Whose Voice are you Listening to?

Sermon May 12, 2019:                                               Marilyn Anderson Corkum

 

A man decided his wife was getting hard of hearing. So he called her doctor to make an appointment to have her hearing checked. The doctor said he could see her in two weeks, but meanwhile there was a simple, informal test the husband could do to give the doctor some idea of the dimensions of the problem.

“Here’s what you do,” he said. “Stand about 40 feet away from her, and speak in a normal conversational tone and see if she hears you. If not, go to 30 feet, then 20 feet, and so on until you get a response.”

That evening his wife is in the kitchen cooking dinner, and he’s in the living room, and he says to himself, “I’m about 40 feet away, let’s see what happens.”

“Honey, what’s for supper?” No response.

So he moves to the other end of the room, about 30 feet away.

“Honey, what’s for supper?” No response.

So he moves into the dining room, about 20 feet away. “Honey, what’s for supper?” No response.

On to the kitchen door, only 10 feet away. “Honey, what’s for supper?” No response.

So he walks right up behind her. “Honey, what’s for supper?”

She turns around and says, “For the FIFTH time, CHICKEN!!!!”

Isn’t that the way it is sometimes in our lives? We are either deaf to what really is going on, failing to perceive reality, or we think it is the other person’s problem when really it is our own.

Sometimes, we have selective hearing – we hear what we only want to hear.

Or we act as if we are listening but really our attention is elsewhere. You’ve had that feeling, haven’t you, when someone is giving you eye attention but you know they are not listening, not hearing you at all? It is infuriating. And I know I do it myself so I hereby ask for blanket forgiveness from you for the times I’ve done it myself.

Today’s passage is all about listening and hearing – following the voice of Jesus – and it really stirs me up.

Picture the scene: a small group comes close to Jesus, kind of like the husband in my story. They are walking with him, right next to him actually, and asking him to tell them plainly if he is the Messiah – “don’t keep us in suspense.”

And Jesus says, “What do you mean? What more do I need to say? In fact I don’t have to say anything because my works speak for themselves.”

Sometimes I wonder if we are hard of hearing and hard of seeing when it comes to Jesus; Are we listening to his voice and hearing what he says and then doing what he tells us to do? Or do we try to keep our emotional, intellectual, political distance?

Every day you and I hear a lot of diverse voices. So many discordant (and in my mind unhelpful) voices – it is overwhelming sometimes.

How do we discern what voice to listen to, which voice to follow? There are a lot of voices out there telling you who you are, what you should want, who you should be.

What voice, whose voice are you listening to?

There are voices telling us to do this, don’t do that. You’re too fat. You’re too skinny. You’ll never amount to much. You’re a sinner. You don’t measure up. You are crazy. Take these drugs. You are wrong.

There are voices telling you to believe this, buy this, drive that, wear this, go there, do your homework now (always follow that voice!). It is too much – no wonder we turn it all off.

Do you listen to the voices on Fox News or on MSNBC? Which describes reality? Who is telling the truth: Sarah Palin, Barack Obama, James Brady, the NRA, John Boehner, Nancy Pelosi?

And of course the essential question of faith is “Whose voice are you listening to, what voice do you trust, what voice do you hear?”

The faith task is to hone in, lean towards to the source, the authentic Divine voice and listen intently and then to act out on what you hearing.

An infant knows its mother’s voice. In a room with so much stimulation of color and motion – this is overwhelming reality and I have seen it – the baby’s head turns to the source of the mother’s voice, recognizing the voice even before it has the language to call out “Mama!” Even before we know, we perceive.

Doctors tell us that that last sense to leave a dying person is hearing and so that is why you tell them you love them, you tell them to let go, you cry, you pray.

It makes me think that perhaps that there are many who follow Jesus’ voice and do not even know its Jesus. Sometimes I wonder if it even matters. After all, there is this great little detail in today’s passage. Jesus says: “My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me.” It is not about us knowing Jesus; it is about Jesus knowing us. The sheep don’t have to intellectually know, or theologically “get” Jesus to follow him.

That opens up a lot for me. One of the all-time basic questions that many have is what about all those good people – who are grounded, compassionate, generous, hospitable, just people but who are not Christian? Well, these words of Jesus help me – “you don’t have to KNOW me to follow me.” It is more auditory and instinctive than intellectual, deeper than our ability to describe, deeper than that. And so I ask you: What voice are you listening to? What are you hearing?

I believe that if you are intently listening to the voice of love and power, if you are honing in on the deepest, most authentic voice you know and following it – I wouldn’t be surprised if one of these days the realization comes that “oh, that’s the Jesus voice!” It may happen in this life or the next – whatever. There is so much emphasis in so many churches on making sure you use the right words, and use the right name – almost like “magic words” – But Jesus here seems to be saying something else, doesn’t he?

