May 7, 2017 Sermon

Fourth Sunday of Easter, May 7, 2017, Lectionary A

The Rev. Dr. C. Clark Hubbard, Jr.+ Rector                                            Scripture: John 10:1-10

“Stretch out your hand [Oh, Lord] to heal and perform miraculous signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus.”  Acts 4:30

 

Whose voice?

 

Let us pray.  Heavenly Father, send how the Holy Spirit to open our hearts to hear more and more clearly the voice of Jesus who reigns with you and the Holy Spirit one God for ever and ever.  Amen.

 

An elderly lady was waiting to pull into a parking space when a young man in his new red Mercedes sped around her and parked in the space for which she had been waiting. The little old lady was so upset that she went up to the man and said, “I was going to park there!” The man replied with a smirk, “That’s what you can do when you’re young and smart.”

 

Well, this really upset the lady even more, so she got in her car, backed it up and then she stomped on the gas and plowed right into his Mercedes. The young man ran back to his car and exclaimed, “What did you do that for!?” The little old lady smiled and told him, “That’s what you can do when you’re old and rich!”

 

On a more serious and controversial note there is the following, written by Pastor Keven DeYoung for The Gospel Coalition on February 28, 2017.  Here is some of what he said.

“The challenge with the transgender debate is that Christians must say two very different things at the same time. To those pushing an agenda that says your bathroom is my bathroom and your gender is whatever you want it to be, we want to say:

 

This is absurd. Patently absurd. There is no scientific reason, no justice reason, no internally consistent reason to think we can be boys or girls just by declaring it so. In our saner moments we know this to be true. No one would allow me to “become” Asian or African American even if I thought that’s who I was deep down. There are facts about my biology that cannot be denied. Why is gender open to self-definition while race and ethnicity are not?”

 

Can you hear it?  No, it is not audible, but nonetheless speaking to us.  No, we are not hallucinating, but we hear it.  We hear that little voice inside our heads and our hearts speaking to us.  What is it saying at this very moment?  Is that voice saying, “Why did Fr. Hubbard tell that story about the elderly lady?”  Do not young people and older people hear a different voice in their heads commensurate with their respective ages?  Certainly, the excerpt from Pastor Keven DeYoung’s article on the transgender debate highlights how the voices some hear can be quite alien from the normal chorus.  Then again, not all voices are just in our heads.

 

Sometimes we hear them outside our bedroom door or down the hall.  We may hear them in the room next to us, while walking down the street, or at the mall.  They can be bellicose, loud, soft, unintelligible, angry, or sad.  They can be imagined or even hallucinated.  They may even be talking about us.  They are voices – those curious sounds which represent the world around us, which allow us to communicate about the world around us, and to which we may listen or not.

 

Those voices not only communicate about the world around us, they interpret the world around us. Sometimes we like what the voices say, other times we do not.  We want to change them.  We want those voices to say something different or in another way.

 

In many ways this past election season could be called the season of voices, loud voice, strident voices, confused voices, angry voices, vindictive voices, divisive voices and yes, lying voices.  Which voice are we to believe?  Which voice are we to trust?  Which is telling the truth?  There is not an easy or simple answer to that question.  It requires us to listen deeply, not only to what the voices outside of us are saying, but even more to the voices within our own heads.  Voices can be misleading. There is power in the voice and for that reason; there is danger in the voice. We might recall those terrible incidences where a young person has been led to suicide because of the voices of bullies.  Social media brings the voices of the world to us, constantly chattering, constantly roaring.

 

In this morning’s gospel from John we hear the voice of Jesus speaking about voices.  He raises a most basic question, whispering in our ears every moment of every day, whether we know it or not.  He asks, “Whose voice are we listening to?  Do we hear our mother or father saying, “Remember to say thank” you, or “Make up your bed?”

 

Show video clip at https://youtu.be/kiXUWMwqrxU.

 

Do we hear some school teacher’s voice telling us to do our homework?  From our youth, do we hear an old friend saying, “Let’s sneak out tonight?  We won’t get caught.”  Do we hear the voice of some TV commercial warning us about the dangers of high cholesterol or high blood pressure?  Do we hear some sinister voice tempting us to do wrong in respect to money, sexual fidelity, or the over-consumption of food or drink?  Do we hear a voice telling us to exercise, lose weight, or eat food that is better for us?

 

The voices are many, are they not?  Remember the demoniac from whom Jesus cast out many spirits.  What did the demoniac say in answer to Jesus’ question, “What is your name?”  He replied, “My name is “legion” for we are many.”  There are a legion of voices speaking to us, telling us what to think, what to do, who to be, when, where, how, and why.  Do you hear them?  It is a great throng of voices –enough to drive one mad, as they all holler and whisper to us –“ Bob, Jane, Sam, Alice – I am talking to you.  Listen to me.”  There is even a voice telling you how to hear what I am saying, or not to hear me at all.

 

So many voices – which should we trust?  Which should we believe?  Not all voices really have our welfare in mind.  They serve themselves, but how are we to know.  Remember the last time you listened to a certain voice.  What happened?  Did following that voice do you harm or good?  How did following that voice affect others?

 

Some voices are known to be untrustworthy.  Some of you may remember during the Nixon administration a poster of him, standing there with these words at the bottom: “Would you buy a used car from this man?”  Tricky Dicky – he was sometimes referred to.  It would seem that the voice of a politician is often suspect, perhaps even more than ever.  What are we to believe?  The voices of sales people have often been the object of mistrust.  How do you know a salesman is lying?  His lips are moving, is the joke. Then there are the voices of lawyers and all the rest. Whose voice can we trust?

