O Lord, open our lips
and our mouth shall proclaim your praise.
faithful shepherd of your Father’s sheep:
teach us to hear your voice
and to follow your command,
that all your people may be gathered into one flock,
to the glory of God the Father.
Psalms 42.1-2, 43.1-4
As the deer longs for the water brooks,
so longs my soul for you, O God.
My soul is athirst for God, even for the living God;
when shall I come before the presence of God?
Give judgement for me, O God,
and defend my cause against an ungodly people;
deliver me from the deceitful and the wicked.
For you are the God of my refuge;
why have you cast me from you,
and why go I so heavily, while the enemy oppresses me?
O send out your light and your truth, that they may lead me,
and bring me to your holy hill and to your dwelling,
That I may go to the altar of God,
to the God of my joy and gladness;
and on the lyre I will give thanks to you, O God my God.
Glory to the Father and to the Son
and to the Holy Spirit;
as it was in the beginning, is now
and shall be for ever. Amen.
Jesus said to the Pharisees, ‘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. The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep hear his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice. They will not follow a stranger, but they will run from him because they do not know the voice of strangers.’ Jesus used this figure of speech with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them.
So again Jesus said to them, ‘Very truly, I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and bandits; but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the gate. Whoever enters by me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.’
Have you ever travelled with someone who has uttered those doom-laden words: I know a shortcut? Acting in all good faith, you followed your companion’s ‘shortcut’ only to find that you were either lost, or that you had travelled far farther than had been necessary. In today’s reading we are being urged to follow the path laid for us and enter by the right gate, rather than presume that we know better.
Preceding the earthly ministry of Jesus, and in the two thousand years since he walked this earth, there have been those who would have us believe that their ‘way’ through this life is the one we should be following. Sometimes they convince millions through their eloquence, at other times we find ourselves wondering how anyone could be so easily deceived. No matter how plausible such ‘false prophets’ may be, the truth is that there is only one gate through which we can journey into the presence of our God, and that gate is Jesus himself.
In the gospel narrative Jesus warned his disciples that others would appear claiming to hold the secret to eternal life. He also warned that such deceivers, such thieves and bandits, should be ignored. There is only one way we should be following … the way that leads us through the one true gate. We are called to follow Jesus alone, no matter how challenging that path may seem at times.
As we journey through life we will find ourselves trusting some sort of road map. That map may claim to be the best and the most accurate that can be obtained but, unless that map is rooted in the teaching and love of Jesus Christ it can only lead us down dark paths that will place and ever-growing distance between us and God.
Shortcuts are tempting. No matter what challenges may confront us, we will be tempted to take the easiest path. But, that path, unless it is the one laid for us by God, will be a path to disaster and destruction. There are no shortcuts along the path of faith, and the narrow gate is the only one that will lead to eternal life in God’s nearer presence. So … let us turn off our earthly satnavs, and let us follow the only true guide: our Lord and Risen Saviour, Jesus Christ.
Prayers of intercession
Let us pray for faithful following of the will of God.
Guard the Church from false teaching and from all error. Lead your pilgrim people in the right way to follow their Lord through the gate that leads to abundant life, and in turn to lead others to find the way.
Shield the people of this world against those that would destroy the innocent and lead astray the ignorant. Grant wisdom to discern and follow the true way, to find the fullness of living which is God’s will for all his creation.
Make us good shepherds in places where we may have influence, helping our families, friends and neighbours and those with whom we work. Bless all who are leaders in our community and grant them grace to work for the common good.
Have mercy on those who have lost their way through bad advice and false teaching. Restore to them the abundant life that is in Christ, and may his voice bring peace and healing to their wounded souls.
We give thanks for those who have passed through the gate of death and entered into eternal life, rejoicing with them in the promise of life more abundant than this world can give, where Christ calls his flock to be with him in glory.
May our prayers be accepted in the name of Christ, the Good Shepherd of his sheep.
Prayer for the week
risen from the dead and alive for evermore:
stand in our midst as in the upper room;
speak your peace to our hearts and minds;
and send us forth into the world as your apostles;
for the glory of your name.
The Lord’s Prayer
Our Father, who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name;
thy kingdom come;
thy will be done;
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation;
but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom,
the power and the glory,
for ever and ever. Amen.
The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ,
and the love of God,
and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit,
be with us all evermore. Amen.