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  • The Rev. Dr. Brian Rajcok

Listening for the Shepherd’s Voice

John 10:11-18

A priest, a rabbi, and a pastor were old friends.  After many years of ministry they were retired now, they were growing old and were hard of hearing but they made plans to get together for dinner one evening.  They were walking down a loud traffic filled street when a gust of wind blew in their faces and the priest commented “It’s windy!”  Misunderstanding his friend, the rabbi heard the word Wednesday and said “No it’s Thursday”.  Then the pastor also heard wrong and said, “Thirsty?  Yeah I’m thirsty too let’s grab a drink instead!”  And so that’s why a priest, a pastor, and a rabbi walked into a bar.   

 

Hearing someone’s voice can be a tricky thing when we’re hard of hearing or even if we have perfect hearing but there’s lots of noise or traffic or wind.  On this Fourth Sunday of Easter we celebrate Good Shepherd Sunday, and one of the things Jesus says in this passage is that his sheep know his voice and listen for his voice.  On this Fourth Sunday of Easter we always hear from this chapter of John 10 and we always read from Psalm 23.  The image of God as divine shepherd is a common one throughout scripture.  It is comforting to know that God cares for us and calls us by name and that as Jesus says, our Good Shepherd is even willing to lay down his life for the sheep.  

 

One of the things that struck me in this text this year is that Jesus puts particular emphasis on the theme of listening to his voice.  He says later in the chapter “My sheep know my voice and follow me.”  He even says in verse 16 that he has sheep from other flocks who listen to his voice.  This focus on listening to Jesus’ voice makes me wonder: what are the voices that are loudest in our lives?  And what are they saying?  What voices call to us that distract us from the voice of our Good Shepherd?  What kind of static chatter prevents us from hearing our God more clearly?

 

There are many loud voices in the media.  Many loud voices on TV and online.  Many loud voices in the entertainment world and the political world, especially as the election year ramps up and promises lots of noise and division.  We live in a world with so much noise, so much chatter, so many distractions, that it’s no wonder so many seem unable to hear the voice of the Good Shepherd. 

 

In a world so full of noise, where all sorts of voices are shouting for our attention, having a dedicated spiritual practice is more important than ever.  Making time for periods of contemplative silence in our day is crucial for our mental health and spiritual growth.  Turning off the noise and resting in silence is perhaps the primary way to connect with God.  Unplugging from technology and taking time to relax on a beautiful spring day.  Honoring the Sabbath day and dedicating one day a week to have no items on the agenda.  Being in the present moment with mindfulness practices like playing with your pet or observing how the wind blows through trees.  All these are ways we can be present and enter into interior silence and prepare ourselves to hear the voice of the Good Shepherd.

 

You might even try out the practice of centering prayer meditation, which is closing your eyes and sitting in silence and surrendering to whatever the Holy Spirit will have you experience during that set time of silence.  It’s something our centering prayer group does together for 20 minutes every Thursday.  We meet at 2:00pm on Zoom.  Contemplative teaches say the more silence we cultivate in our lives, the healthier we’ll be, the more spiritually attuned we’ll be, and the better able we’ll be to hear the voice of God, our Good Shepherd. 

 

Some religious traditions do this very well.  Perhaps they are the sheep from other flocks that Jesus mentions.  Eastern religions like Hinduism and Buddhism teach adherents to make silent meditation a central part of their lives.  Christianity, Judaism, and Islam also have long contemplative traditions, but these were largely ignored in the West for centuries following the Renaissance and the so called Age of Reason, which assumed sitting in silence was a waste of time and regarded the laying aside of thoughts as unproductive or even dangerous.  But Christian saints and mystics have long taught that silent prayer is the most reliable way of attuning our minds to God and aligning with the divine flow. 

 

Quieting the mind and listening for the voice of God probably won’t lead to us hearing a literal voice booming from heaven.  More likely it will be the still, small voice Elijah encountered in the Old Testament.  A voice that invites us into gentle rest and the peace of God which surpasses understanding.  A voice that heals us and lets us know we are loved.  A voice that comforts us and tells us we are forgiven for whatever guilt we carry.  A voice that teaches us to see life more clearly and deepen our wisdom and compassion.  A voice that inspires us to growth and inner transformation.  A voice that calls us to manifest that inner transformation on the outside, in the way we live and things we do.  So that our doing stems from our inner life of being, we out of that inner stillness flows actions like small acts of kindness and charity—and actions like standing up for what’s right, working for peace, and challenging injustice and oppression.  Such actions are the mature fruit of inner spirituality. 

 

When we intentionally make time to turn off the noise and listen for our Shepherd’s voice, we will be changed.  We will be healed.  We will be comforted.  And we will be challenged to grow and to bear good fruit. 


This Easter season we are reminded of the call to listen.  The call to silence ourselves and enter into the stillness and peace Jesus Christ offers.  And we do this not because we have to in order to become worthy of receiving God’s love.  This isn’t about gaining some reward for good behavior or proving you’re more spiritual than others.  We practice our spirituality because we’ve already been so touched by God’s love and grace that we truly desire a deeper relationship with the divine.  We’ve heard the Good News that Christ is risen!  We know how much God loves us!  We know that God’s goodness and mercy will follow us all the days of our lives.  We know that we are the sheep of God’s pasture and we gladly listen for his voice.  And we know that we are more than sheep—we are beloved children of God! 

 

Thanks be to God for Christ our Good Shepherd, for teaching us to listen to his voice, for inviting us into the peace and calmness of God’s presence, and for the love of God tremendously poured out on us. 

 

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

Pastor Brian | Sunday, April 21, 2024


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