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Fourth Sunday of Easter


Acts 4: 5-12

The next day their rulers, elders, and scribes assembled in Jerusalem, with Annas the high priest, Caiaphas, John, and Alexander, and all who were of the high-priestly family. When they had made the prisoners stand in their midst, they inquired, ‘By what power or by what name did you do this?’ Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, ‘Rulers of the people and elders, 9if we are questioned today because of a good deed done to someone who was sick and are asked how this man has been healed, 10let it be known to all of you, and to all the people of Israel, that this man is standing before you in good health by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead. This Jesus is “the stone that was rejected by you, the builders; it has become the cornerstone.”
There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among mortals by which we must be saved.’

Psalm 23
John 10 11-18
‘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.’

May these written words lead us to the living word Jesus Christ. Amen.

It is not often that the compilers of the Lectionary give us so many choices; all of these readings and the Psalm are a gift to preachers.
Just look at the Acts Reading:
This account comes immediately after Peter healed the lame man in the temple. Peter had faith in the name of Jesus. He was not popular with the crowd and now to make matters worse the apostles are declaring that God had raised Jesus from the dead. So what was it about this early message which got the authorities so alarmed and angry? You would think it would have been great news to know that God was alive and well and healing people in the name of their Messiah - Jesus?

But not it would seem if you were the ones in power, not if you were one of those who had rejected and condemned the Messiah. And not if you thought this new group of Christians were about to upstage your authority.

Look at the last line – Peter declares that there is NO OTHER NAME under heaven by which we must be saved.

Some might think that Christianity would be a lot more popular, even cool if it were not for this preposterous claim of Peters. What did he say: There is no other name given under heaven and among mortals by which we must be saved.
Salvation is found in no one else: there is NO OTHER NAME.

If only we were content to stick to the golden rule – ‘do as you would be done by’ – which every faith agrees upon, then surely we could live in peace and unity.
Why does Christianity have to be so unreasonable and exclusive?

When they were wandering in the wilderness, Moses enquired of God ‘who are you, what is your name?’
God replied ‘I AM WHO I AM.’ Owing to the peculiarities of Hebrew the translation for I AM means "I am", "I was", and "I will be".

Numerous times in the gospels we read of Jesus saying the ‘I am’ statements and it is the same word that he uses:
‘I am the good shepherd’
‘I am the bread of life’
‘I am the resurrection and the life’
I am the way the truth and the life.
He also said no one comes to the Father except by me’
This is the great mystery of our faith, God the Father, Jesus the Son and the Holy Spirit, is one God, with one name I AM - ‘THERE IS NO OTHER NAME.’

It is so much easier to think that all religions are much the same - well aren’t they? Don’t they all lead to God in the end?

If we take a closer look we will see that the Buddhists have no personal creator or God’
For Hindus, God is a philosophical being – what ever that is.
New Age Christians believe that all is one, all is God, and that we are equal with God.
Islam teaches Muslims to believe in a God of judgment rather than love, a creator who is distant from his creation.
Muslims do share with us a holy God; but one who works through law: Their salvation, then is through good works alone which is a desperate and fearful thing. How would you know if you had worked hard enough? There is an interesting thought to ponder people may pray to numerous Gods but the same one answers!

The Christian God is an infinitely holy, loving, merciful Father: A mystery revealed in Jesus, who is full of grace and truth.

NO OTHER NAME by which we must be saved.
Not saved from acts of terrorism, from poverty, illness, from the Pandemic or any natural disasters, but from ourselves; our sinful nature that separates us from God.
Only Jesus can do that..
The name of Jesus, whether we believe in him or not, is unique.
Peter’s claim stands for all time

There is NO OTHER NAME – The name of Jesus
No one else can hold a candle to him.
No one else claimed to be one with God
No one else claimed to forgive sin
No one else has been raised from the dead - To live forever.

Peter had used the name of Jesus in faith to heal the lame man – but he is reminding them that using the name of Jesus isn’t some new kind of magic, it is no use mumbling a secret word like ‘abracadabra’, which will make things happen – it is believing in Jesus and the power of his name that is the way to wholeness, now in the 21st Century just as it was in the 1st Century.

In the Gospel Jesus called himself the ‘good shepherd’ and contrasts himself with hired hands who were paid to look after sheep. As these men did not actually own the sheep, they cared little about them: they only looked after them for the money. Therefore, it would be very unlikely for one of these hired hands to risk his life for the flock, or be prepared to fight off wild beasts. They would be more likely to run off and abandon the flock to the wolves.

Psalm 23 gives us insight into the role of a good shepherd. Shepherds in the east used to go in front of the sheep and lead them. Jesus our shepherd has gone ahead of us – he has faced the danger for us, he knows where the rocks and ravines are – if we follow we will be safe. Shepherds find good pasture for the sheep, and seek out clean water to drink. Jesus leads us to good pasture but sadly some Christians are still spiritually starving. We need to learn to feed on the word of God and drink the water of life. Shepherds carry two pieces of equipment a rod and a staff. The rod is a short stick to ward off thieves who might steal the sheep and to protect them from wild animals. The staff or crook is not some fancy walking stick – but a long pole with a crook on the end. This would hook around the neck of a sheep that might be wandering off, and when the sheep were going into the fold for the night the shepherd would lie down and look at them as they passed by. If he saw one that was injured or lame he could hook it out. Then he could treat the wounds with the oil and wine also mentioned in the Psalm. Wine would have been poured into wounds to cleanse and the oil was poured in to soothe the wound. The other use for the crook is that of prodding and keeping them moving when they were flagging behind. There is a famous scene in the Bayeux Tapestry of a captain prodding his men with a spear it is called ‘comforting the troops’. Thy rod and staff they comfort me!
So in case we were in any doubt: There is no other way. There is no other shepherd. There is no other name. Jesus. Amen

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