How to Listen for the Shepherd’s Voice

April 17, 2005

The Rev. Dr. Anthony J. Godlefski, Pastor

Montgomery United Methodist Church

 

John 10:1-10

The Shepherd and His Flock

   1“I tell you the truth, the man who does not enter the sheep pen by the gate, but climbs in by some other way, is a thief and a robber. 2The man who enters by the gate is the shepherd of his sheep. 3The watchman opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 4When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. 5But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger's voice." 6Jesus used this figure of speech, but they did not understand what he was telling them.

   7Therefore Jesus said again, “I tell you the truth, I am the gate for the sheep. 8All who ever came before me were thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. 9I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. He will come in and go out, and find pasture. 10The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.

 

 

Brothers and sisters in Christ, good morning. Jesus said this: “I am come that you may have life, and have life more abundantly.”

 

Our topic for this morning is voice recognition. I wonder if you’ve ever had an experience like this. Have you ever been in a McDonald’s or another fast food place that has a playland? You know, those great big tubes that kids like to crawl around in? Some of them have a half-globe clearing where the kids can look out at you. You've seen those.

 

Have you ever watched moms as they sit at a table near the playland, talking to each other, maybe getting a bit of a breather as the kids play in the playland? You can tell how many kids are on hand by the stack of napkins can’t you? The moms are talking to each other; the place is full of noise as the kids yell and scream, and then one little voice says “Mom.” That very mother will know exactly who it is, exactly what degree of emergency there is, and she’ll be able to respond appropriately.

 

Voices, voices everywhere. Which one shall we listen to?

 

I wonder if you grew up in a neighborhood that was small enough that when you went out to play with your friends during the summer, and evening came, all your mother had to do was go out on the porch and call your name, “Suppertime, Anthony. Come home.” You knew who it was, and you heard your name called, and maybe immediately, maybe a little later, you went home.

 

Voices, voices everywhere. Which one shall we listen to?

 

Have you ever been to a wedding reception and sat around one of those round tables, and the band is way too loud and there are people around you all trying to talk to you? You’re trying to figure out whom to listen to and what they’re saying from across the table, and then somebody calls your name and you turn right away.

 

Voices, voices everywhere. Which one shall we listen to?

 

Friends, in our gospel this morning, Jesus is talking about this very topic. We’re bombarded by a lot of voices. Which one shall we listen to, people of God? You see, the people in Jesus’s time were bombarded by a lot of voices, too. Jesus said – did you hear that strange statement? – “Those who came before me are thieves and robbers.” What is that about? Certainly He wasn’t referring to the prophets of the Old Testament. What He was referring to were imposter messiahs. There were a lot of people who claimed to be the Messiah, and they said, “If you follow me in the revolution, by blood we will take over this government and make Israel number one.” There were lots of fellows like that. As a matter of fact, the two thieves who were crucified on either side of Jesus, although the Bible uses the word thieves, were more appropriately insurrectionists. They were rebels who tried to stir up the crowd.

 

And Jesus said, “That’s not the way. Violence is not the way. Sheep of my fold,” He said, “Hear this way: the way of love. Listen to the voice of your good shepherd.” That’s what Jesus was telling them.

 

My friend, to apply it to our own day, there are voices everywhere, aren’t there? Which one shall we listen to? Friends, I would suggest this: the voices in our day are the voices of thoughts, the voices that come to us and would take our life away, would steal it and rob us. Which voice shall we listen to?

 

For example, perhaps as you go through the day, you hear voices that are unforgiving, perhaps unforgiving of yourself. Perhaps as you go through the day, you punish yourself for what you did, or for what you left undone. You make a rut in your mind as you punish yourself and do not forgive. But Jesus said, “Hear the voice of the Savior, the Savior who says, ‘Neither will I condemn you. I have come that you may have life, and have it abundantly.’”

 

Or perhaps someone has wronged you, unjustly, and something inside, all those low-level voices, are saying, “Get even. Hold that grudge.” And the voice of the Savior says, “Let it go to God. Forgive, as you are forgiven.”

 

Voices, voices everywhere. Which one shall we listen to?

 

Perhaps you get up in the morning and you are barraged by voices, voices of limitation, a voice that says there’s not enough, that the glass is half empty. Well, friend, the answer is that the glass is as full as it’s going to get today. Hear the voice of the Savior saying, “I am come that you might have life, and not just a little, but abundantly.” That’s what the Savior says. Tune in to the voice of the Savior. Listen for that one.

 

Perhaps there are voices nagging at you, saying “The situation is hopeless. It’s over.” Hear the voice of the Savior, who dares you to dream big dreams and dares you to have the big thought and dares you to put hope and possibility out there. That’s the voice of the Savior.

 

Oh, dear friend, there are so many voices. There are so many voices that assail us everyday. Listen not to the voices that would steal away our life, our energy, our possibility. Listen to the voice of your good shepherd, the voice of your Savior, who says, “I am come that you might have life, and have it abundantly.”

 

Can we agree to do that this week? In the barrage of voices that come to us, let’s tune in the voice of our good shepherd, lifting us up, and offering us abundant life, because God loves you. I do, too. Have a blessed week. Amen.

  

© 2005 Anthony J. Godlefski