St. Mary Nanoose Bay

May 12, 2019

John 10:22-30              

What is one of the most important needs a person has? We heard about it in today’s readings….. if you are thinking “to belong” you would be half right.  Because we all belong, we just don’t all know it. So the full answer would be, “To KNOW you belong.”             

You might not feel completely happy about your parentage or about your past, but the good news is that you belong to something bigger than your family of origin or even the family you created with someone you chose to be with. You belong to God.  Creator and created are one.  One cannot exist without the other. And the choice whether to believe that or not, is yours to make. From God’s end, your belonging is never in question. From your end, you decide whether you want to be in the circle of belonging or not.            

It seems to be a chicken and egg kind of situation. Do we hear Jesus’ voice because we believe, or, do we believe because we have heard Jesus’ voice?            

“My sheep hear my voice, I know them, and they follow me.”            

Why voice? Why does a “voice” lead, reassure and connect us?            

We hear earlier in John that in the beginning there was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. And all things came into being through him…            

And in Genesis, God spoke the world into being – God said, “let there be…..” and all the creatures and features of the world came to be.            

The word is one of the important ways we are able to connect with each other; through letters, email, discussion, phone calls, and so on.            

But equally important, is the tone with which the word is spoken. A word spoken with love from the heart has a different tone than a word spoken in anger or thoughtlessness.            

Jesus tells us that we will know him by his voice. And we know that what Jesus says will always free us, not oppress us. So even a difficult message, delivered in a loving tone is meant for our well being, not for ill.  So we know from the tone of the message we get whether the voice is divine or not.            

The tone, the feeling behind a voice, or the way through which a message is delivered is crucial.  I just have to think back to a recent Celebration of Life held here at St. Mary’s where a young woman sang a song to honour her grandmother. Nothing in that service touched me the way that young woman’s offering did. In fact, her song almost undid me!            

Music can touch our hearts in ways almost nothing else can. Except maybe, the sound of a loved one’s voice!            

I remember back to my younger days in Toronto when Jim and I were living in the same neighbourhood and bumping into each other occasionally. I thought he was a nice enough guy, but nothing special. And after all, he was a seminarian so - out of bounds.            

Then one night we were at a party where friends of ours who were in a band were entertaining us. I was in the kitchen and heard a request for someone to join them and sing. Minutes later I heard an incredibly beautiful rendition of  “Stormy Monday.” I peeked around the door to see who was singing. To my amazement, it was that seminarian, Jim Holland. My heart did a flip and started pounding. I knew I was in trouble. Was I ever! I recognized something in his voice that took me a long time to trust. A voice tells you a lot about someone. And with Jim it took me years to understand what it was that his voice had said to me.            

More recently, about 10 years ago I went to Italy to study abroad for my BA. One night I called home, lonely. And Jim and I talked for a long time. At the end the end of the conversation, I realized that I had been picturing Jim as the young man I had married. His voice still sounded the same. I told him as much and he responded, “Well, be prepared because it’s going to be a balding grey-haired man who will be picking you up from the airport.”            

Tone tells us so much.            

Our office manager told me, “I always know when you are talking to one of your sons. Even if I can’t hear the words, I know. Your voice sounds happy and excited.            

The words someone speaks may sound reliable but if their voice raises alarms inside, we know something is amiss. We need to pay attention to how people’s words land with us.            

Jesus tells us to trust the voice inside that promises us life, that lifts us up, that reassures us and comforts us. We can trust the friend whose voice is kind even when challenging us or confronting us with a truth we are avoiding.            

Love changes us for the better. Shame and punishment don’t; at least not in the long run.            

Love promises us real belonging. To the divine purpose and expression of life through us. Jesus says it clearly, “The Father and I are one,” and if Jesus is leading us and we are following, we are privy to that same deep connection and sense of belonging. “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.”            

We are safe, and the more we trust that, the more we follow, the more life we will have. The life that was, is, ever shall be. In full communion with the One who creates, sustains and loves us.            

So come to the table this morning, claim your place, and open your heart, and be nourished by the Shepherd to whom you belong…. absolutely!