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  • The Rev. Arianne Rice

This is the Voice!

Easter 4, 4/25/21

The voice of the Lord is a powerful voice. The voice of the Lord breaks the cedars. The voice of the Lord is over the waters. The God of glory thunders.

That’s my paraphrase of some of Psalm 29. This morning we heard the more familiar Psalm 23. Both of which were written at least 500 years before Jesus.

And, it seems to me – that in this morning’s Good Shepherd gospel – on Good Shepherd Sunday – when we hear the Good Shepherd psalm – Jesus is giving a fresh take on both.

The voice of the Lord – who is the Good Shepherd.

So I wonder – why? Why does Jesus use this image of the Good Shepherd – and what is it about the voice that Jesus wants us to know?

I’ll tell you one thing – when I was in seminary – our chaplain told us – y’all better memorize some scripture – specifically – memorize Psalm 23 – because you will go into rooms and places and you won’t have a prayer book. And that was good and true advice.

I can say it right now – and you’d know most of it – the Lord is my shepherd I shall not want – he makes me lie down in green pastures and leads me besides still waters – he revives my soul and guides me along right pathways for his namesake – yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I shall fear no evil – for you are with me – your rod and your staff they comfort me – you spread a table before me in the presence of my enemies and my cup is running over.

Surely – your goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

What is it about that psalm? I have prayed it with people who are making that journey and yes – they are asleep – but then their lips move – or then they start to speak – or whisper – or just give some indication that they are taking in those words.

What is it about that psalm? I could tell you the prayer book history of it – and when it came into use – but – the lord is my shepherd I shall not be in want – that is why we all know that psalm. Because it resonates with something we don’t just want, we need.

A friend of mine in DC – who is healthy as can be – a few years ago hiked the Applachain trail – and this week – this week was supposed to start hiking the Pacific Coast Trail – a 5 month excursion – thank you, no thank you. Well, a week ago her arm swelled up – so much so that she went to the hospital – and they found a clot and she had it removed twice – and she has another surgery – and it’s all been a trying experience. And we were talking this week and she was telling me how when she had to go back to the hospital she was fine – but then the nurse came in and started using all the medical speak – and my friend started freaking out – and then the doctor came in all cheery and ready to get to work – and she was sobbing – and she couldn’t stop.

Because – it doesn’t matter if it’s normal operating procedure – or if it’s standard practice – or done all the time. When it’s you – and this thing is happening to you and your body – that you cannot in anyway fix or control – and you’re alone in that reality – it’s overwhelming.

The Lord is my shepherd – he is with me – rod and staff they will comfort me.

This is why we all know that Psalm. I know what it is like to feel abandoned and alone. Jesus reminds us – not on my watch. Say the words – and listen for my voice – I abide in you and you in me – I am the Good Shepherd.

How do we listen? How do we know that voice? First question first. We hear the voice – when we choose to listen.

The voice of the Good Shepherd does not compete with the other voices. “The word of the Lord is very near, it is on your lips and it is written on your heart.” The voice of the Good Shepherd is within us. It is deeper than the voices on the surface. The ones that compete for attention.

It is not our consciousness – not our metacognition. The voice that analyzes who we are and what we do. It is not our inner critic – or our inner coach. In other words – the voice is not our inner voice – that’s nature, and nurture and an amalgamation.

If you think about the metaphor – sheep don’t talk, right? There has to be something in the sheep that resonates with the shepherd. That’s how I think about what Jesus is saying. Like when Paul says the Spirit prays on our behalf with sighs too deep for words.

The voice of the Good Shepherd is a resonance. If you walk down the sidewalk with a two-year old child – where everything they happen upon is a curiosity and delight – that is the voice of the Good Shepherd.

It’s that feeling within us when we know we need to pay attention to something we don’t want to pay attention to – I can’t breathe. Say her name. There are too many names.

The resonance of that voice challenges, encourages, invites, heals, helps us do hard things. Resonance doesn’t bargain or compete to trick us into listening.

Why did Jesus use this metaphor? Well, I don’t know since I’m not Jesus or a Jewish prophet from the 1st century – but, from my experience I believe – Jesus wants us to know we are not alone.

Like a shepherd cares for the sheep – God cares for us.

God cares for us as a flock – and God cares for each and every one of us – goes after us when we get lost.

I believe Jesus wants us to listen for what resonates deep in our heart and soul – as truth – truth that sets us free. Free to live without fear for being who God made me to be.

I believe Jesus wants us to use our voice to do the same. To build people up in love. To pay attention to the things in our world that are hard to pay attention to – but when we do – we use our voice to amplify hope and healing – because we do have the ability to make that a reality.

The Lord is my shepherd – I shall not be in want.

The voice of the Lord is a powerful voice.

Surely God’s goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

How is the Good Shepherd inviting you to listen? How is the Good Shepherd inviting you to use your voice?

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