Sermon for 4th Sunday of Easter, Year C
Based on Ps. 23; Rev. 7:16-17; Jn. 10:22-30
“The Good Shepherd”
Our psalm, second lesson and gospel for today all employ the metaphor of God as Shepherd and people as sheep. Most of us find comfort in the metaphor of God as Shepherd. However, when it comes to the metaphor of people as sheep; a lot of us protest and become rather indignant—we’re not dumb and blind like sheep, are we? We don’t easily fall astray or get lost very easy, do we? No one is able to fool, trick or deceive us by “pulling the wool over our eyes,” are they?
In our psalm, second lesson and gospel, the sheep are pictured as following the shepherd, recognizing and listening to the shepherd’s voice. But I wonder, do we as sheep of Christ our Good Shepherd always follow him? Do we as sheep of Christ’s flock always recognize and listen to his voice?
Many of you who’ve watched CBC television for a long time have likely seen the program, “Front Page Challenge.” The program frequently has hidden their familiar guests and attempts to disguise their voices. On a number of occasions, the illustrious panel members have failed to identify the hidden guest’s voice—on other occasions, they have been very discerning by recognizing the voice.
Most of us have also had similar experiences when answering the telephone. Sometimes we receive a call from someone whom we know but maybe haven’t talked with or seen for a long time. Sometimes we might recognize their voice, while at other times, we might not.
Another experience some of you maybe can identify with is getting lost as a child or losing a child in a crowded public place. That’s got to be one of the most terrifying experiences in the world. In panic, the parents will yell out the child’s name or the child will yell out for their parents. One of the most joyful scenes one could ever witness is the reunion of parents and their children when they hear each other’s voices and are led out of their lostness by finding one another.
Jesus says: “My sheep hear my voice, I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one will snatch them out of my hand.” These are very comforting words to us all; some of the most comforting we’re ever likely to hear. Yet, I wonder: do we as Christ’s sheep really listen to; really hear Christ’s voice? Do we really follow Christ?
There are so many voices speaking to us in our world today. The mass media, especially through advertising, speaks with a very influential, manipulative, seductive voice. So many people in our society literally “buy into” this voice of the mass media advertising industry. It preaches a message of endless greed and consumerism. It tells us: “You must have this, that, or the other thing. You can have anything you want. Satisfy your every want, you deserve it, you can have it all.” This message is not the voice of Christ. It stops at nothing to exploit people and all of the world’s resources. It is a message of death; it is killing us by making the poor poorer, the rich richer and by polluting our environment and depleting all of the earth’s resources. It is also a lie, because it would lead people to believe that our ultimate needs can be met by buying and possessing consumer goods. Our ultimate needs can only be met be being in loving relationships with God and one another.
According to Robert Waznak: We now have a two-class society, the information rich and the information poor. In such a world information is power. But the irony of our age is that the very information technology that was supposed to liberate us has begun to control us. Let’s face it; our new information-based technology has brought us neither earthly bliss nor eternal salvation. In a world with so much available information, it’s tricky to know just what information is central for our lives. In a world with so many voices over so many cables and computers, we are beginning to wonder whose voice we should listen to. 1
There are indeed many fraudulent voices; many voices on the Internet and even on the telephone, radio and television trying to “pull the wool over our eyes.” Do we listen to them or do we recognize them for what they really are—as false voices leading us away from the voice of Christ our Good Shepherd?
There are a lot people who place more trust in the voice of the horoscope columnist or the psychic, or any number of cult and sectarian leaders than they do the voice of Christ. Is this what Christ wants us to do? Is this what he has taught us to do? Did he say follow your horoscope? Did he say follow your psychic? Did he say follow any cult or sectarian leader that comes along? NO! We are to place our trust in God, not the stars. We are to place our trust in God and God’s word, not some psychic who uses other powers than that of God’s to manipulate life. We are to place our trust in God, not some false Messianic cult or sectarian leader who offers us a fraudulent salvation.
Most people who fall prey to all of the false voices in our world today lack a deep understanding of God and God’s word. That’s why it’s so important for us as followers of Christ’s voice to be diligent in our reading and study of scripture and to pray daily; to attend worship weekly; these disciplines keep us more receptive to the voice of Christ. If we pay more heed to all of the other competing voices, then the voice of Christ becomes more difficult to hear and discern. Whose voice are you listening to? Whose voice do you trust and follow?
Today the psalmist reminds us that the voice of our Good Shepherd is the one who protects us, waters and feeds us and cares for all of our needs. He is the one, who, in our second lesson is not only the Lamb sacrificed for our sin, but also the Shepherd who promises us that one day: we will hunger and thirst no more; sun and scorching heat will not strike us; he will guide us to springs of living water and wipe away every tear. What a marvellous promise that is! He is the one who, in our gospel reassures us: he knows us and we know shall never perish or be snatched away from him. If we listen to his voice, he shall always be with us and we with him. Do you believe the promises of all the other voices in our world or the promises of God’s word? Are you listening to the voices of so many in our world today or are you listening to our Good Shepherd’s voice? May God grant us the grace and discernment necessary not to be led astray by all of the competing, false voices in our world today; by recognizing, listening to and following the true voice of our Good Shepherd.