Sunday, May 11, 2014

Easter 4 Sermon

Breath of God inspire us,
Renew our faith
Restore our vision
Revive our love.

Breath of God inspire us,
Repair our broken-ness
Redeem our situation.
Resurrect our deadness

Breath of God come,
Restore us. Amen. (by David Adam)
My kids enjoy watching the reality show, The Voice.  It’s on NBC and they love to hear all the singing and the competition to find the one who will win the singing competition.  There are teams and coaches (the coaches being famous singers who help their team and their singers advance).  The public votes, all to find the next signing sensation, to find the one who has “the voice.”

Yesterday, I had the pleasure of officiating at a wedding of the granddaughter of Judy Ober.  Amy & Nick heard the voice, it was each other, and that voice of love has united them one to the other.

Today, we hear the voice of Jesus, who said, “The Good Shepherd 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.”

The voice is the Good Shepherd calling to us, his flock. I think of our stained glass window.

Jesus promised that his voice would be the one to guide us, for he is also the gate for the sheep. “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."

And that is an important distinction – the voice that we hear, is it bringing us to a place of abundant life or is it a voice that only wants to steal and kill and destroy?

On a friend’s Facebook page, this week, I noticed a picture he shared from a church near him.  On it, Satan was saying “Your life is horrible” but the person was facing toward Jesus who said to her, “Just focus on me.”

Satan, the adversary, often is the one telling us our lives are worthless. But even more so, I find the voice of lies, also telling us how we can have a good life, by worrying only about ourselves and our needs, by fearing we don’t have enough.  I think of the words from a Peter Gabriel song:

I want to be with you
I want to be clear
But each time I try
It's the voice I hear
I hear that voice again
I'm listening to the conversation:
Judge and jury in my head
It's coloring everything
All we did and said
And still I hear that sharp tongue talking
Talking tangled words
I can sense the danger…

The voice, the one we listen to in our heads and in our hearts, is the one who leads us. Sometimes we are led astray like sheep, listening to another voice, maybe talking tangled words. It is then we lose our moral and ethical way and fear for what is to come, when we feel our footing slip beneath us as we try to navigate all of the twists and turns of our lives, but even then “it is Christ’s voice that can be heard above the noise and din of our lives if we listen for it with hope, conviction and faith.” (Jay Cormier)

The challenge for us is to listen, really listen for the voice of Jesus.  It reminds me of a story I read:

Years ago, a theology department at a major university hosted a church leader from central Europe.  The Soviet Union had just come apart and the pastor's country was emerging from a long dark night of oppression into the first light of freedom.  At a dinner for the pastor, guests were full of questions about what was happening in Europe and the former Soviet bloc. 

The minister responded slowly and cautiously at first, measuring his words, weighing their risk, a man unaccustomed to candor among relative strangers.  But as he gained confidence, he spoke of his church's struggle through hardship and persecution under the Communist regime.

He told about the days under totalitarianism, how the church was officially tolerated but always undermined and repressed, how the clergy were always monitored by secret agents who had infiltrated their ranks.

"We would have a meeting about some matter of church business," he recalled, "knowing for certain that not everyone seated at the table could be trusted; some of the 'clergy' present were, in fact, government agents."

The pastor paused for a moment and then added, "But even though these government spies were careful never to betray their true identities, we could always tell who they were."

"But how?" someone asked. "The voice," he replied.  'The voice.  Something in their voice would give them away." [Thomas G. Long, Whispering the Lyrics: Sermons for Lent and Easter.]

The pastor and his community developed an instinct for discerning the true voice from the false, the deceitful, the deceptive.  Every day so many voices shout at us, assault us, demand from us, seduce us.  They promise life, but they ultimately do not bring what they promise.  And so we like that pastor must learn to listen to the true voice, the voice of God, to the Good Shepherd who will lead us to abundant life.

As Thomas Merton put it, “Just remaining quiet in the presence of God, listening to Him, being attentive to Him, requires a lot of courage and know-how.”

If we are tuned to the voice of Christ through silence and prayer and action –we begin to discern the manipulations and falsehoods in the noise and begin to hear Christ’s voice for us and his voice crying out to us from others.   

As we continue to live into Easter, the resurrection of Jesus and our new life, we need to remember that the light still shines even in darkness, the voice still speaks even when others drown it out.

The challenge facing every disciple of Jesus is to listen for his voice in the quiet of our hearts, in the center of our spirits, to hear the voice calling us to abundant life.  If we listen carefully and faithfully, we can discern the voice of the Good Shepherd leading us through the gate to his blessed sheepfold.  Amen.

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