 

Some voices are louder, screaming for our attention.  Other voices are almost silent, yet they have great power to encourage us, cajole us, and make us feel sad or guilty?  You know those voices.  They can be hard to shut out and not listen to.  It would seem that we have been listening to the wrong voice ever since Eden, ever since the serpent tempted Eve to eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil?

 

In the gospel we heard Jesus say in reference to Himself, “the sheep hear his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice.  I am the gate. Whoever enters by me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture.”

 

Whoever enters by [Jesus] will be saved.”  Saved from what is the question, is it not?  From what has Jesus saved you?  I could ask that of every one of us.  I know for some of us Jesus has saved us from hopelessness.  You have been in the grips of a sickness or a loss.  In prayer you have thrown your concern to Jesus.  He has had given you hope.  He has been there for you.  Maybe, not quite as you wanted, but where would you have been without Him?

 

I know for some of us there have been unpleasant and painful relationships.  You have come to Jesus, asking for His help and He has begun the process of reconciliation and healing in those relationships.  I know for some of us that you have withered under the voices of guilt, depression, fear, and shame, but you have begun to learn that “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus,” as St. Paul tells us in Romans 8:1.  I know for some of us Jesus has healed us from an illness.  I know for some of us Jesus has provided us with money to meet our financial needs, and for some He has freed from addiction.  The voice of Jesus has brought to us hope, love, healing, reconciliation, forgiveness and truth.  “I am the way, the truth, and the life,” Jesus tells us in John 14:5.

 

Each of us has our own stories, our own stories of our encounters with Jesus, of hearing His voice.  If we reflect upon those encounters and what He has said to us through them, they are indeed saving encounters, maybe not at the moment of that encounter, but certainly as our walk with Jesus moved forward, we have come to understand and appreciate how He has saved us.  Of course, we are to share with others what we have heard Jesus’ voice say to us.  It is called the Great Commission: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations . . .” (Matthew 28:19a).

 

What then might we do to hear Jesus’ voice more frequently and with greater clarity?  Bishop Benhase once wrote, “If we lose touch with the disciplines of prayer, worship, and service, then I’m certain we will find ourselves listening to other voices that are all too ready to tell us what we want to hear, rather than what we need to hear.” So, whom are we listening to these days? Are we listening to the Scriptures, are we humbly listening to that other person who has a word for us, are we listening to God’s grace imparted in the Sacraments? It’s so easy to get distracted away from God’s love and grace. Our spiritual disciplines keep us open to the voice of Jesus.”  Our spiritual disciplines sensitize us to hearing Jesus’ voice more and more, clearer and clearer.

 

The message is obvious.   Practice spiritual disciplines, and we will hear the voice of Jesus.  Don’t practice and we will increasingly be deafened by the legion of voices, known as the world, the flesh, and the devil.

 

BRIDGEHAMPTON, NY — “The future could soon be dawning brighter for a 15-year-old Bridgehampton girl, who’s been crusading for years to be allowed to join the Boy Scouts of America. ‘We are moving forward,’ said Gary Ireland, whose daughter Sydney is fighting for the right to join the Boy Scouts and earn her Eagle Scout rank.

 

According to NBC News, a meeting of Boy Scouts of America chapter representatives and others is taking place at BSA headquarters in Irving, TX, Thursday, to discuss potentially allowing girls expanded opportunities in the 107-year old organization.Ireland said he and the National Organization for Women have teamed up to send emails and letters to AT&T CEO/Boy Scout President Randall Stephenson, urging him to consider expanding the ranks to allow girls to pursue equal opportunities.

‘We applaud the Boy Scouts for discussing the issue of ending the discriminatory policies against girls but we need immediate change. Please email AT&T CEO/Boy Scout President Randall L. Stephenson and request that he allow girls to join welcoming Troops and earn the Eagle Rank,’ Ireland wrote.

 

So far, Ireland said he has not received a response. ‘Back in September the Scouts’ spokesperson said they would meet with us.’ However, there have been no responses thus far in regard to requests to meet, Ireland said. Ireland said he’s dropping off his daughter’s application to join Boy Scouts at BSA headquarters and also sending it to Stephenson, too. ‘With the BSA leadership meeting today we want to make sure the voices of inclusion and diversity are heard. We welcome the opportunity to meet with the BSA leadership to discuss diversity initiatives and in particular the integration of young women into Scout programs,’ Ireland said Thursday.

 

Sonia Ossorio, President, NOW New York, told Patch Thursday that at NOW’s national conference two years ago, a resolution was passed to support the effort for Boy Scouts to further diversify and allows girls who want to strive to the ‘very top of U.S. Scouting to be allowed to do so.’”

 

Clearly the voice of sanity is absent in the public debate today.  Scouting is just one of many forums where it is.  There are many others.  Jesus warns us in this morning’s gospel.  “All who came before me are thieves and bandits; but the sheep did not listen to them. 9 I am the gate. Whoever enters by me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture. 10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy.”

 

It does matter whose voice we listen to.  Is the voice a wolf in sheep’s’ clothing?  Is the voice offering various lovelies dressed in pretty adjectives which seem to promise a better day, a better life, but in the longer run is empty, confusing, and destructive?  You can fill in the blanks here, but have the notions of fairness, inclusiveness, as well as other values become deified at the cost of the truth?

 

You and I are agents of the voice of Jesus.  We have been called not only to listen to His voice, but speak it.  The world needs to hear Jesus’ voice now, perhaps more than ever.  Listen.  Listen to the voice of Jesus and speak it.

 

In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  Amen.