Tuesday, March 04, 2008

 

A sheep hears his master's voice . . .

Today I was reading in John's Gospel and came across the familiar passage about the Good Shepherd. Here is what the Word of God says to us:

John 10

14 "I am the good shepherd, and I know My own and My own know Me, 15 even as the Father knows Me and I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep. 16 "I have other sheep, which are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they will hear My voice; and they will become one flock with one shepherd. 17 "For this reason the Father loves Me, because I lay down My life so that I may take it again. 18 "No one has taken it away from Me, but I lay it down on My own initiative. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This commandment I received from My Father."

The words that caught my attention in this passage were the words sheep, shepherd, voice and hear. The idea is obvious--the sheep know their shepherd and listen to his voice. The shepherd loves the sheep and is willing to die on their behalf. The sheep follow the shepherd because he loves them and they know he loves them.

Today Jesus continues to call to his sheep. Are we listening? Do we think so highly of our Shepherd that we pause to hear and to get to know his voice? Are we paying attention?

C. S. Lewis addresses a similar issue in Mere Christianity:


The real problem of the Christian life comes where people do not usually look for it. It comes the very moment you wake up each morning. All your wishes and hopes for the day rush at you like wild animals. And the first job each morning consists simply in shoving them all back; in listening to that other voice, taking that other point of view, letting that other larger, stronger, quieter life come flowing in. And so on, all day. Standing back from all your natural fussings and frettings; coming in out of the wind.
Each morning there is a voice calling to us. Do we hear it?

Oh, there may well be a cacophany of voices in your mind/heart! I know there often is a raucous and rowdy group of them in mine!

"Don't forget your work! Don't forget that e-mail or project you promised! Don't forget to play with your children! Don't forget to read your Bible!"

The voices vie for my attention even as my mind tries to shake the cobwebs of sleep and regain some semblance of focus. I hear them every morning. As Lewis notes, they rush at me.

What voices call us away from the Voice? Do you hear him? God is calling--"come to me, all who are weary and I will give you rest."

"Take my burden upon you."

"All you like sheep have gone astray."

"Come to me. I love you."

The imagery of coming out of the wind is a good one. Lewis reminds us to leave the wind of the voices calling us to busy-ness so that we can stop to listen to the one Voice that matters. God's call matters.

There is something about the call of God that transforms us when we hear it and respond. It isn't what we do, it is the very fact that God in his grace and kindness "called" us, spoke to us, singled us out, so to speak.

As Dietrich Bonhoeffer says in The Cost of Discipleship:


The call of Jesus makes the disciple community not only the salt but also the light of the world: their activity is visible, as well as imperceptible. "You are the light." Once again it is not: "you are to be the light," they are already the light because Christ has called them. They are a light which is seen of men, they cannot be otherwise, and if they were it would be a sign that they had not been called. How impossible, how utterly absurd it would be for the disciples--these disciples, such men as these!--to try and become the light of the world! No. They are already the light and the call has made them so. Nor does Jesus say: "You have the light." The light is not an instrument which has been put into their hands, such as their preaching. It is the disciples themselves. By an amazing act of mercy, they are the light.
When God speaks, something changes. The very call to discipleship changes us. As in the beginning when God simply spoke things into existence, his Word continues to breathe creative life into the heart of humanity (see John 1). His Word enlightens us, illuminates our dark lives, transforms us into the light of the world.

God speaks, something happens. Light comes into being. Darkness is confused, overcome, ruined. God speaks, light breaks forth.

God calls, and we become salt and light. Every part of us becomes a testimony to the kindness of God. Every aspect of our life bleeds his kindness, his love, his grace, his mercy, his call.

Oh, and let's remember--He calls us, we don't call him.

May we pray as A. W. Tozer prayed:

Lord, teach me to listen
The times are noisy
and my ears are weary with the thousand raucous sound which continuously
assault them.
Give me the spirit of the boy Samuel,
When he said to you, "Speak, for your servant hears."
Let me hear you speaking in my heart.
Let me get used to the sound of your voice, that its tones may be
familiar when the sounds of faith die away,

And the only sound will be the music of
your speaking Voice.


God speaks, we listen, stuff happens.

Wow!

Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift!

Thank you for reading!

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