Summary: Good Shepherd Sunday - Hearing the voice of God
The Shepherd’s Voice
It's hard to communicate. You’d think with texts and twitter it would be easier, but it’s more complicated than ever. Deborah Tannen decided to investigate why communication is so difficult. Her book, Why I Can’t Hear You helps people actively listen. Here’s a piece of shocking information she revealed in the book; men and women speak different languages.
She’s right because there are specific terms that men don't recognize. “Fine,” means “I am right, but I’m sick of hearing you speak.” “Nothing,” nothing always means “something.” Then there is, “Go Ahead.” This is a dare. It's not permission.
What we say and what we hear is very different. There's the age, and gender gaps, education, economics, race, political views, and the list continues.
If we have a hard time understanding each other, it’s not a surprise that we struggle to hear God’s voice. I wish I could say it is easy, but I’d be lying to you. However, Jesus seems to think it is possible to listen, and follow, the voice of God.
Let’s look at hearing God’s voice today.
Jesus says his voice is like a shepherd.
Our lessons for today all refer to sheep or shepherds. In the Psalm God is the shepherd who leads and speaks. We, God’s children, are the sheep.
This Psalm is attributed to King David. Interestingly, David was a shepherd before he was a king. He remembered his life before his throne, and he kept the imagery of the fields close to his heart. It’s no wonder he said, “The Lord is my shepherd.” David knew that God guided him and that God would lead him to green pastures, and even strengthen him when he walked “through the valley of the shadow of death.”
The shepherd theme carries over to the New Testament with Jesus at the center. John presents Jesus as the loving shepherd who will give up his life for the sheep. Jesus intended to protect God’s people from harm. He would fight and die if necessary to protect his sheep.
What did he protect them from? The Gospels don’t say he had to constantly defend them from the devil. Nor do the Gospels suggest that Jesus kept the sheep at a safe distance from Rome or her religions. It seems the shepherd’s primary opposition was from religion. Jesus would fight and die to keep the religion of the day from inflicting spiritual wounds.
If God’s voice is like a shepherd, then we must be God’s sheep.
Let’s think about that for a moment, I can’t speak for everyone, but I’m not flattered when someone compares me to a sheep. Most of us prefer to think we are smart and too free-spirited to be a herd animal. We don’t like the imagery of a timid animal that follows the crowed. We’re Americans; we’re free-spirited.
It's tough to compare us to sheep, epically when we act more like mules. A mule can be hard of hearing… but we don’t know anything about that. Sheep, on the other hand, are good at one thing, listening. "My sheep hear my voice." The humility of a sheep can teach us many things about spirituality.
If we can accept our identity, we might be able to hear the voice of God.
I read a story about a man from Australia, charged with stealing a sheep from another man’s field. The case made it to court, and the judge decided to hear a case… of such magnitude. So, he interviewed the sheep.
He ordered the plaintiff to step outside and call. He walked outside and called. The sheep raised its head, looked around, then went right back to eating grass.
Then the judge told the shepherd to call the sheep. The defendant called, and the sheep ran through the door. “The sheep knows him, case dismissed.”
It’s not easy to hear God’s voice. We have so many books that supposedly tell us how. Christian celebrities (the anthesis of discipleship) tweet and teach ways to listen to God that make it sound easy. It’s not. God’s voice speaks when we quieten all the noise and, like Dr. Frazier Crane say, “I’m listening.”
If it’s hard to listen, it’s even more difficult to follow.
“My sheep hear my voice, and they follow me.” At first,? following sounds like mere action.
We’re pretty good at action in The Episcopal Church. Sometimes so good we put the cart before the mule. But following is not always a picket sign at a political rally. Sometimes following God means we should be still, and lie down in green pastures.
We should learn the spiritual practice of holy rest. The psalmist knew the shepherd “causes me to lie down in green pastures.” Perhaps we can't value stillness because we think movement is the same as progress.