Easter 4 ~ The Shepherd’s Voice

May 7 2017
Readings: Acts 2:42-47 ~ Peter 2: 19-25 ~ John 10:1-10

Even on the rainiest of days, I wake up to a chorus of birds singing outside my bedroom window. It a welcome, joyful sound even at 5 am. As the day unfolds, all of us are bombarded with the sound of many voices trying to get out attention – not all of them so joyful. Some of those voices are warm and welcoming – like those of family and friends speaking words of love and engaging us in conversation.

Then there is the voice of our consumer driven society, advertisers trying to get us to buy more or newer stuff that we don’t really need – or vendors of lotteries that promise a way to live happily ever after.

And there are the voices of those in need, crying out for help – for food, shelter and healing.

And there’s the voice of politicians trying to gain our support – especially during elections. And the voice of reporters giving us their take on the news – both real and fake.

And there are voices that claim to know how we can live happier, healthier lives.

And there are the voices of spiritual leaders warning folks not to be led astray – though we have difficulty agreeing on what that means.

It’s a very noisy world we live in and unless we learn to choose the voices we want to pay attention to – and learn to tune out the rest – it can be confusing and overwhelming.

As people of faith and followers of Jesus, we will find life much less noisy, confusing and overwhelming, if we become familiar with the voice of our Good Shepherd and Lord. That means we actually have to read and reread the gospels and listen to the teachings of Jesus.

When the first disciples were left on their own, with only the Holy Spirit and apostles to guide them, they devoted themselves to teaching, fellowship, breaking bread and prayer. They took care of each other’s needs with glad and generous hearts. In other words, they made sure they were firmly grounded in the way of Jesus. And we are encouraged to do the same. Then when other voices encourage us to buy into something we’re not sure about, we can listen to see if what they are selling is consistent with the way of Jesus.

We know that Jesus never calls his people to hate, hurt, kill, lie, hoard scapegoat, hold grudges, win at all costs or exclude people. Jesus always calls us to love, heal, forgive, make peace, speak truth, share, care, and include.

Jesus came that we may have life and have and have it abundantly. That does not mean that all his followers are to be rich, famous and powerful. It means that we are to be part of a loving, caring community that is concerned with the good of all.

As we consider the voices that we hear in the world today, there are two that are vying for our attention. The first one is loud and dramatic and not overly concerned with truth. It’s the voice that tries to persuade us that we will only be happy if we are wealthy, strong and successful, even if that means voting and keeping all competition and vulnerable people off the island. Now consider the quieter but consistent voice of people like Pope Francis, who speak concern for the good of the whole, which includes care for the poor and the planet. Which one sounds more like the voice of the Good Shepherd to you?

Once we are familiar with the voice of Jesus and his way of life, it acts like a filter that helps us identify and challenge or ignore messages that are incompatible with the gospel of life. It also acts like a hearing aid that enhances the voice of those who speak the way of Jesus.

As we journey together as sheep in the flock of Jesus, there are times when we are called to be shepherds who lead and nurture the flock. And there are times when we are called to be gatekeepers – trying to both keep the sheep safe from the wolves AND, at the same time, trying to make sure that the flock does not become an elitist group that would want to close the gate to those it doesn’t approve of or care about. It’s not as easy as it sounds.

So, it’s important that we are all informed and grounded in the way of Jesus. That our ears and hearts are tuned to his voice, and that we keep in mind there is always more to learn as we grow and travel together on the road of life.

Pat Martin +