The Lord is my Shepherd

This is a communion service based on the 23rd Psalm – you can add hymns/prayers as required.

Psalm 23 talks about God leading us like a shepherd, and it seems certain phrases in the psalm were leading me through this worship. And so I hope I can take you on this journey through psalm 23 as we prepare to meet our God at the communion table.

The Lord is my Shepherd

The first sentence sets the scene. ‘The Lord is my shepherd’ reminded me of the parable of the lost sheep and how I was once prompted to write a sketch about this parable.

Sketch – Lost Sheep (in sketch section of website)

The parable and the sketch remind me that this shepherd doesn’t work by the world’s standards.
If he did, he would not think it was worth the effort to go looking for one sheep.
He would say, I’m better off just looking after the ones that behave themselves.
It was the sheep’s fault for wandering off, so let it find its own way back.
But for this shepherd, every sheep is important. He went and searched and brought it back.
And so it is with God, he doesn’t say you are not worth the effort, instead he keeps looking for you.
We are here now, because God searched for us and brought us here.
Some of us may have been found long ago and we have stayed with him.
Some of us may have had a long journey before we were found.
Some of us may have a habit of keep wandering off and he has to keep coming to get us,
But we are all here today because he has searched for us
Take a moment to think about how God has led you to this place.

He leads by still waters

This evokes powerful memories, of times when I have come upon a place with still waters and been moved by the beauty of the place and felt an amazing sense of peace.

The psalmist is reminding us we need times where we can just be with God and receive his peace. I also feel such times also give us a sense of hope. So many people need a sense of hope and peace.  So it feels appropriate to now share in a peace for prayer.
Offer prayer for peace – (Examples of peace prayers can be found on cofchrist.org.uk)

He leadeth me in right paths

The psalm is still talking about the shepherd leading, but sheep don’t always want to be led by their shepherd.
The question is, are we the same, how good are we at following the leadings of God’s spirit?
Do we want to be led, or do we prefer not to listen and to do our own thing

Reading – Wrong Answer (on reflections section of website)

If we want God to lead us, are we prepared to listen or do we just want to keep doing what we want to do. Do we want exclusion clauses? Or are we willing to be fully open.
Sometimes we are unwilling to respond because we are unsure of where it will lead us, what it will mean. Which leads to the next verse.

For you are with me

Perhaps we sometimes just need to take time to remind ourselves of how God has been with us.
Doing that reminds us that just as he has been with us in the past, he will be there in the future.

Meditation – Come Remember

          Come remember

  It is God who shows us a better way.

                     Who nudges us along life’s path;

                     Who leads us back to his presence.

           Come remember.

(how has God led you to this time?)

          Come remember.   

                    It is God who is our strength;

                               Who gives us a sense of self worth,

                               Who nourishes us in times of stress;

                                Who speaks words of comfort, direction, and truth.

                              Come remember.

(how has God been your strength?)

          Come remember.

           It is God who stands with outstretched arms beckoning;

                               Who is here to bless you with joy and peace;

                              Who is here to open your thoughts to his truths;

                              Who is here to love you in your responses;

Daily God calls each of us

                     Come remember.

(how is God calling to you?)

He prepares a table for us.

So we come to the time to share in our communion meal.
We have been reminded through the Psalm how God has been leading us and supporting us.
He brings us now to share in this meal with him.
A meal is not just about eating and drinking – but also about talking with your host.
So our communion can be more than just eating or drinking, it can be a time of talking to God and telling him how you feel about your relationship with him and whether you want to serve him.
It is up to us how open we want to be, how much we want to tell him.
There is no pressure in this meeting, it’s an invitation given in love, a time to meet with our God.
It is up to us what we want to tell him.
May we each receive God’s blessing as we share this communion with him.

Serve Communion

My cup runneth over

This verse reminds us of our blessings and so it is appropriate place to give our offerings.

