Monday, April 14, 2008

April 13 Sermon, "A familiar Voice"

Sermon Texts
Psalm 23
John 10: 1-10

Here are my notes to this week's sermon. Feel free to comment.

Whose voice is most familiar to you? I enjoy hearing my son’s voice most of all, I think. It has become very familiar to me, and can rouse me out of a deep sleep even when thunder and a wife cannot.
That voice in your head. Probably most familiar. What you hear of your own voice. (Always sounds different when you hear yourself on tape, doesn’t it?)

Do you know the voice that Jesus is speaking about in this passage? Perhaps the voice of Jesus has a rich melodious tone for you. Perhaps it sounds like your father’s voice, or your friend’s. maybe it sounds like your own voice. However it sounds to you, we can know it by what it calls us towards.

23 is almost exclusively associated with a particular contemporary setting: the funeral service. To be sure, it is appropriate that Psalm 23 be read and heard in the midst of death and dying. It may be more important, however, that this psalm be read and heard as a psalm about living, for it puts daily activities, such as eating, drinking, and seeking security, in a radically God-centered perspective that challenges our usual way of thinking. Furthermore, it calls us not simply to claim individual assurance but also to take our place with others in the household of God.

Psalm 23 says, “he sets a table before me in the presence of mine enemies.” We can be sure that the voice that nudges us toward reconciliation is that voice of the shepherd.
Misinterpretation of this scripture: That he propped up and showed off in presence of his enemies.

I don’t mind calling the Lord my Shepherd, but I’ve never been too flattered by being called one of his sheep. I had hoped to be the eagle of the Lord, or maybe the cunning tiger. Sheep aren’t particularly smart. They scare easily, and have a knack for getting lost. Most of us don’t look lost. We haven’t fallen through society’s cracks into homelessness and poverty. But David would say, "Oh no. It is you who have lost your way in a relationship that’s offered more hurt than love, in a job that leaves you depleted and spent, or in the guilt of not being good enough, pretty enough or smart enough for someone whose judgment cuts deep."

We’re the only species who runs faster when we are lost.

Goodness and Mercy shall follow me….we shall follow goodness and mercy
Most translations suggest that God’s goodness and hesed will “follow” the psalmist, but the Hebrew verb (#dr rAdap) has the more active sense of “pursue.” God is in active pursuit of the psalmist! This affirmation is particularly noteworthy in view of “the presence of my enemies.” Ordinarily in the psalms, it is precisely the enemies who “pursue” the psalmist (see 7:5; 71:11; 109:16). Here the enemies are present but
have been rendered harmless, while God is in active pursuit.

In effect, to make Psalm 23 our words is to affirm that we do not need to worry about our lives (or our deaths). God will provide, and God’s provision is grounded in the reality of God’s reign. The proper response to the simple good news of Psalm 23 and Jesus Christ is to trust God. But this is precisely the rub. In a secular society, we are encouraged to trust first ourselves and to work first to secure our own lives and futures. Psalm 23 thus challenges us to affirm with the psalmist: “The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want.” To say that means to live humbly and gratefully as a child of God.

The third stanza of Isaac Watts’s beautiful metrical version of Psalm 23 expresses eloquently the simple trust that Psalm 23 communicates and commends to us:
The sure provisions of my God
Attend me all my days;
O may Your House be my abode,
And all my work be praise.
There would I find a settled rest,
While others go and come;
No more a stranger or a guest,
But like a child at home.125

Not only does Watts’s paraphrase capture the childlike trust articulated by Psalm 23, recalling Jesus’ words about entering the reign of God “like a little child” (Mark 10:15 NIV), but also it calls to our attention the communal dimension of Psalm 23.
To be a child at home means inevitably to be part of a family, to share community around a table (see v. 5). Thus we are led to reflect on what it means to be a part of God’s household (see v. 6). The implications are profound and radical: We are not our own! We belong to God and to one another! Aubrey R. Johnson’s rendering of Psalm 23:6:
Yea, I shall be pursued in unfailing kindness every day of my life,
finding a home in the Household of Yahweh for many a long year.

The voice of the shepherd calls us toward reconciliation and refreshment He’s calling us toward a deep trust in the provision of God and an experience of abundance in simplicity. He’s calling us home

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