My Sheep Hear My Voice

 

Meditation on John 10:22-30

The Presbyterian Church of Coshocton

May 12, 2019

Mother’s Day

 

jesus-good-shepherd

My Sheep Hear My Voice

Meditation on John 10:22-30

The Presbyterian Church of Coshocton

May 12, 2019

Mother’s Day

            22 At that time the festival of the Dedication took place in Jerusalem. It was winter, 23 and Jesus was walking in the temple, in the portico of Solomon. 24 So the Jews gathered around him and said to him, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly.” 25 Jesus answered, “I have told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name testify to me; 26 but you do not believe, because you do not belong to my sheep. 27 My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one will snatch them out of my hand. 29 What my Father has given me is greater than all else, and no one can snatch it out of the Father’s hand. 30 The Father and I are one.”

***

I have been thinking about my mom all week, especially  because she has had some serious health struggles. I have been thinking about how amazing she is. How she cared for my father all these years with his many health issues and how she cared for us when my brother, sister and I were young. How strong she has always been for us. How she told us that she loved us and showed us her love.

My youngest memory of her working outside the home was when she was an emergency-room nurse and worked 3 to 11 p.m. shifts, but still had energy to shop, bake and cook, can and freeze vegetables and fruits, sew jumpers and shorts for my sister and me, knit afghans, play bridge, read books, clean house, and wash and iron clothes. She and Dad played games with us, nursed us when we were sick, chauffeured us to activities and appointments, took us on family vacations, bought us what we needed and many things we wanted, helped with homework. They took us to the library, the beach and community pool, zoos and museums, parks and picnics, fairgrounds and playgrounds, concerts and movies, restaurants and malls. And she took us to church and Sunday school.

I didn’t fully appreciate my mom and all that she did for us—and all that she taught me—until I became a mother of 3 myself and, well, it was overwhelming, to say the least. And I didn’t can, freeze, iron, sew or play bridge!

The memory of my mom that came to mind this week was when we were small and she took the 3 of us grocery shopping one day. My older brother decided to go off and explore –and I followed him. But then I got distracted, sat down and was looking at something. Next thing I knew, my brother was gone and my mother and the grocery cart were nowhere to be seen. Panic rose up inside of me and I started running up and down the aisles, calling, “Mom! Mom!”

And then I heard her calling my name in her distinctive voice. I was so relieved. It didn’t matter that her voice had that edge to it that mothers get when they are both frightened and angry. I was happy to see my sister and my annoying brother, who probably knew where I was all along, and didn’t bother to tell my mom. I am sure he was hoping she’d leave me at the store and there would be more Cap’n Crunch cereal for him!

I know I got a stern lecture that day, but I had learned my lesson. I never wandered that far from my mother again at the grocery store. Nothing felt better than when she took my hand and held it tight, like she would never let me go.

***

Our gospel reading in John 10 about Jesus the Good Shepherd and the love and security of being held in the clasp of his hand helped to stir this memory.

He comes under attack when he is walking in Solomon’s Portico—the outermost court of the Temple that is surrounded by magnificent covered colonnades or cloisters on all 4 sides. They are gathered in Jerusalem for one of the important pilgrimage festivals — the Festival of Dedication. It’s winter, the passage begins. It’s December; the festival is Hanukkah, Hebrew for dedication. The holiday commemorates the victories of the Maccabees after the Syrians had profaned the Temple for 3 years (from 167-164 BC) by erecting an idol, an oriental version of the Olympian Zeus on the altar of holocausts. The pollution of the holy place by the “abominable desolation” (Dan 9:27 and Matthew 24:15) ends when Judas Maccabeus drives out the Syrians, builds a new altar and rededicates the Temple. The Greek word in this gospel used to translate Hanukkah or “Dedication” actually means “renewal.”  This conjures images of the renewal of not just the altar and Temple with the re-consecration, but also the renewal of the people’s faith. Hanukkah is a time of great joy for the Jewish people.

