This is an adapted form of the sermon I preached this morning, the Fourth Sunday of Easter. The gospel text was John 10:11-18.
Blah, blah, blah.
Today’s gospel mentions a voice, the voice of the Good Shepherd. The sheep hear his voice, and they follow him. There is only one Good Shepherd. His voice is the one worthy of following. My voice? Blah, blah, blah.
Sometimes my voice is not worth listening to. Sometimes my voice is just wrong. Today our youth are having a luncheon as a fundraiser, and it reminds me of a luncheon about fifteen years ago. The youth group at St. Andrew’s had a luncheon that day. I was the youth director there. I led the youth in holding that luncheon, but we misjudged how much food to get. As people came through the line, it appeared that there wouldn’t be enough for everyone. So I, the Youth Director, the leader, said this: “Boy, I’d better get some food before it’s all gone.” And I, the leader, the paid staff person, quickly made myself a plate before the last group of people arrived. The last group of people who arrived was the choir, and to make it worse, it was Music Appreciation Sunday at St. Andrew’s, so the choir worked really hard that day! Well, I got called into the pastor’s office the next day. You see, people had heard my voice. And it certainly wasn’t the voice of a shepherd. Not that day. That day, my voice was nothing more than blah, blah, blah.
There’s a pastor who ends sermons from time to time by saying, “Fifty percent of what I just said is wrong. The trouble is, I don’t know which fifty percent!” Well, I hope my accuracy runs higher than fifty percent, but it’s not a hundred. You can’t trust me to be right all the time. You can’t trust anyone to get it right all the time, including yourself. When it comes down to it, all of us, children, adults, teachers, farmers, pastors, presidents, popes, all of us…you know what we all are? We are all sheep. And everything we say is blaaa, blaaa, blaaa.
You’re a sheep surrounded by other sheep, but you hear a lot of voices throughout the week, voices trying to be your shepherd. Buy this, and you’ll be happy. Don’t go there or else. Eat this. Don’t eat that. Get a job. Keep your mouth shut. Sit down. Stand up. Vote for me. Don’t vote for him. Don’t listen to the fake news! Careful, or you’ll get fired. Give your money here. Don’t let them take your money. Spend more time at work. Spend more time at home. Spend more time with your family. Spend more time in prayer. Spend, spend, spend!
Voices and voices bleating and bleating that you don’t have enough. That you’re not good enough. You’re not doing it right. You’re not keeping up. You’re doing too much. You’re not doing enough. You don’t have enough. You’re not good enough. But I can fix you. My product can fix you. My book can fix you. The right candidate can fix you. Four easy payments of $19.95 can fix you. Because you don’t have enough. You’re not good enough.
So many voices. So much noise.
So much Blah, blah, blah.
Jesus said, “I am the Good Shepherd. I know my own and my own know me.” He said, “I call my own sheep by name, and they follow me because they know my voice.” With so many voices, so much noise, how can we hear his voice over all the others? How do we know which voice is his?
Jesus said, “I came that the sheep may have life, and have it abundantly.” We can know it’s the shepherd’s voice if it brings life. The voice of the Good Shepherd tells you that you are loved. The voice of the Good Shepherd tells you that you belong. The voice of the Good Shepherd tells you that you have enough, that you are enough, that you are made for great things. The voice of the Good Shepherd tells the truth that you’re a sinner, but in the same breath that you are forgiven. The voice of the shepherd tells the truth that there is pain in this world, that you will sometimes suffer, but in the same breath says that following him will lead you to abundant life in the midst of that suffering. The voice of the shepherd tells the truth that death is real, but in the same breath says: I have defeated death by laying down my life. I have defeated death, and I call you to myself, to live, in the face of death, to live abundantly.
And the voice of the Good Shepherd never calls to you alone. The shepherd calls the sheep together into one flock. One solitary Christian is not a follower of Christ. We are sheep, and the Shepherd calls us together into a flock. And not just us; the Shepherd calls many people beyond us, into one flock.
How do we know if it is the voice of the Shepherd? If it calls us to abundant life, and if it calls us together. The voice of the shepherd brings us together for abundance, and nourishes us together. The Shepherd nourishes us by laying down his life for us, and by feeding us with that very life. Take, eat; this is my body. Take, drink; this is my blood of the covenant. The voice of the Shepherd calls us together here, each week, and the body and blood of the Shepherd nourish us. Nourish us with the words, “God loves you, and you are enough.”
And when we are nourished with those words, they become part of us. Our blah, blah, blah, turns into, “God loves you, and you are enough.” And we say these words to one another; we become the voice of the Shepherd for each other.
And the voice of the Shepherd sends us out again, calling us to live this abundant life out in the world. To be the voice of the Shepherd in the world, to share this nourishment with those we encounter throughout the week. To tell them that God loves them, and they are enough.
But don’t take my word for it. I’m just a sheep, and this could be more blaa, blaa, blaa. Take the Good Shepherd’s word for it. In fact, take the Good Shepherd himself. Take his body. Take his blood. Be filled with his life, and with his hope. And together, let us keep listening for his voice.