Homily from 8 May 2022



Fourth Sunday of Easter/APCM

Acts 9.36-end, Psalm 23 and John 10.22-30

“My sheep hear my voice, I know them, and they follow me” (John 10:27)

+In the name of the Father, of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.

It’s been a long time since I played the trust game, in a fun, party setting.

You play the game by being blindfolded and led through an unfamiliar place by a person who can see. You are completely at the mercy of that person. You have to trust them and have faith that they will keep you from falling or getting hurt. Now, if a random person asked to blindfold you and do a trust walk, would you do it? What about if someone from our faith community or family member here asked you? You would probably be more likely to say yes to them, than to a stranger…

This can be a fun game, but it is more about the trust you have in the person or people with whom you are playing than in playing the game itself. It speaks to the relationship between the vulnerable person who cannot see the way ahead and the person who is responding to their call. There is always a call and a response, just like in our relationship with God.

With our APCM today, it has given me pause for thought and deeper reflection on God’s call, and my response; leading to the decision to move myself, and my family from Eltham, South East London to Biggleswade, Bedfordshire, to a new Church and a new ministry amongst you as your Vicar last summer. Given the unexpected, and quite frankly, undesired challenges of my new beginnings here at St. Andrew’s, namely Covid and health challenges with my ears and labyrinthitis, much of those new beginnings felt like playing a VERY long game of trust.

All of us have been deeply challenged by and through the Covid-19 Pandemic; darker times, at times like lost sheep, going back and forth, but through that, new opportunities of drawing closer and closer can emerge. Trusting the voice to lead us through the valley of the shadows and guide us along right pathways. In goodness and mercy, God pursues us, and, in that relationship, we are cared for like the sheep of a shepherd. God draws near to us.

“My sheep hear my voice, I know them, and they follow me” (John 10:27)

Today is called Good Shepherd Sunday/Vocations Sunday and our APCM, our Annual Parochial Church Meeting will be held directly after Church. What a good Sunday to hold our APCM as we look back and give thanks for our life together under God’s guidance over the past year and look ahead in love, listening to the call of God on our life together, the Body of Christ, and we in faith, respond.

The shepherd is a familiar Biblical image of God, expressing what we know of God’s love, God’s protection, God’s continual guidance, and patience, especially when we go astray, fully revealed in Jesus the Good Shepherd. All the carefully written reports we have received of our Church’s worship, life and mission, tell of God’s love, protection, guidance, and patience; and there is more work to do as God calls us onwards.

The image of the Good Shepherd is poetically captured in Psalm 23. The imagery is rich, meaningful, and comforting while we love and serve like lambs in the landscape of practicing resurrection. The psalmist reminds us of how we need to move through transition in our lives—any transition—whether it be bereavement, divorce, job loss, moving, loss of health, or anything with change. Knowing that when we cry out in trust, however dim our sight maybe, God will respond and guide us through those times where the only way out is to live through them – one trusting step at a time. Draw near to God and God will draw near to you. Even when we are having a dark night of the soul, God is still closer than our breath. We must continue to be faithful even when we feel forsaken, because God is still with us.

My Vicar’s Report this year, is summed up in these words I share today as we reflect on our Gospel reading today and focus on Jesus our Good Shepherd. So much of what we celebrate and give thanks to God for today at this our APCM is our trust in God and one another; the trust, the love, the friendship, the common purpose we share in loving and serving God, our neighbour and taking good care of ourselves through what has been another year of challenges and struggles, alongside opportunities and new beginnings, signs of hope and new life, as we emerge hopefully from the past two years of the Covid-Pandemic. We continue to pray fervently for Peace and an end the War in Ukraine, and other worn-torn parts of our troubled and broken world; for those seeking safety and security throughout Europe and the UK; and closer to home for all whose lives are being adversely affected and pressurised by the cost of living crisis, and rising fuel prices, alongside praying for God’s grace that we may exercise wise stewardship of this beautiful earth, tread lightly upon it and cherish its resources for the good of all.

All of our steps, however small, taken in faith, hope and love this past year, gives us so much to be thankful to God for, as we look back, and look ahead, in faith.

We are called to listen deeply to the voice of Jesus, our Good Shepherd knowing his love, protection, guidance and patience as we seek to continue God’s work in the world: at times with simply one small step in the darkness toward the voice – even a soft shuffle in the right direction; that brings us closer. We can pray also that as we respond to God’s voice, others who are at a loss may hear, see, be inspired by us, and will themselves be able to call out to God themselves.

The things we do when we follow Jesus in our daily lives matter, and the ripple effects are clear:

Just look around. Just stop and listen.

“My sheep hear my voice, I know them, and they follow me” (John 10:27)

Today, we give thanks to God for all the stories, encounters, experiences, facts and figures, highs and lows, hopes and dreams we tell, and hear today. Read the papers. There is much to listen to, much to hear. Let the stories enliven your hearts and your minds. Be encouraged. It would be folly for me to try and thank each by name, so simply “Thank You”. Most especially for the prayers that we’ve prayed, the Eucharist’s we’ve shared, the welcome you have given to me and my family here at St. Andrews, Biggleswade.

In God we trust. It is God’s trust walk that we are all walking together on, as we seek to live out our Baptismal vocation, to be the persons God made us to be, following Jesus, our Good Shepherd; “My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me.”

As we look at the year ahead, let us re-commit to pray for one another, as we seek live out who we are called to be surrounded by God’s love, protection, guidance and patience; living out our vision: worshiping God with joy, growing in faith, serving with love and welcoming all. There is something deeply attractive about that here at St. Andrew’s, Biggleswade: an energy, a light. Is this what St. Irenaeus meant when he said, “The glory of God is a human being fully alive”? May this be so as we recover and emerge hopefully, once again.

All that we do, all that are, must always point to God.

For we have a Gospel to proclaim. Alleluia! Amen.

 

God of our coming in and our going out,

God of our past, present and our future,

God of all the ups and downs of life,

give us bright hope that all shall be well.

Help us to trust in your promises,

to find springs of the water of life,

and to share that with others,

that tears maybe wiped from every eye.

Blessing and glory and wisdom

and thanksgiving and honour

and power and might

be to our God

that Good Shepherd of the Sheep,

now and forever,

Amen.

 

                                                                                                            The Revd. Liz Oglesby-Elong

                                                                                                            Vicar of St. Andrew’s, Biggleswade.

                                                                                                            APCM 8th May, 2022.




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