So isn’t it ironic that this is the setting for the religious leaders to angrily attack Jesus? God has visited them in the Son, the Messiah, and they demand that he stop evading their questions; stop telling all these stories! They want him to answer their question plainly! And if he doesn’t say what they want to hear, they will pick up rocks and try to stone him in verse 31, but he slips out of their grasp.

“How long will you keep us in suspense?” they demand in verse 24. The literal translation is, “How long will you take away our breath of life?!” He is wasting their time and energy. “Are you the Messiah?!”

 I already told you, Jesus says, and you didn’t believe. You won’t. My works that I do in my Father’s name speak to who I am.

So far in John, Jesus has healed the sick, blind, lame, and paralyzed. He fed 5,000 hungry people, walked on water, turned water into wine and offered a Samaritan woman—someone outside his faith—to drink from his living water, so she will never thirst again. And yet, the religious elite of his own community refuse to believe—because they aren’t his sheep, he says. “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.”

Let’s listen to the 3-fold promise again. 1. We can hear his voice and distinguish it from the other voices in our life. Some of the voices in our life are negative. They waste our time and drain us of energy, as the Temple Jews complain about Jesus. But we don’t have to listen to them, and we certainly shouldn’t be intimidated into following them! Paul in Romans 12:3 says, “ Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect.”

And 2, Christ knows us, like no person will know us! He is our Creator, the Mother of all. As John began his gospel in 1:3-4, “All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people.”

And 3, we will follow him. That means we will come to know him as we love and seek him. We will become more like him! With following, we know his will for our lives and are doing what he says and what he does. And we will have his peace!

Christ’s yoke is easy. His burden light! So much lighter than the burdens we want to put on ourselves! Sometimes the negative voices aren’t coming from other people! They are coming from us and our own misunderstandings about what it means to belong to the Lord. To be Christ’s sheep. Not because of what we have done. But because of what was given and done for us and revealed through the cross and empty tomb.

Friends, we can be Christ’s voice for one another. How can we tell the difference between Christ and the world? We will know, for it will come from a place of love and understanding; it will help us to overcome difficulties, build up our faith, let go of sinful habits and attitudes that hold us back from being all that God wants us to be, and stir us to acts of kindness for others and ourselves. For God wants us to be kind to ourselves. Love your neighbor as yourself includes you in that love! We will know it is Christ’s voice because it will relieve us of shame and doubt and bring us joy and peace, even during times of suffering and grief. Christ’s voice brings healing and growth.

For Mother’s Day, let’s remember the life-giving voices of women in our lives, the ones whom Christ uses to guide, comfort and inspire us so that we are empowered to follow each day. I am blessed with many beautiful voices of women who speak into my life. My mom is one, but I have had other spiritual moms, daughters, and sisters in the Lord all along my faith journey. Some of my spiritual mothers are in their 90s! And they need to hear my voice, too, thanking and encouraging them.

Listen to the beautiful voices—not the negative ones! Surrender your will to the Lord and seek God’s will for your life. Let today be the Feast of Dedication or Renewal of faith for us. Let your love and commitment to the Lord be known and shown by the good works you do. Don’t be afraid to take risks and do something new!! You have nothing to lose! We who belong to Christ have received the greatest gift. We shall never perish! We live eternally, held in the firm, loving clasp of the Good Shepherd’s hand.

Let us pray.  Gracious God, thank you for sending your Son, the Good Shepherd, to gather lost sheep and bring us home. Please continue to speak to us, your sheep, by your Spirit in your Word and through the loving voices of people around us. Stir us to pray and open our ears to listen every day. Thank you for showing us your love and compassion and giving us a model for our lives through your Son’s works of peace, justice and healing, giving, feeding and teaching, rescuing and reconciling, dying and rising. Thank you for our biological and spiritual mothers, daughters and sisters. May we all come to know you more and faithfully obey, be loving voices for others, revealing your mercy and kindness. In the name of our Good Shepherd we pray. Amen.

 

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