Hearing the Voice of the Lord -Psalm 29, John 3
Updated: Dec 20, 2022
The voice of the Lord is a powerful voice
the voice of the Lord is a voice of splendor, Psalm 29 says.
The Psalm often entitled, “Hymn to the God of the Storm”
It depicts the voice of the Lord as creative and glorious
A voice can be heard in nature, which is at God’s beck and call.
Have you ever heard the voice of the Lord?
A friend once described to me how she found herself
with a few extra hours at her college reunion
She is a very efficient person, not prone to taking time to smell the roses.
But she felt an unusual desire to walk the labyrinth near the chapel
Each time she picked up her pace,
thinking about getting on the road to the airport,
She heard a voice say, “Slow down.”
For her, it was a message about more than just her pace on the labyrinth;
It became a mantra for her daily life, a message from the voice of God.
For others of us, however, the voice of the Lord can seem elusive.
I remember asking myself the same question each day for an entire year
when my youngest was two years old: do I want another child?
There wasn’t a simple answer.
I loved being a mother, and I treasured the intimate
and demanding role of parenting young children.
I prayed on the question, wondered about it, talked about it,
and prayed some more,
And finally decided that loving this limited opportunity of young parenthood
Was not the same as actually wanting a third child.
Hearing God’s voice was a long and gradual process of listening to wisdom
that slowly emerged from within me.
Our Gospel story today can be seen as an example
of the challenge of hearing God’s voice.
It seems to me that Nicodemus’ experience is closer to mine
than the voice from heaven described in Psalm 29
or the auditory message my friend experienced on the labyrinth.
Hearing God’s voice for Nicodemus was a process
that unfolded over a lengthy period of time.
But you first need to know a little about Nicodemus.
Nicodemus was a leader of the Pharisees,
a movement that sought to instill piety in every day life.
Nicodemus knew something who Jesus was –
but he wanted to know more.
He opens with the words
“Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God;
for no one can do these signs that you do apart from the presence of God.”
Nicodemus had assessed, along with his peers,
that Jesus was a legitimate teacher
He noted that Jesus actions such as turning water into wine at Cana
and cleansing the temple
pointed to his unusual connection with God.
But the question remained: just what was this connection?
How did Jesus relate to God? Where did Jesus come from, and what was his mission?
The discussion that follows is a theological one.
Jesus speaks in metaphors of birth and spirit,
and Nicodemus cannot seem to hear his point.
His questions seem to focus on the practical, not the spiritual.
It is almost as if they are talking past each other.
I think this may be a common experience when listening for God’s voice. This spiritual practice of listening for God’s voice is known as discernment.
Discernment is as much a posture of openness and listening
as it is a practice with specific steps.
Discernment is based on the idea that the Holy Spirit dwells within each one of us
And that by listening deeply to our own inner wisdom,
We can gradually make out what God is saying to us.
You might remember that Jesus spoke of this in the passage we heard last week.
He told his disciples,
“I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now.
When the Spirit of Truth comes he will guide you into all the truth.”
Discernment takes time because we, like Jesus’ disciples,
are not always ready to hear the voice of God
Or the truth the Spirit can reveal.
But God is patient with us,
And God keeps speaking within us through the Holy Spirit,
That still small voice with us.
If we are willing to pay attention, if we pray for openness to listen,
We can, over time, hear that Voice.
But back to Nicodemus.
We do not hear whether he was satisfied with Jesus’ explanation
Or how he replied to Jesus’ now famous words about how
God so loved the world that he gave his only Son.
The story simply moves on with Jesus and his disciples going into the countryside.
But that wasn’t the end of Nicodemus.
Apparently he still wondered about his question:
who was this Jesus, and what was his connection to God?
Four chapters later, John narrates the controversy that Jesus stirs up,
With half the people believing he was the Messiah
And the other half saying that he could not be the Messiah.
It is Nicodemus who sticks up for Jesus,
saying that Jesus deserves a hearing according to Jewish law.
Nicodemus wanted a hearing--
so it seems that his burning question remained:
Who was this Jesus?
Nicodemus shows up one more time in the Gospel of John,
at the end of the story.
Nicodemus joins Joseph of Arimathea preparing Jesus’ body for burial.
He brought 100 pounds of burial spices, which would have cost an astronomical sum
This was a royal burial.
The reverence and sacrifice of this act seem to indicate that at last
Nicodemus had his answer to this question.
Jesus was the Messiah, the Son of God.
We each carry questions inside us—
Burning questions about our lives and purpose
Questions about what we are called to do, what God’s will for us is.
They are complicated.
I find Nicodemus’ example a heartening one, because
Often times I feel just as confused as he seems in our story.
And yet Jesus does not turn Nicodemus away when Nicodemus doesn’t get it.
Instead Jesus issues a promise about God’s love.
Somehow in all our questions, in all our worry over whether we get it right,
In all our wondering if we are on the right track and which way to head,
There is this truth:
That God loved the world.
God holds the world, the storms of the world, the forces of nature,
You and me, our lives and questions--
God holds it all in love.
Like Nicodemus, our role is not to have it all figured out,
But rather to stick with it
To come to Jesus in the dark of night of our souls
And trust his love is for us.
Like Nicodemus, our questions finally find resolution in the person of Jesus.
His spirit rests in our souls; speaking to us tenderly,
And guiding us into all the truth.