4th Weekend of Easter - 5-8-2022

4th Weekend of Easter - 5-8-2022

May 08, 2022 | Bryan Simmons

Passage: John 10:22-30

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    Well, happy Mother's Day to those of you out there that are mothers and those of you that act motherly towards others. It's a great benefit for us all that mothers exist. And I think about mothers, too, and I think about this, this idea of Jesus and shepherding. I think about how you if remember being a kid, and some of you do, there was always these moments where you were really locked in on something and just so hyper-focused, right? Your mother could call for you and it didn't matter. You heard the voice probably, but whatever you were doing was way more interesting.

    I have a feeling that is very similar to Jesus, the Great Shepherd of the sheep, and the similar experience that Jesus probably feels in speaking with us as well. We are sheep. We belong to the fold of God. And we are here again, once again to talk about it on this Shepherd Sunday. Shepherd Sunday is an interesting one because we always have this focus text from somewhere in the Gospel of John, where Jesus is talking about this being the Great Shepherd. Some years are a little stranger than other where Jesus talks about being the Gate to the the Sheepfold. And that's a little odd to talk about, but this one is a little more interesting I think. It has to do more with Jesus voice and in speaking to the sheep. And the strange dichotomy of: if you belong to the Shepherd, you hear the Shepherds voice. And if you don't, you don't. And I think sometimes people have gotten a little carried away with that and they've taken that to mean that if you hear the Shepherd's voice, you're in, and everybody else is out -- and and ought to be almost shamed for it. And that's not really the case at all in talking to this.

    And I think it's one of those things, too, where I think we we are sheep and we do belong to Jesus. But I think it's easy to stray from time to time. I think it's easy to NOT hear the voice of Jesus from time to time. And that doesn't make us in or out, it just makes that dichotomy true. There are times that we act in a way that is very following of the Great Shepherd. There are times when we don't. And I think some of that has to do with the voice itself. We know that God speaks in a still, small voice. Remember Elijah on the mountain? The Great Fire and the Great Wind and the Great Earthquake? God was not in that, but the still, small voice afterwards. That's not the only way God speaks, of course, but it seems to be a very standard way that God speaks.

    We do know that God speaks in a very booming, thunderous voice as well, the kind that the Israelites were afraid of in Exodus. But I think sometimes we want that voice. We don't want to have to read scripture and think about these these ancient times and try to decipher and decode and all these things. We just want God to speak plainly, come down and speak to us in that booming, thunderous voice like you did in the Exodus to Moses. That way we can know for sure, once and for all, what you want from us, right?

    The reality is that God has spoken very plainly. And God has spoken very plainly through Jesus Christ. The most plain message we have is the person and work of Jesus. The Son of God born for you and me dies on a cross, rises again on the third day so that we may know forgiveness, and love and peace from our creator. That is the most powerful message in all of history about who God is and what God is about. And it is true that God does speak to people. Some people hear a literal voice of God, and that's that's good. That is an accurate, you know, fair testimony to how they are experiencing God.

    I don't think a lot of people have that. I don't think scripture really relays it that way. I've never had a literal voice of God in my head, and I don't think that makes my testimony any less true. And I think it's, I think it just really expresses that that idea of this still, small voice. And I think the trouble for us especially is that this still, small voice is getting harder and harder to hear. We have a society just full of noise. Completely full of noise. 24 seven News. We have something to be angry about and talking about all the time. We are bombarded from the moment we wake up getting our car to drive somewhere and you hear the radio and the ads on the radio. There's just no real good time to just stop and BE, and hear that still, small voice. There's a lot of things that distract us that that get us carried away to the point that, you know, and even those things that are that are good, that that we ought to be doing that seem to be in the will of God get us distracted as well, sometimes from God's voice in our lives. And it's one -- hang on. (checks smartphone) Kristen Bell may have the best Mother's Day plans of all! Well, good for her. I think that's really neat. What were we talking about?

    Pr. Ryan: "Boy, that sounds like some clickbait there."

    That was some clickbait for sure, I think. Distractions come easy, and especially in this technological society we are in these things are designed to hijack our brains and get us focused on IT instead. Documentary after documentary is showing that this is to be true. And I'm a little afraid of that myself. I don't know about the rest of you, but it is you know, this still, small voice in the distractions that we have. It's it would be easy to, you know, want that voice to happen.

    And I think about my own call story to becoming a pastor. And it wasn't as simple as: "Bryan, you ought to be a pastor." But it really was this lifelong journey of of listening and discerning and, you know, hearing voices externally and this call, this tug internally as well. It happened over many years being a kid sitting in the pew, wondering what I would say if I was up here and going on my journey of business and getting my business degree and then answering the call later on in life. It's a journey. It's a process. And I don't know if that was true for you, too, Ryan, or not.

    Pr. Ryan: "Well, God tended to yell at me a lot, but..."

    Oh, yell at you?!

    Pr. Ryan: "Keeps happening too. I'm not sure what that means."

    Must have been an easier process, I guess.

    Pr. Ryan: "You know your stand, that's for sure."

