to share their joys and concerns.

Prayer for Joys and Concerns

Call to Worship

Scripture Reading: Psalm 23

Invite a youth and an older person to read Psalm 23. The two readers will alternate reading verse by verse. One reads Verse 1 from the New Revised Standard Version and the other reads Verse 1 from The Message. They continue in this manner through all six verses. Ask the congregants to listen for how the two readings are different. Did they interpret the meaning in different ways? Did the comparison shed a new light on a familiar text? Invite congregants to respond to these questions in small groups or to the congregation as a whole or to silently reflect on their answers. Close the Call to Worship by having the whole congregation read the scripture a second time (in the version most familiar to your group) in unison. Print or project the words for all to see.

Hymn of Assurance

“The Lord’s My Shepherd” CCS 259

OR “O Lord, My Shepherd” CCS 264

OR “The King of Love My Shepherd Is” CCS 262

Invocation

Response

Congregational Responsive Reading

Leader: I am the good shepherd

Congregation: The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.

Leader: I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me,

Congregation: Just as the Father knows me and I know the Father.

Leader: There are other sheep that do not belong to this fold. I must bring them also.

Congregation: So there will be one flock, one shepherd.

Leader: The Father loves me, because I lay down my life in order to take it up again.

Congregation: I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it up again.

ALL: I have received this command from my Father.

—Based on John 10:11-18

Prayer for Peace

Light the Peace Candle.

Statement

Each day in the Temple in Independence, we offer a prayer for peace. We pray for a different country every day. The power of our collective prayers increases when we pray together. So today as we offer a prayer for peace, visualize the multitudes praying together for one country. Visualize the power of the prayers of all of us directed toward the people of one country. Let us offer this prayer together.

Peace Prayer

O Great God, Our Friend, Our Protector,

We come before you today, joined as a community to hold up our world as we pray for its peace. We offer our love in solidarity and support for our brothers and sisters and the struggles in which they are engaged. The world that we inhabit has suffered from illness, war, famine, and unnecessary death. We pray, God, that you will look upon us and see our weakness and lift up each of us.

We ask that you guide our meditations so that we may uplift those without a faith community. Help us, O God, to be your arms and legs. Let us move the way you would have us move that we can offer hope to those without it. Bring us together in community. Bring us together as family. Hold us in your heavenly arms that we may feel the love. Thank you for giving us this opportunity to share our spirits. Thank you for letting us share our strength. We pray in Jesus’ holy name.

Amen.

Hymn of Peace

“O Day of Peace” CCS 380

OR “Restless Weaver” CCS 145

OR “Put Peace into Each Other’s Hands” Stanzas 1, 2, and 5 CCS 309

A Daily Prayer for Peace service is held at the Temple in Independence, Missouri, USA 365 days a year. Additional ideas for Prayer for Peace can be found at www.CofChrist.org/daily-prayer-for-peace.

Focus Moment

Share The Quiet Book by Deborah Underwood (Houghton Mifflin Books for Children ISBN: 978- 0547215679) which thoughtfully explores the countless kinds of quiet that we experience in a variety of situations such as fear, awe, sorrow, and hope or just waking up in the morning. This book can be previewed at video.search.yahoo.com/yhs/search?fr=yhs-dcola-030&hsimp=yhs-030&hspart=dcola&p=the
+quiet+book+by+deborah+underwood#id=1&vid=788d208d19871fffbfcf634b470982c5&action=click.

Discuss in small groups the many ways that we each feel fear, peace, awe, sorrow, and hope in our own lives, and how God comforts us, celebrates with us, and gives us hope. The shepherd of the psalm, God, is described as someone who can not only lead us through the scariest of places, all the while casting aside our fear but also comfort us, filling our cups, not just until there is enough, but until they overflow with so much goodness that we can't help but share it.

Project Psalm 23 or write the verses on large sheets of paper. Match the feelings discussed with the verses from Psalm 23. Congregants might wish to share experiences like those depicted in The Quiet Book.

OR

Invite someone proficient in American Sign Language (ASL) to interpret Psalm 23 while it is slowly read. Consider teaching a few phrases of ASL to the congregation and read it again with everyone participating in the signing as they are able.

Hymn of the Shepherd

“My Shepherd Will Supply My Need” CCS 247

OR “You, Lord, Are Both Lamb and Shepherd” CCS 22

Spoken Word

Based on Psalm 23

Disciples’ Generous Response

Statement: God’s unconditional love

No expression of grace and generosity is as complete as the life of Jesus, God’s son freely given to all. As Jesus’s life and ministry showed, God’s grace and love are equally available to everyone. God’s love is unwavering and not dependent on our good behavior or good works.

