Summary: GOOD SHEPHERD SUNDAY, YEAR A - No matter how long it takes, Christ will continue to call to us until we finally learn to recognize his voice and trust him well enough to obey.
If you could make a change in the direction of your life from this point onwards, and know that God would support that change, what direction would you take? It is never easy making life changing decisions, even when God is involved in the decision making - is it? I remember making one such decision. I had just gotten out of the Navy after a three year hitch and was in my first year of college. I had declared myself undecided, and was struggling with what degree to pursue. I had been a Christian for only two years, having given my life to Christ in a Baptist church in Jacksonville Florida while still in the Navy. Though I was young in the faith, I wanted to serve God full-time in any way I could. At least that’s what I told myself. My experience overseas in the Navy had led me to consider becoming a missionary, but I knew I still needed a vocation that I could use in God’s service. So in my first semester in college, I went to the vocational development office and took a vocational preference test. These tests draw upon your abilities and interests to list by percentages what vocation you are most likely to succeed in. When I got the test back I anxiously tore open the envelop and there at the top of the page was listed one vocation with all other possibilities falling far behind. One vocation which the test said my personality was best suited for. When I read what the test had listed, I was dumb founded. I couldn’t believe it. I said, “NO WAY.” So I threw the test away, considering it to be nothing more than a dead end.
And I began to wonder what had gone wrong? Was I not listening close enough to God. After all it’s not easy listening to the voice of God - is It. With so many other voices in the world crying out for our attention. Our bosses. Our families. Our communities. Our church. Not to mention, our own desires and our own dreams. All these voices wanting a part of us, all wanting to have a say in the direction of our life. And in the midst of all this chatter God has to audacity to say, that He speaks in a still small voice. Therefore we should be still, and in that stillness God will then speak to us. Be still, who’s got time to be still. Be silent, you need to speak up God for I can’t hear you over all the other voices. Jesus said that the shepherd goes before his sheep and they follow him because they know his voice. We know that Jesus is the Good Shepherd, we have a Good Shepherd window don’t we? We long to know Him and to follow Him, right? But how do we learn to identify His voice over that of all the others? How do we discern the true voice of God when so many false shepherds claim to speak for God. False shepherds from Bin Laden, to sexually improper clergy, to the material lure of Madison Avenue. How are we to identify God’s voice? Through the tools that He has given us. Through His Word, by which we learn how God has acted in the past. Through Prayer, by which God’s Spirit teaches us what God is doing today. Through Counsel, from those familiar with God’s Word and the working of God’s Spirit. Through events in our lives, that resonate with the testimony of the Word, of prayer and divine counsel.
My Dad has a sheep farm in VT. Once in while he’ll ask us to move sheep from one paddock to another. For us it’s always a battle to move them. Yet whenever my father is with us, the sheep come running even before he calls to them. The sheep know my dad. They know his voice and they know what to expect from him. Rosemary and I, we are just strangers to them. But my dad, he’s the guy who brings the grain. My dad cares for them. He feeds them, sheers them, protects them. Day after day after day, it is an issue of relationship and trust. So is it with our Good Shepherd. We come to hear and obey by living day by day listening for the voice of our creator, and come to trust Jesus our One and only Good Shepherd. Those who have journeyed long come to recognize that voice through the varied situations of life. However, it’s one thing to listen, but it’s another thing to obey. Jesus said that his sheep know his voice and follow. It’s one thing to claim to be a Christian. It’s another thing to live like a Christian. We must remember that the purpose of hearing is to then do what it is we hear. But this is not easy with so many voices, distractions, alternatives, demands. Called but pulled in so many directions. We are not alone in this. The apostle Paul cried out, “I do what I don’t want to do and what I want to do I do not do.” The Bible is filled with characters like Abraham, Gideon, Moses, Mary, Peter. All who when God called responded, “What?” “Who me?” “How can I?”