If someone asked you to speak plainly about who Jesus is, what would you say? What would you tell them you hear when you hear the Good Shepherd’s voice?
Vicar Andrea Bonneville
Fourth Sunday of Easter, year C
Texts: Acts 9:36-43, Psalm 23, John 10:22-30
Beloved in Christ, grace and peace to you in the name of the Father, and of the + Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen
How do you know the voice of the Triune God?
It seems like both a simple and impossible question to answer. But if you were standing in the crowd as one of Jesus’ sheep and they asked you to speak plainly about who Jesus is, what would you say? What would you tell them you hear when you hear the Good Shepherd’s voice?
By this point in his ministry, Jesus has given people around him numerous examples and explanations about who he is and what he entered the world to do. He has performed miracles, healed the sick, challenged the authorities, fed the hungry, and set the oppressed free. He boldly proclaimed in words and through deeds that he has come to care for and seek out the ones who are lost, lonely, wandering, or following an unknown voice.
It is safe to assume that the people asking to hear who Jesus is from Jesus himself already have a perception and understanding of who he is, just like many people in our world know about Jesus.
But do they hear about Jesus from a creditable source? Or is what they have heard mixed together with the noises of this world that suggest that power, control, and maintaining the status quo are what we should strive for.
Has the voice of the Triune God become quiet because of all of the noise pollution?
Constant streams of breaking news stories that scream hatred and control and ignorance. Violence in our communities that cause harm and fear. Loud opinions of people who believe they can have control over other people’s bodies, and who they love, and what they learn. The nagging voice in ourselves that tries to convince us that we aren’t good enough, or that we can’t ask for help when we need it.
My ears are ringing thinking about all the noises we listen to day in and day out that try to drown out the voice of the Triune God. And what challenges me is that I don’t know how to quiet the noise. I don’t know how to live in our society or in my community without being drawn to the noise. And I’ve heard many of you share similar experiences of trying to quiet and escape the polluted noise.
Our task at hand is to be able to hear all the noise and discern what really is the voice of the Triune God in our lives. The voice that tells you you matter, that you are loved, and that you are forgiven. The voice that shows us how to do justice, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with God (Micah 6:8).
Not only do we listen with our ears, discerning what is the voice of the Triune God and what is not, but we listen and discern with our whole bodies. So that when we hear God’s voice, through creation and our neighbors, through music and story, through tears and joy, we hear the voice of God deep in our bones and deep in our hearts. The voice that is already there.
And when the noise really is too loud, we find a familiar sound and keep turning back to that. A song, a poem, scripture, the voice of a trusted friend, the call of the Good Shepherd calling us back to the pasture that is filled with community, love, and nourishment.
A place where we can rest until we follow the Good Shepherd out into the world proclaiming the healing and reconciling good news we find in the Triune God. Speaking plainly, and loudly, and frequently so our neighbors and our enemies can hear the good news of God’s unconditional and transforming love and forgiveness.
It may seem like a big task, but it isn’t a new task. And it isn’t a task that we do alone. We follow in the foots steps of the saints who have gone before us and paved a way of helping us to hear and know and trust and experience and share God’s love. People who have been and continue to be voices in our community that lead us to God.
That is who Tabitha was in her community. A voice of God that transformed her community through the way she loved, served, and cared for the widows and marginalized in her community. I imagine her sewing shop was filled with noise—with laughter, tears, and unconditional love. That it was a place where people knew to go when they needed help and care. That they turned to Tabitha who was a living presence of God and a cornerstone to a beloved community.
And Tabitha’s spirit, the Holy Spirit that was in Tabitha, is also in us. We all are the presence of God in the world. And with God’s help, we use our voices, our bodies, our talents, our hearts to show people and tell people about the abundant life and eternal life we have in God.
That catch is that it isn’t as much about knowing God’s voice amidst all the noise. It’s about being God’s voice and sharing God’s love. Being the cornerstone, being the pasture where people know they will hear the voice of the Good Shepherd and find nourishment.
The voice that says: I know you and I love you. You belong to me and I will care for you.