    But it is a process. It is a process of listening and trying to focus for that still, small voice. And I think the focus can become a problem, too, because sometimes you know, it's so easy to lose focus and distraction. But I think sometimes it's so hard to focus as well. And I got a little game we're going to play. We're going to watch a video here called Whodunit. If you've seen the video before, don't spoil it for other people. But your job is to listen to the facts of the case here and find out who killed this poor person. It's a little clue action here. So let's take a look.


    Clearly somebody in this room murdered Lord Smythe, who at precisely 3:34 this afternoon was brutally bludgeoned to death with a blunt instrument. I want each of you to tell me your whereabouts at precisely the time that this dastardly deed took place.

    I was polishing the brass in the master bedroom.

    I was buttering his lordship's scones below stairs. So.

    What? I was planting my petunias in the potting shed.

    Constable. Arrest Lady Smythe. But how did you know?

    Madam? As any horticulturists will tell you, one does not plant petunias until May is out. Take her away, madam. It's just a matter of observation. The real question is, how observant were you?

    But clearly somebody in this room murdered Lord Smythe, who at precisely 3:34 for this afternoon was brutally bludgeoned to death with a blunt instrument. I want each of you to tell me your whereabouts at precisely the time that this dastardly deed took place.

    I was polishing the brass in the master bedroom.

    I was buttering his lordship's scones below stairs. So.

    But I was planting my petunias in the potting shed.

    Constable. Arrest Lady Smythe.

    All right. Yeah. This is a campaign to see cyclists, and they've made a few of those types of videos. And one of them was to focus on how many passes basketball players were making with each other. But did you see the Moonwalking Bear? And there's a there's a guy in a bear suit moonwalking through him. And you really don't see it the first time because you're so focused on those basketballs. But, you know, there's always one in every crowd. Raise your hand if you did notice changes during the video. Of course. Yeah, there's always one.

    But it's, you know, you get so focused on something that it becomes to the neglect of something else. And you can even be really focused on listening to that still, small voice and still have it be to the neglect of something else.

    A really fun sermon Pastor Bryan ...

    It's true. I agree. It's not very fun. It feels kind of hopeless because there's just so much to do and so much to think about. It's a big world, after all. But the beauty of it is this Christian message that we have. Is that it's not something to shame us over. It would be really easy to be standing in this pulpit and saying, You're not listening to the voice of God enough. Shame on you. Get the distractions out of your life. Refocus. Be a better Christian. But that kind of neglects the point of all of this. If it was about being a better person in the first place, Jesus wouldn't need to have come to do what Jesus did for you and for me. We do want that in our lives. So we want this desire for this one way that I can accomplish this and and feel good about myself and, you know, this this booming voice of God to come forward, this power of Jesus to harness. But that's not the point. That's not the point.

    Jesus's life, death and resurrection is not about power. After all, Jesus could have -- with all the power of God -- stopped the cross from happening. But that moment was for you and for me. To show Jesus's authority. To show the ultimate testament of love, the ultimate sacrifice for you and for me. So that you and I may know that we have a God of love, a creator that is on our side, that is for us. That this Jesus, the Great Shepherd of the sheep welcomes all of us into Jesus's fold. We are of separate flocks. And we have sometimes pretty good differences of opinion with other flocks. But Jesus continues to welcome us into the fold as one in the body of Christ.

    And it's not up to just us individually to do it all. It's up to us collectively whether that's strengthening each other here with the good news, whether that's going out into the world mingling with the other flocks, whether they're other church bodies or whether there are people that don't believe this at all. We are so long as we exist of a mind of mission. We are to proclaim this good news. We are to be led by the Great Shepherd of the sheep in this way of love. And when our focus gets too strong that we neglect other things and when we get too distracted anyway to do it at all? The beauty of this message is that it is not shame on you that you're not doing enough, but that Jesus continues to speak.

    Jesus continues to speak to you in that still, small voice. Jesus continues to pursue you as the Great Shepherd of the sheep. So that you may continue to be forgiven, continue to be welcomed, continue to be encouraged to share this good news out in the world to others. So that we as one in the body can create a large fold. This is about Jesus's authority as the Good Shepherd. The authority of love in our lives that has been shown to us through the great death and resurrection of Jesus that we celebrate in this Easter season. This is about forgiveness. This is about listening to the voice of Jesus, but not worrying about the moments that we don't. Because we can continue to keep trying, keep focusing, keep moving forward as one in the body of Christ.

    Jesus will continue to speak. That is the promise. In fact, the promise of Jesus was what? When Jesus leaves us and goes into heaven, that we would have another advocate: the Comforter, the Spirit. Jesus continues to speak to us through this Spirit, for you and for me. Little preview of coming attractions to Pentecost Sunday. So we are God's sheep. It is up to God that we are God's sheep. For it is God that is the one that is doing the speaking. Let us continue to search for the voice. Let us continue to pick ourselves up when we get distracted. Let us continue to work together for the sake of the kingdom so that all may know God's good love. Amen.