“They hear my voice,” he said. He was
talking about us.
Really? Do we?
Do you hear voices?
Yes, I would say you do. I sure do!
Do we listen? Can we really hear?
Frank – the little story goes – was worried that
the lady he married forty years ago was growing deaf. So one day
when she was working in the garden, he went out, stood on the
other side of the yard, about thirty feet behind her, and called
Frank came fifteen feet closer. “Mary!”
Still no answer. Frank was getting worried. Worse than I expected,
He went up right behind her, almost touching, as she knelt over
her planting. “Mary!”
This time a response: “For the third time, Frank, what
We can hardly blame Frank for having trouble hearing –
could hardly blame Mary, if it were her problem.
Their world – our world – has gotten louder. We hear
thousand of voices – all the time. Our ears get assaulted
so much, that it’s a wonder we can hear the quiet, intimate,
gentle voices at all. We hear so much that’s just noise.
We hear lots of talk, lots of yelling, lots of loud, loud music.
Ads play on TV several decibels louder than the programs they
interrupt. People who can’t really sing shout their way
into short-lived fame – “idols,” rap stars,
even quasi-famous people tossing in-your-face provocations and
insults in the name of art or “free-speech.”
We hear plenty of voices. Are they the ones we most want to hear?
– most need to hear?
Just lately we’ve been made privy to people ranting at
their daughter on voice mail. Did we want to hear that? I feel
like I’ve accidentally overheard a horrible family quarrel;
it makes me uncomfortable. More important question: what does
it make the poor daughter feel like, having the whole country
– maybe most of the world – hear her father saying
those things about her?
Is that fair? Don’t kids have it hard enough just dealing
with the nasty things they sometimes have to put up with from
their classmates? – or the offensive things schoolmates
might put on the Internet about them? And now… why does
one pre-teen girl have to deal with even more junk people can
throw up to her? Do we care what troubles our children have to
We’ve heard another voice lately, too. A college student
flipped out one day recently down in Virginia after years of not
being able to deal with what the world threw at him. We’ve
seen and heard his rants and his anger in just about every form
of media there is. (Not in movies yet, but wait a few months.)
One of the things heaped on him in his young life was the taunting
he received during his school years from kids who were…
– well, honestly – maybe just afraid of his demeanor
and his shyness and his not-quite-“American” speech
patterns. I wonder if maybe he heard too many abusive voices.
Maybe his elementary or high school classmates also had heard
their own wrong set of voices. Could that be what made them afraid
of someone different, someone not “like them”?
There are now many of us who can’t think of all that without
tears. There are many now who wish we – or someone –
could have added in all those young lives some kind words of encouragement,
of empathy, of understanding.
See, there’s that about us: we’ve heard some other
voices – you and I have. We know of Someone who was taunted
and maybe we’ve wept or felt sorry for Him. We’ve
heard Him say we should not return insult, even for insults hurled
at us. We’ve heard Him say some challenging things about
“turning the other cheek.”
Not only that – we’ve seen Him do what he talked
about. A month ago we all gathered here in church and we heard
and read about how crowds went so quickly from “Hosanna”
to “Crucify Him!” Likely, we heard our own voices
– our own voices! – say, “Crucify Him,”
for that’s how we almost always proclaim the Passion of
Jesus to one another on Palm Sunday and Good Friday.
On those days, too, we experienced Saint Peter’s denial:
“I do not know the man!” Maybe we were among those
who said it – maybe not in the reading of the Passion –
maybe sometimes we’ve said it with our daily lives “outside
What was Jesus’ response to all that? We heard that just
last Sunday: “Simon Peter, do you love me?” Again
the words of Jesus – this time reaching out with healing
for a man who was afraid and said things he regrets.
What about us? Did we hear Jesus’ words – I mean,
really hear them? Can we answer the way Peter did?
Of course, we can’t do that unless we really do hear Jesus’
voice. Unless we’re open to hearing Him still – coming
along with us in our lives, and, as Paul and Barnabas did in Antioch,
giving us encouragement and challenging us with His word. Maybe
we should say, challenging us with the Word that he is!
Jesus has indeed spoken to our hearts and has given us his word.
As he did to Simon Peter, he asks for our love. Can we hear him?
We’re not deaf, are we? Deaf like Frank in my little story
back there – not knowing we’re deaf – thinking
it’s all someone else’s problem.
And then this –
Christ’s sheep – even (or especially!) the young lambs
– need to hear encouragement from us. Not more ranting and
berating. Not insults and stupidities about how different some
people look or how differently they talk, or where they come from.
Not put-downs and clichés in the face of difference and
newness. Nor attempts at limiting God’s care and mercy and
love just to people who are “like us.”
“Do you love me?” he said.
Do we? Can we love others in his name – “people of
every tribe and nation and tongue”?
Against all the background of so much noise and so many values
far, far from what we know to be Jesus’ message –
in the midst of all that, do we really hear the voice of Jesus
and is he the one we follow?
He is the One we follow, isn’t He? He is the One in whom
we place our faith….
We believe in one God….