I shall dwell in the house of the Lord my whole life long –

Do I want to be stuck in a house forever, it doesn’t sound that much fun.
But what is God’s house? He is not confined to some building. God’s house is his whole creation.
To be in his house is to be involved in the world he has created.
So I don’t see this this last verse as a statement about retreating to some place of safety, but about us being involved and being part of God’s work. The psalm was about God leading us.
So where does he lead us form here. The answer will be different for each one of us.
If we let his spirit lead us, we can become a blessing.

We have been reminded through the psalm that God has been leading us.
And have been reminded that he wants to continue leading us.
May God’s spirit guide you, be with you and support you in your desires to follow him.

I Am The Vine

This is a service we had that was based on the scripture John 15 Verse 5

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.

The main stages of growing vines are planting, supporting, pruning, watering and feeding and finally fruiting. So in this service, I have tried to relate these stages to how we can be fruitful branches for Jesus.

PLANTING – For vines, you have to find the right environment with the right soil and sunny position.

The same applies to our lives, we need to find the right environment to plant our lives.

Jesus talked about this in the parable of the sower. Sowing the seeds on stony or thorny ground and they did not grow, only seed sown on fertile ground grew. Do we choose fertile ground, do we make the right lifestyle choices that help us to grow? One choice we have made is to belong to a church. Here is a reading about church.

Reading ‘This Church’

We don’t pretend to understand the mystery of what goes on in God’s church.
We know we just feel a pervading spirit of love that reaches into the niches of all of us
And pulls us out into the open, free, alive and belonging.
We believe this spirit of love exists because God’s spirit lives within this church
This unity of people trying to be God’s good news.
We see this church as a circle of people
Holding hands and dancing
Supporting each other, accepting each other, loving each other.
Each person in this dancing circle
Is facing outwards, reaching into God’s world.
Listening for the crying, watching for the hurting,
Willing to offer a cup of water in his name.
Sometimes they need the water, sometimes I need the water.
Being part of the church means knowing that
The cup is always filled in his name.
(Ann Weems – Searching For Shalom)

This talks about the church as ‘Supporting each other, accepting each other, loving each other.

Discuss the following questions.
Is this how you feel, what does the church mean to you, how has it changed your life, how important is it to you?

SUPPORT – Grape vines will need to be trained to some sort of support to grow upward.

Similarly, we need support to grow.

Giving and receiving support is an essential part of life, an essential part of being a Christian. I can think of people who supported me and made a difference (give examples in your life)

I believe giving and receiving support is an essential part of life, of our Christian discipleship.

Discuss the following questions.
Is there someone who has given you support? Is there someone you feel you need support?

PRUNING – Vines need pruning.

Think of a vine and think about pruning. It may seem harsh to chop bits off, but what are the effects. It removes useless parts that may be needlessly sapping its energy. It frees up space to provide room for new growth. It allows light into parts that are being starved of light. If done correctly the vine is not damaged by pruning but made stronger.

Does the same apply to us, are there things we need to cut from our lives to free us to do something better?

Reading – Changes (in ‘reflections’ section of website)

Where is God’s spirit calling you?

Discuss the following questions.
What do you think about change, both in your life and in the church? Is it important, is it needed? Are there things we need to prune form our lives?  Can you think of examples where you made changes?

WATERING AND FEEDING – Vines need regularly watering and feeding.

Just as the plant needs watering and feeding, so we need refreshing with spiritual food.
Our lives can get so busy, we forget to find time to seek out spiritual food, to spend time with God.

I once saw a sign out side a church which said

‘Come ye apart and rest awhile, if don’t rest awhile you will come apart.’

Discuss the following questions.
What is your reaction to that statement? How often do you spend time with God? How can you make that time? Has spending time with God made a difference in your life?

HARVESTING

If you follow the right instructions for growing vines, then the vine should bear fruit,

Similarly, the scripture I read at the beginning says if we follow Jesus’ instructions, we will also bear fruit. We will share in a final reading about our fruit.

Reading        Fruit meditation

(Either use the fruit meditation in the book Multi-sensory Prayers or use the version in the readings section of this website).