The gift of God’s son shows God’s grace and love. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him” (John 3:16–17). Grace expresses God’s gift of eternal life and commitment to save the world.

God’s astonishing generosity in the life of Jesus is the ultimate example of generosity. God loved us and we love in response to being loved. We become whole when we receive God’s gift of Jesus Christ realizing that all we are and have is from God who gives freely with no strings attached.

Principle 1—Receive God’s Gifts,
Choose Generosity: Discovering Whole-Life Stewardship, page 24.

During the Disciples’ Generous Response, we focus on aligning our heart with God’s heart. Our offerings are more than meeting budgets or funding mission. Through our offerings, we are able to tangibly express our gratitude to God who is the giver of all. Our offering can invite people to Christ and offer them a new way of living. Our combined generosity offers hope to the world through the love and sharing of our brothers and sisters in Christ.

As we share our mission tithes either by placing money in the plates or through eTithing, use this time to thank God for the many gifts received in life. Our hearts grow aligned with God’s when we gratefully receive and faithfully respond by living Christ’s mission.

Blessing and Receiving of Local and Worldwide Mission Tithes

For additional ideas, see Disciples’ Generous Response Tools at www.CofChrist.org/disciples-generous-response-tools.

Hymn of Sending Forth

“Redeemer of Israel” CCS 388

OR “Peace Be with You” CCS 662

Sing once, then hum the hymn a second time.

OR “God Be with You Till We Meet Again” CCS 664

Sending Forth

I am the good Shepherd…those who build upon this rock will not fall. …The day comes when you shall hear my voice and see me, and know that I am. Watch that you may be ready.

—Doctrine and Covenants 50:8g, adapted

Go in peace.

Postlude

Sermon Helps

Fourth Sunday of Easter

Psalm 23

Exploring the Scripture

This well-known psalm is credited to David. The psalm often is used for funerals and spiritual practices because the setting is a journey faced with evil and potential death. The psalmist tells of experiences and the relationship between God and the writer. Images present God first as a shepherd and then as a host. The themes tell how God 1) provides and protects, 2) enriches and fills, and 3) restores and renews.

In verses 1–3, the writer describes God as “my shepherd” who offers three blessings. First (v. 1), God provides for cares and needs. The writer never wants. The psalmist is protected as a flock is protected by the shepherd. Second (v. 2), God enriches life by taking the writer to places in nature. Beautiful green fields by still waters renew the body and fill the soul. The psalmist connects to God’s creation through rich spiritual symbolism. The third (v. 3), God, as a shepherd, leads the psalmist in paths of right relationship with God.

In verses 4–6, the psalmist offers a prayer to God. In these verses, God transitions from shepherd to host. The themes repeat with a transition verse before God changes to serve as host. First (v. 4), the prayer describes walking through the darkness. Because of God’s protecting rod and staff, there is no fear of evil. God provides comfort despite potential distress and fear. Second (v. 5), the prayer tells how God serving as host, prepares a table, anoints the head with oil, and fills a cup to overflowing.

All this occurs in the presence of enemies who denied the psalmist a place at the table. The body is filled with food and drink. The soul is enriched through the hospitality of scented oil lovingly touched to the head. Third, the final verse (v. 6) affirms God’s restoring goodness and mercy that seeks us through all of life. The promise is wholeness in relationship with a loving and caring God who walks with us throughout life.

Doctrine and Covenants 163:10 assures us:

Collectively and individually, you are loved with an everlasting love that delights in each faithful step taken. God yearns to draw you close so that wounds may be healed, emptiness filled, and hope strengthened.

Do not turn away in pride, fear, or guilt from the One who seeks only the best for you and your loved ones. Come before your Eternal Creator with open minds and hearts and discover the blessings of the gospel anew. Be vulnerable to divine grace.

Psalm 23 invites us to journey with a God who provides and protects, enriches and fills, restores and renews. Doctrine and Covenants 163:10 assures us of God’s continuing journey with us. However, we also are cautioned to not turn away. Rather, remember the blessings of discovering the gospel anew. Above all, we can be vulnerable to divine grace.

Central Ideas

  1. God is like a shepherd who provides and protects, enriches and fills, and restores and renews.
  2. As host, God does these things even during one’s darkest times or in the presence of one’s enemies.
  3. God loves and cares for each person despite our circumstances.

Questions to Consider

  1. What is your life experience under God’s care and loving presence?
  2. What dark valleys have you journeyed, and how has God walked with you?
  3. Describe how you have been vulnerable to divine grace amid difficult times and how you realized God walked with you.
  4. How has or is your congregation planning to model Christ-like care and love with the most vulnerable in your community?

Small-group Worship Suggestions

Fourth Sunday of Easter

Psalm 23 NRSV

The Facilitator Notes provide an overview of Sacred Space and how to use the resource to best meet ministry needs. This is a must read for first-time users.

