Sunday, May 15, 2011

Listen to His voice

Here's the sermon preached by our budding ordinand Ben Masters, based on this morning's Gospel reading from John 10:1-10...

The other day I was working with a roofer, I mentioned that one of my customers was religious.  “I hate religious people,” he said, “the other day I went to a funeral, and the vicar want on about shepherds, and sheep, such rubbish I never heard!  Pete my friend, who has known me a little while piped up with a cheeky smile, “You know Ben is going to train to be priest!?” The look on the roofers face was priceless!  It did set me thinking though, for the passage I had been given to preach on was about shepherds and sheep.

This morning’s gospel reading tries to get us to understand a little bit more of what Jesus is like.  A poet will use simile and metaphor to convey a stronger and more definitive point, and so it is here with Jesus.   In 1st Century Palestine a shepherd went before his sheep, leading them and calling them with his voice.  The voice of the shepherd comes up a lot in this passage, the voice, not the words, not the nice collection of little phrases, the voice, for the voice connects the listener with the speaker.  As we gather here today in church, listen for the voice of Jesus, quiet your hearts and minds, as we partake in the Eucharist, and in the singing of hymns and speak the words of the liturgy.  The voice of Jesus speaks today, here and now.  He speaks forgiveness and hope, He calls for repentance and trust, his voice comforts the downtrodden and weary.  He speaks in the Eucharist, an outward sign of an invisible grace, where in laying down his life he brings abundant life.  He speaks in the gospel reading, he speaks in the children’s laughter and he speaks in our pain.  Listen for the voice of Jesus.  
So we hear the voice of the good shepherd, a shepherd who leads his sheep to better pastures.  The voice calls us to follow, to follow the shepherd who knows what is best for us, to follow him when the sun is shining down on us, when the rain is falling in torrents, when the stones hurt our feet, when we can’t see where we’re headed, and can’t remember the way we have been.  We are to follow him when darkness enshrouds us, when we reach the mountain tops and the view takes our breath away, when success lands at our feet. We are to follow him. Follow in the dust of his shoes. Knowing that he laid down his life,  that he has walked the path we have walked, he has felt our joys, our highs and our lows, he has wept with the mourning, laughed with those who were laughing, he worked as we work, he got splinters in his hands! This shepherd we follow laid down his life, died, went to the darkest depths, and rose to life on that Easter Sunday morning.   The marvellous and wonderful thing about the call to follow is that it is for everyone, it is for the youngest to the oldest, it is for the weak and for the strong, it is for the happy, and for the sad, it is for the lovely and the not so lovely.  The call of Christ is for everyone.  I urge you now to consider this call, whether for the first time or for the thousandth time, the call of Christ is as relevant today as it ever will be.  Follow the good shepherd.  
As we follow, as we walk in the dust of his shoes, we begin to know our shepherd, “I know my own and my own know me” says Jesus in the gospel reading.  In the building trade, and other professions one learns their craft by watching, being with, and emulating what the teacher is doing.  The learner becomes apprentice to the teacher.   As we listen to Jesus voice, follow on the path he leads we are apprentice to him, learning his ways.   Things are a bit different as his physical presence is not with us, but as Teresa of Avila said, “Christ has no body now on earth but yours, no hands but yours, no feet but yours.”  So we learn to follow Christ from those who have trodden the path a while longer than us, do you struggle knowing how to pray? Find someone who has got an idea.  If you don’t know one end of the Bible from the other, get alongside someone who knows a little more, the path we walk is not one we walk alone, we walk it together.   Each week, gathered together here and across the globe Christians gather together to celebrate, to worship, and to encounter the risen Jesus, there is something in this experience that also helps us to know more of the “good shepherd”.
I have spoken quite explicitly about our need to listen to the voice of Jesus, follow him, and know him.  Yet, something greater, more exciting, more surprising perhaps is that the shepherd we follow, is the shepherd who “brings” his sheep not yet of his fold, to himself, he goes to find the one that is lost when the ninety nine remain.  He longs to bring us from death into life,   the one who made us, and fashioned us, and knows us, wants to bring us into his fold, into his kingdom where we can be who we were made to be.  He meets us where we are,  I heard it put like this once:
“I am the good shepherd,” says Jesus so that shepherds will understand,
“I am the true vine” so that gardeners will understand,
“I am the light of the world” so that electricians will understand,
“I am the way,” so that search and rescue teams understand,
“I am the truth” so that politicians will understand,
“I am the life” so that undertakers will understand,
“I am the alpha and omega, the first and the last” so that historians will understand,
“I am the bread of life” so that bakers will understand,
“I am the living water” so that plumbers will understand,
He is “the righteous one” so that lawyers will understand,
“The cornerstone” so that builders will understand, “I am“ says Jesus. 
Izzy is going to be baptised this morning, baptism being another outward sign of an invisible grace, in that in baptism we die with Christ, and so we are raised to life in Christ.  What has baptism, got to do with our gospel reading? Baptism is the start of the road, is the bringing into the fold, where the baptised begins their journey of faith and discovery, together with the church.  It’s the start of our listening to the voice of Jesus, it is the start of our following Jesus, and the start of our knowing him more intimately. 
It is quite apt that we had a reading from acts, where we hear of the early church, working out what a church is like, where as part of following Jesus, how this expresses itself in the community.  This is as relevant to us here today as it was then.  For we need to ask ourselves, not just individually, what does following Jesus look like in church? We have a great tradition that forms our expression of worship, but I am not just talking about the worship on Sundays, I am talking about church, on Monday, on Tuesday, on Wednesday, Thursday Friday, even Saturday.  How do we live as a church community that expresses our faith, not just inwardly but in how we live, on a day to day basis?
As we come near to the close hear the words of Jesus, “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” To hear the voice of Jesus, to heed his call, and to follow in his footsteps, beginning to know him is where we begin to live an abundant life, a life full of love, of grace, mercy and forgiveness. Let us pause for a moment to reflect - listen to the voice of Jesus follow him, and know him,


David Masters said...

Fr. Simon Cutmore said...

Thanks David. I will post the Wordle. Ben did really really well...