Road Signs

We based one of our services on road signs. Road signs are there to help us on a journey as long as you know what they mean and you take notice of them.

Then I thought that there are parallels with our spiritual journey, so we explored that idea.

We started with a road sign quiz and although we would have learnt the signs when we took our driving test, we found we had forgotten some because we had not looked at the highway code for years. We then drew the parallel with our spiritual highway code, the bible, and reminded ourselves that we need to keep going back to it, if it is to help us on our journey.

We then looked at a few specific signs.

No U-turn sign. – This reminds us that having committed to follow Jesus, if we sometimes feel like giving up, Jesus doesn’t want us to do a u-turn. We looked at the story of Peter, who denied Jesus but Jesus still called him to feed his sheep. You can develop this idea perhaps by using my Peter sketch, or talk about experiences when you wanted to give up.

Stop sign. This reminds us that we have to ‘come apart and rest awhile’. I remember seeing a sign outside a church which said, ‘Come ye apart and rest awhile, for if you don’t rest awhile, you will come apart’. We talked about the importance of finding time in our busy life just to be still with God. You could do a meditation such as one in the ‘Multi-sensory Prayers’ book or use the reading ‘Sharpen your axe’ from Hot Illustrations.

Cross roads sign. This reminds us that there are times when we have to make decisions and we looked at how much we involved God in our decisions? You could use the reading ‘Yes or No’ and discuss how God can be part of our decisions. Or you could discuss decisions you have made in your life, particularly your decision to become a Christian.

We then gave everyone a sheet of road signs to see if they felt any road signs applied to their spiritual journey and then gave everyone time to share their thoughts.

Food

One service we based around food and drew comparisons between different aspects of food and compared them with our Christian discipleship.

Here are some examples.

Food Advertising – Companies have to get their message over to sell their food. We discussed how successful we are at getting our message over, in particular, the need to avoid ‘church jargon’. We further discussed how best we could share God’s message.

Good food/bad food – Some food is good for us, some is not so good. Similarly, with our discipleship, some lifestyle choices are good, some are bad. We discussed what may be affecting our discipleship.

Trying new food – We may be adventurous and like to try new food. Are we equally adventurous with God at trying new things for him?

Preparation and Cooking Food – We often use a recipe book for cooking but sometimes add our own variations. The bible is our spiritual recipe book, so we discussed if it was acceptable to adapt its teachings, in particular to make it more relevant to the 21st century. This is not about changing basic beliefs but interpreting them to a modern society.

Eating together – We like to share meals with friends. Similarly, we need to spend some time together as followers of Christ so that we can support each other. We discussed how we can support each other and who had supported us.

James Chapter 1

Sometimes in our meetings we look at a passage of scripture and look at its relevance to us today. One example was the first chapter of James.

We started by quietly reading the scripture. We then shared our initial reactions, what was particularly significant to us, what puzzled us.

We then looked at the background of the scripture using information in commentaries. It was probably written by James, the brother of Jesus. It was written at a time when Christians were small minorities in a world that did not share their values. It was an exhortation to live by Christian principals and not slip back to the standards of their world.

Then we asked questions relating to the different verses and discussed them. Some of the questions were:-

Verses 2-4 is about trials.

Have you had difficult times that have made you question your faith or what you believe about God?

Have you gained anything as a result of problems in your life?

Verses 5-8 is about asking God  

Have you had any experiences where you asked God for help? In what ways has God answered you.

Verses 9-11 is about status   

How should we view status? What gives you your sense of self-worth?

Verses 12-16 is about temptation

Do you think there are specific things that tempt us away from God? Are there things that stop us doing what God would want us to do?

Verses 17-18 is about God’s gifts    

Do you think God has given you anything? What are the most important things he has given you?

Verse 19-21 is about listening and speaking

Would it make a difference if you put into practice the advice to be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger?

Verse 22-27 is about being doers of the word.

How does being a Christian affect your daily actions? Who has shown they were a Christian by what they have done for you?

Then a final question

Is there anything in this chapter that you feel you should act on?