The weekly outline and handouts provide everything needed to plan and facilitate a scripture-focused Sacred Space gathering and includes additional options such as Thoughts for Children.


 

Gathering

Welcome

Today is the fourth Sunday of the Easter season. The Easter season continues for 50 days and concludes with the Day of Pentecost.

Prayer for Peace

Ring a bell or chime three times slowly.

Light the peace candle.

Our loving and compassionate God, 

We listen again to the good news of Jesus’ resurrection. Through his life and death, hope re-entered our world. But we know many today live in environments where hope is difficult and often not felt.

Each day you continue to reveal yourself in the world around us. Renew our commitment to finding ways to bring hope to the hopeless. Give us new eyes to see the ways you are already working in our homes, communities, schools, businesses, and world. Move our hands and feet to become involved in those efforts that bring sustainable changes for good—that bring hope.

Help us be disciples like Mary who run to others to share the good news. 
Amen.

Spiritual Practice

Dwelling in the Word  

I will read a scripture aloud. As you hear the scripture, allow words, images, or phrases to come to mind. Try not to focus on them. Let them rest with you.

After a moment of silence, I will read the scripture a second time. As you hear the scripture again, listen for how God’s Spirit is nudging you or catching your attention.

Read the scripture passage: John 10:11–18 NRSV.

“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. The hired hand, who is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and runs away—and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. The hired hand runs away because a hired hand does not care for the sheep. I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father. And I lay down my life for the sheep. I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd. For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life in order to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it up again. I have received this command from my Father.”

Pause.

Read scripture a second time:

“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. The hired hand, who is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and runs away—and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. The hired hand runs away because a hired hand does not care for the sheep. I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father. And I lay down my life for the sheep. I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd. For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life in order to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it up again. I have received this command from my Father.”

Invite group members to share responses to these questions:

  1. As you listened to this scripture passage, what words, phrases, or images came to mind?
  2. What is God’s Spirit revealing to you through the hearing of these words?

Sharing Around the Table

Psalm 23 NRSV

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.
     He makes me lie down in green pastures;
he leads me beside still waters; 
     he restores my soul. 
He leads me in right paths
    for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk through the darkest valley, 
    I fear no evil;
for you are with me;
    your rod and your staff—
    they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me
    in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
    my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
    all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord
    my whole life long. 

This psalm often is used for funerals and spiritual practices because the setting is a journey faced with darkness and potential death. The psalmist tells of experiences and the relationship between God and the writer. 

In the first verses God is described as a shepherd who provides for the needs and protection of the psalmist. God enriches life by taking the writer to beautiful green fields and along still waters to renew the body and fill the soul. And God, as a shepherd, leads the psalmist in paths of right or healthy relationship with God.

Then the psalmist offers a prayer to God. In these verses, God transitions from shepherd to host. Because of God’s protecting rod and staff, there is no fear of evil. God provides comfort despite potential distress and fear. God as host, prepares a table, anoints the head with oil, and fills a cup to overflowing.

All this occurs in the presence of enemies who denied the psalmist a place at the table. God as shepherd and host has filled the body with food and drink. The soul is enriched through the hospitality of scented oil lovingly touched to the head. And finally, the psalmist experiences restoration and wholeness through relationship with a loving and caring God who walks as companion throughout life.

Doctrine and Covenants 163:10 assures us:

Collectively and individually, you are loved with an everlasting love that delights in each faithful step taken. God yearns to draw you close so that wounds may be healed, emptiness filled, and hope strengthened. 

Do not turn away in pride, fear, or guilt from the One who seeks only the best for you and your loved ones. Come before your Eternal Creator with open minds and hearts and discover the blessings of the gospel anew. Be vulnerable to divine grace.

Questions

  1. How have you experienced God’s divine presence shepherding you?
  2. In what ways have you experienced God as a host at a table or feast?
  3. What dark valleys have you journeyed, and how has God walked with you?

Sending

Generosity Statement

Faithful disciples respond to an increasing awareness of the abundant generosity of God by sharing according to the desires of their hearts; not by commandment or constraint.
—Doctrine and Covenants 163:9

The offering basket is available if you would like to support ongoing small-group ministries as part of your generous response. 

The offering prayer is adapted from A Disciple’s Generous Response:

God of Rejoicing, 

We share our gifts joyfully and with thanksgiving in response to the generous gifts you have given us. May the offerings we share bring joy, hope, love, and peace into the lives of others that they might experience your mercy and grace. 
Amen.

Invitation to Next Meeting

Closing Hymn

Community of Christ Sings 256, “Tenderly, Tenderly, Lead Thou Me On” 

Closing Prayer

Optional Additions Depending on Group

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