My sheep hear My voice

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John 10:22-30 & Acts 9:36-43
4th Sunday in Easter
(21-4-13)

Jesus said ‘My sheep hear my voice’. Not CAN hear my voice. Not SHOULD hear my voice. Jesus said ‘My sheep hear my voice’.

You may well be thinking: sometimes I do, I never do, sometimes I THINK I do but not sure it is His voice. Some of you might think this is a nice idea, but really Linda, get real it just doesn’t happen nowadays.

But, for a moment forget about hearing the Shepherd’s voice, are you a sheep in the first place? Jesus didn’t say intelligent, articulate, good, kind people hear my voice. He said ‘My sheep hear My voice’. Perhaps we need to get back to the basics of asking if we are a sheep?

Jesus wasn’t really referring to fat, grubby white, woolly four-legged animals living, and bleating in the fields. Jesus isn’t even referring in the derogatory way we use the term of ‘following like sheep’ either.

Sheep get lost quite easily because they keep their heads down nibbling grass. Focussed on feeding they lose track of where they’re heading, wandering further away until they don’t know the way back to the sheep fold unless the shepherd goes and brings him back.

That’s how it is with us. The sheepfold’s the church; we can easily get lost and wander here and there. We too need the shepherd to bring us home.

Like sheep we can be rather witless. Many animals can be trained. Not sheep. Human sheep like to think they’re rather smart. Some have walked on the moon. Most can surf the web and discover vast amounts of information, which can lead us to think we know better than God! We know how to fix life, we know better ways.

Unfortunately this leads to us not being smart and wise enough to pray every day, go to Church on Sunday and follow God’s basic directions for life. Many times we’re SO stupid that we even do things that KNOW harm us.

Sheep are WEAK- they don’t have ways of protecting themselves like many animals do. They need the shepherd’s protection and it’s much the same for us. Without THE Shepherd’s protection we’d be in the devils hands and consequently dead.

BUT usually sheep do stick close to each other – which is safer. A lone sheep is easy prey. Sheep shouldn’t go off on their own, neither should we. We’re called to part of a flock and under the care of a shepherd.

Despite all of this, sheep are valuable. They provide meat, milk and wool. In Jesus’ day shepherds made great sacrifices to protect them. Often we may feel we’re not worth much but the Good Shepherd sacrificed His life for us.

Sheep are WARY. Remarkably they know their master’s voice and instinctively fear other voices, fleeing from them. This means they’re actually smarter than most of us who regularly listen to the enemy’s voice without being aware we’re even doing so. We pay vast sums of money to feast on stuff on TV and the Internet that’s harmful to us and our children. We should endeavor to be more wary and listen for that one, safe, voice of the Shepherd.

How can we listen when we’re surrounded by so many other voices in today’s world?

I’m a real Archers fan. I do my best to listen every day. Considering its on every evening and repeated every afternoon its amazing how many times I miss it – even though it matters to me. (Thank goodness for podcasts!) When I miss it because I’m busy I often think about other people I know who will be listening to it. Because I’m not tuned in it doesn’t mean its not there. It is there in the airwaves, I could hear it if I tuned in!

Sometimes it takes too much time, effort, and attention to tune in. I’m in the wrong room, or the radio is tuned in to something else. But mostly its because I’m busy doing something else.

God is constantly transmitting His voice to His sheep, but few are turned on and tuned in. Funnily enough there will be many Christians pleading with God in prayer, probably about various problems without realizing their REAL problem is with their receivers. God is already speaking and trying to get a word-in-edgwise. We can be tuned in but not listening. Sometimes the Archers is on but I don't hear it because I’m on the phone or talking to someone.

Our lifestyles are so busy. Someone recently was asked how they were and replied ‘busier than a one-arm paper hanger’. One of the main reasons we don't hear the Shepherd’s voice is that we're too busy. Most of us know that God speaks to us in a still, small voice – no wonder it’s often drowned out in the midst of hectic daily lives.

But there’s another VERY important reason why we don’t hear Him sometimes. Unfortunately many people mistake God’s voice for what is really their own thoughts. This is a real difficulty because God speaks to us via His Spirit. We’re used to communicating mouth to ear or brain to brain.

God rarely says ‘do this or that’. Instead He breathes into our Spirit. This usually makes us think ‘I think I should’ and it needs testing out with other Christians or waiting upon for confirmation. God often prompts us in ways that are not our ways (going to Derbyshire when I wanted to stay in London).

We often miss God’s voice in listening to our desires. Sometimes we even have a hint we’re doing this. Have you ever done something stupid and afterwards said, "I knew it was the wrong thing to do." You didn't feel right about your decision, but followed your own logic only to find that your ‘impression’ was really God speaking. So really we’re tuning God out and no longer listening to Him. If this goes on for long we might forget what He sounds like!

Sometimes we don’t recognize His voice because we’re not expecting to. Like being in a strange place or large crowd and suddenly seeing someone you’re not expecting to be there?

In the middle of a situation God can show up when we’re not expecting Him to, and we don’t recognize Him!

Let’s be honest sometimes we don’t want to hear His voice. We think we already know the answer we might not want to face up to something. Like someone not going to the doctor because he’ll only confirm what they don’t want to know.

Sometimes we’d prefer to listen to someone or something else’s voice. God said, “Be still and know that I’m God!” In order to do that, you have to listen to God in the stillness, not shut Him out with TV for instance.

Sometimes we don’t hear because He is silent. This is hard. Maybe He’s trying to make you think about something He’s just taught you? Maybe He’s not using His voice because silence is the best way to get your attention? People can give us the ‘silent treatment’ – it’s often an effective way of communicating with us by making us stop and think!

The fact that God calls us by name and chooses to speak to us is Amazing. The fact we often miss His voice because of any of the things should leave us speechless!

Today’s Acts reading is evidence that Peter listened to Jesus’ voice AND I don’t just mean because he raised Tabitha from death. More because of the way he did it.

The Peter of the Gospels jumped in with both feet. Walking on water, rushing to say he’d defend Christ. Here he sends people away, raising Tabitha in quiet and still. No audience. He’s obviously a changed man. As all of who hear Jesus’ voice should be and through the same manner of ways as Peter too.

He performed this miracle in accordance with scripture: Elijah in the Old Testament and Jesus with Jairus’ daughter.

He’d obviously listened closely to Jesus. This was contrary to his ‘usual’ nature. Last week I said about his name change, Simon = hearing to Peter = solid, firm, dependable.

Acts tell us he read the Scriptures with the other disciples, met with them (church!) and often it is other Christians who interpret what we hear from God, he prayed with them.

Prayer isn’t about success, winning or getting what we want. It’s about tuning our hearts and minds to God, no matter what life throws at us. Across today’s world, there’ll be tragedy, triumph, joy, pain, birth and bereavement. Prayer won’t change these things - it changes how we face them.

It changes us if we’re tuned in to the Shepherds voice. Amen.