I think these words of Jesus can even be helpful to many folks here in this church – people who instinctively do the right thing, and live the life that is worth living – gentle and powerful lives of service and joy and hope and giving and yearning and learning. They aren’t trying to earn their way into Heaven, they are just living life as they know how to live. Those who follow Jesus’ voice may not necessarily know who Jesus is but they follow the voice – they know.

These words help when I stumble and bumble and get all worked up. Because when I remember to “listen with the ears of my heart,” I begin to hone in again. “Listen with the ears of my heart” – St. Benedict said that; a mixed body metaphor but it works – we know what it means.

That which we take in through the ear needs to be translated by our hearts – our hearts being a way of asking: Where are you grounded? How do you look at the world – what gives you ultimate meaning? It is a little bit like the chicken and the egg – does your hearing shape your reality or your reality shape your hearing? I don’t know BUT I do know this:

A heart grounded in fear is going to shape your hearing and your living.

A heart grounded in suspicion is going make you skeptical of what you hear and it will shape your outlook. You know what I mean.

I find it interesting for example what people listen to and how they perceive it and then appropriate it. I say this humbly but I feel as if I have to say it – this is the problem I have with what I hear from the Tea Party movement – I hear fear, suspicion, hatred in some corners – and it shapes reality. It is different than political disagreement with policy. What I hear makes me feel it is much more personal, nasty and I don’t want to follow it. Same on the left as well. But that is just me.

So what does Jesus say to you? No matter your politics, we are church, the community not shaped by unanimity of opinion but on an unswerving desire to listen and follow… and so listening for Jesus becomes the MOST important thing. For Christians no other voice takes precedence. What we hear on Sunday in the reading of the Word, and the raising of the prayers, and the singing of the hymns, and in the holy silences that are so rich – do you hear that you are loved?

Do you hear the voice of love? – even if you don’t know the speaker? Does not your heart know, doesn’t your gut move towards that voice? Are we not called to follow that voice into the world – we are not in the dog-eat-dog arena of competition – we are walking through the valley of shadow with the words of love in our ear and the banner of love wrapped around our shoulders.

What voice do you hear? Whose voice are you following?

Do you hear a voice of hospitality? That you are welcome here? You don’t have to have your theological stuff together. I don’t even care if you believe half of Christian doctrine – you will get there in time if that is where you need to go. Even if you don’t recognize the source, are you listening and then following – being hospitable.

What voice do you hear? Whose voice are you following?

Do you hear the voice of generosity? That you have been given the wonderful gift of life. The very stuff of creative order has been shared with you – you are alive, you are gifted – just because you are. Even if you do not yet know the Creator – are you listening and following and being generous – not only with your money [you all have already shown such generosity, quite unbelievable] but with your time and you talent, with your joy and laughter and truth?

What voice do you hear? Whose voice are you following?

Do you hear the voice of justice and compassion? That it is good to “treat others as you would have them treat you?” Are you listening to make sure that children have food, and families have homes, and the sick can be cared for, and the uninsured don’t have be scared? That justice doesn’t mean punishment; the voice of justice means celebration and restoration. You don’t have to acknowledge Jesus – you may in time, maybe not, don’t worry so much about it.

But what voice do you hear? Whose voice are you following?

Do you hear the sounds of creation and hope? Are you really listening to those sounds? If your heart moves towards that voice, then how can fear and suspicion shape your world? You don’t have to call on Jesus, you may not even be able to name the voice you follow – but you know deep down, something intuitive and real that hope is better than hate.

What voice do you hear? Whose voice are you following?

It seems to me that you all listen very intently and follow very closely the voice of hospitality and grace, of joy and hope, of liberation and restoration. So…keep doing what you are doing!

I am telling you the truth. This is one thing I know for sure. If you are listening to the voice of love, hospitality, generosity, justice and compassion, creation and hope – NOTHING in this whole world will be able to snatch you away – nothing will be able to knock you down, tear you up, turn you around – it simply can’t be done – because nothing can separate you from the grace and love of God through Jesus Christ our Lord – I call on the name of Jesus because it makes sense to me now, it is how I view the world – but don’t worry if you can’t do it just yet…. Listen and follow that voice anyway.

In today’s passage, we read that the setting for this story was the festival of Dedication. Today I want this to be a day of dedication for us, of re-dedication for you to listen, to hear and to follow.

Don’t take my word for it, listen for yourselves – the voice of love that is for you, which I believe is the voice of Jesus.

What voice do you hear? Whose voice are you following?

AMEN