That’s why our Gospel reading this morning is so interesting to me because using the image of a shepherd, Jesus is saying that we can know his voice and follow him. And when we follow him, we will be able to receive new life and be the people that God has called us to be.
Our confirmands have met over the past several months to think about their faith and what it means to be a member of the church. And now they are ready to join. And we are here to receive them into membership and continue to encourage them as they grow in their faith.
That’s why the church is so important. We are here to help each other listen for the shepherd’s voice.
And we’re actually pretty good at this, I think. We help each other to hear the shepherd’s voice through worship, through small groups, through bible studies, through serving together, through having meals together like Thirst where we people offer their testimonies. Our church provides a lot of ways like these to help each other listen to what God is saying to us. And to our confirmands, I say to them to be involved in these loving, learning, and living faith ministries of our church on a regular basis because they help us to be open to God’s voice in our lives.
Confirmation Sunday always brings back fun memories for me. My confirmation class was held each week after school, probably not the best time of the day for young adolescents who had been in school all day to spend another two hours learning about Methodist history. I’m sure we gave Rev. Lippert all he could handle, but he was extremely patient with us. Even though we weren’t always very cooperative, we could tell that preparing to join the church was an important step in our faith journey.
When I was in the 9th grade, the new pastor in our church came up to me at some church event and said to me, “I think God might be calling you to become a pastor someday.” He could see something in me that I couldn’t see at the time. Looking back on that moment, maybe it wasn’t just my pastor speaking to me. Maybe it was the shepherd’s voice speaking through him.
I kind of brushed aside his comment and I went through my high school years. And then I went to college. And I was trying to figure out the future direction for my life.
But it was when I was thinking about all of this in college, that I got involved in a campus ministry where I met some other Christians and we went to church together on Sundays and met in a small group during the week. And one day out of the blue, two of these college friends said to me, “We think God might be calling you to become a pastor.”
It was at that very moment that I remembered what my home pastor had said to me when I was in the 9th grade. “I think God might be calling you to become a pastor someday.” Hmm… Could this be a coincidence? Why didn’t I listen the first time? And so I prayed about it over the next few days and that’s when I realized that I was being called to become a pastor and I said, “OK, God, this time, I heard you. I’ll become a pastor but you need to lead me through this.”
The best part of this story is that the same pastor who had planted that first seed when I was in the 9th grade that God might be calling me to become a pastor, was still serving as the pastor of my home church. And when I went home over break, I stopped by his office at the church. He was sitting at his desk and holding a bunch of papers. And I said, “Pastor Ed, do you remember when you told me to think about becoming a pastor when I was in the 9th grade? Well, I heard the call again and I said ‘yes.’”
And I’ll never forget this. He threw all of the papers that were in his hands up in the air as a way of celebrating and as those papers were falling down around him, he said, “Praise God!”
I share this story for all of us, but especially to our confirmands who are joining today because there are times when the shepherd’s voice might sound very similar to the voice of someone we know, someone who cares about us, and who can see things in us that we so often can’t see ourselves. And sometimes, we hear the shepherd’s voice and sometimes we don’t hear the shepherd’s voice. That’s why we need each other. That’s why being part of the church is so important so that we can help each other hear God’s calling in our lives and respond to those callings.
A couple of months ago, Penny and I watched the Fred Roger’s documentary that was on PBS. If you haven’t already seen this, I highly recommend it.
As many of you know, Fred Rogers was the creator and producer of the children’s TV show Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood which aired from 1968 to 2001. Fred was a Presbyterian pastor and this show was his way of helping children to know that they are loved for who they are.
There were a couple of times that I cried during the documentary and one of those times was when they shared a conversation that Fred had off the set with one of his cast members Francois Clemmons who played Officer Clemmons on the show.
One day, Fred said to Francois off the set, “I love you just the way you are.” And Francois was taken off guard by his comment and replied, “Fred, are you talking to me?” And Fred said, “Yes, Francois, and I’ve been telling you this for two years and you finally heard me today.”
Francois said that after Fred said that, he collapsed into Fred’s arms and started crying because that was the only time he heard someone say that he was loved. His parents never told him. His family never told him. Fred was the first person who told him that he was loved. Francois finally heard the shepherd’s voice telling him that he was loved just the way he was.
To our confirmands and to all of us this morning, being part of the church family means helping each other to hear the voice of the shepherd.
Listen to the shepherd’s voice say that you are loved just the way you are. Listen to the shepherd’s voice invite you to follow him and become more and more like Jesus every day. Listen to the shepherd’s voice guide you to green pastures, still waters, and paths of righteousness. Listen to the shepherd’s voice promise to be with you all the days of your life.
This is what it means to be part of the church, the family of God. We help each other to hear the voice of the shepherd, the voice of Jesus.
The Shepherd’s Voice
Sermon Discussion Questions
Psalm 23 & John 10:22-30
May 12, 2019
Our scripture readings from Psalm 23 and John 10 tell us that God is like a shepherd who leads and guides us. In John’s Gospel, Jesus even says that those who follow him can “know” his voice when he is calling them.
Share a time when you heard God speaking to you? What was God wanting you to know?
The church provides many ways to hear God speaking to us including worship, small groups, bible studies, our Thirst gathering where people share their testimonies, as well as other ministries of our church including the conversations we have together.
Since God is speaking to us in all these ways, why do we sometimes not hear God speaking to us? What prevents us from hearing “the Shepherd’s voice?”
Pastor Robert shared the example of how God spoke through his home pastor and his college small group friends about becoming a pastor. God often uses several people in calling out to us because we don’t always hear God speaking to us the first time.
What can we do to help us recognize when God is speaking to us through others?
Psalm 23 reminds us that the Lord is our loving shepherd who is always seeking to guide, lead, and protect us.
Conclude your reflection time by reciting Psalm 23. Pause for a few seconds after each phrase before moving on to the next one. Focus on really listening to what the Shepherd’s voice is saying to you after each of these phrases.
The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. (PAUSE)
He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. (PAUSE)
He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. (PAUSE)
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. (PAUSE)
Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. (PAUSE)
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever. (PAUSE)