Sermon from May 12, 2019
John 10: 22-30
St. Philip’s, Palestine, Texas
Alleluia! Christ is risen.
The Lord is risen indeed. Alleluia!
When I was a little boy growing up, we didn’t have very much furniture in our formal living room.
The living room was basically bare, with the exception of a mahogany table – and a hi-fi stereo.
Back in those days, the hi-fi stereo was a huge piece of wooden furniture.
We used the stereo to play vinyl records, vinyl records which played in 2 different rotation speeds, 33 1/3’s or 45’s.
One of my favorite things to do with my dad was to listen to those records.
We would go into that empty living room, and we would get big pillows, and lay on the floor, and listen to music on that hi-fi stereo.
My dad had this collection of old records – a library of classical music.
I believe that I gained my appreciation for classical music – from these times of listening with my father.
During our listening, my dad would explain to me about the different voices, and about the instruments that we were listening to.
I can clearly remember us listening to the classic Russian piece called:
“Peter and the Wolf.”
In “Peter and the Wolf,” each character in the story is represented by a different musical instrument.
The big, bad wolf is represented by french horns.
Peter is violins.
The bird is a flute.
The duck is an oboe.
And Peter’s grumpy old grandfather is a booming bassoon.
My father would teach me the story of Peter and the Wolf – by teaching me to recognize the various voices.
My dad would say:
“Listen! There’s the bird!”
And I would ask:
“But how do you know it’s the bird?”
And Dad would explain:
“Listen…listen for the flute.”
And then Dad would make a scary face and say:
“Listen…there’s the bad wolf!
Do you hear the french horns?
Do you hear his voice?”
In the Bible, in the Gospel of John, Jesus proclaims:
“I am the good shepherd…
My sheep hear my voice…
And they follow me.”
When I was a little boy, my father and I listened to old classical records.
And when my dad taught me about the different musical instruments and the sounds they made,
I began to hear the voices.
And you and I:
We also must be taught – to listen for the voice of Jesus.
We must be taught – to listen and to discern:
To discern which voices belong to Jesus,
And which voices belong to the big, bad wolf.
The first step in listening for Jesus’ voice is this:
We must make space for silence, to listen.
However, in today’s society, we leave very little room in our ears to listen for the voice of Jesus.
We wake up to the sound of an alarm, turn on the TV to listen to cable news, then get in the car and talk on the cell phone.
Personally, I like to go to the gym – to workout and to pray.
I have been tempted many, many times – to enjoy music on my phone – so that I can listen to music while I work out.
But if I had my ears plugged up with ear buds, it would block out the voice of Jesus, speaking to me in the sheer silence of prayer.
In listening for the voice of the good shepherd, we must make room for silence, for space to listen.
Secondly, we hear and discern the voice of Jesus when we learn what Jesus’ voice sounds like.
In Peter and the Wolf, the voice of the grandfather sounds like a bassoon and the voice of the duck sounds like an oboe.
And we can learn what Jesus’ voice sounds like – through our experiences of reading Scripture.
Jesus teaches us in the Gospel of John, saying:
“The works that I do in my Father’s name testify to me.”
Therefore, the voice of Jesus sounds like the works of love that Jesus does.
And other voices do not sound like Jesus and his works.
When we hear the sound of loved ones reuniting at the airport – that is the loving sound of Jesus’ voice.
When we hear the sound of a husband saying “I am sorry” to his wife – that is the forgiving sound of Jesus’ voice.
When we hear the sound of a salesperson at a store waiting patiently on an elderly customer – that is the comforting sound of Jesus’ voice.
When we hear voices, voices that sound like love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control:
Those voices – are the voice of Jesus.
I figured out the voices of the characters in Peter and the Wolf – by the sounds the instruments made.
And we figure out the voice of Jesus – by how the voice compares to the loving work that Jesus does.
Lastly, the voice of Jesus leads us to places that we would not usually want to go.
Most sheep would just as soon stay in the nice, green pastures that they are used to.
But the good shepherd leads his sheep through the valley of the shadow of death.
The good shepherd leads the sheep out – out of the comfort zone.
The voice of Jesus leads us – to speak truth to power and to challenge the authorities of our own day.
The voice of Jesus leads us – to difficult conversations with others about racism, and economic disparity, and systemic poverty.
The voice of Jesus leads us – to people who are difficult to love.
The voice of Jesus leads us – out of our comfort zone, to come face to face with the big, bad wolf in our lives.
After the Resurrection of Jesus, the risen Jesus tells Peter this:
“When you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will fasten a belt around you and take you where you do not wish to go.”
The good shepherd takes us where we do not wish to go.
The voice of the good shepherd leads us out of our comfort zone.
We hear the voice of Jesus – when we make room for silence.
We hear the voice of Jesus – when the voice sounds like the loving, forgiving, comforting work of Jesus.
We hear the voice of Jesus – when the voice leads us out of our comfort zone.
When I was a little boy, on our living room floor and listening to classical records on our hi-fi stereo, my father taught me how to discern the voices in Peter and the Wolf.
And the voice of the good shepherd is saying to you:
The voice of Jesus is saying to you:
“I love you.”
Listen for his voice.