Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Listening to One Voice

[This is the journal entry for my quiet time today.]

Look: “...they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice.” (John 10:5)

Jesus calls Himself the Good Shepherd Who will lead His people to good pasture (life with God). He speaks of the connection that exists between Himself and His redeemed disciples. They won’t listen to other voices, only to the voice of Christ. Christ’s Word is spoken through the Scriptures, the proclaimed Word, the Sacraments, and in the fellowship of Christ gathered around Word and Sacrament.

Lately, with vacation and general busy-ness, I haven’t spent the time in God’s Word, listening to Jesus, that I need to spend. There are a lot of voices blaring at me (and everyone else) every day: the Internet, radio, TV, etc. etc., not to mention the incessant whispers and cries of the devil, the world, and our sinful selves. And there’s always some new guru of some kind or another, almost all not overtly religious.

But I wonder, am I listening for the voice of Jesus in the midst of all of this noise?

Not enough in recent weeks!

Listen: I know that unless I remain connected to Jesus (unless I abide in Him, to use Jesus’ phrasing), I will begin to forget Jesus’ voice. I become susceptible to following other voices--including the voice of my own sinful nature--that lead me away from Jesus. I become prone to allowing my reasoning to become, not a tool in Jesus’ hands, but a means to do what I want to do. (“There is a way that appears to be right, but in the end it leads to death.” Proverbs 14:12)

I’ve become a bit lax in maintaining my quiet time in recent weeks. I’ve been busy. I’ve forgotten Luther’s sage statement that he was simply too busy to spend less than three hours a day in prayer. (And I’m sure that for Luther, prayer was always saturated in reading the Word, listening for the voice of the Good Shepherd.)

The problem is that if I, as one of Christ’s undershepherds, don’t take the time to listen for Christ’s voice, I can lead people astray. (After all, I can only reflect that which I focus on.) That hasn’t happened in these recent weeks, thank God! But, in listening to Jesus today, I am reawakened to the risk of it all.

Saint Paul warned the young pastor Timothy, “...the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.” (2 Timothy 4:3).

In a hypermediated age, the time of “itching ears” of which Paul warns is a constant. (This is no slam on “the media.” I have no patience with people who use the media as a scapegoat for their own failures and those of society. Media are a neutral tool which can be used to convey any message. The problem isn’t “the media,” but the ideas we convey through them. And I say “we,” because in the Age of the Internet, everyone who has an account on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or whatever, is a media outlet.) People have “itching ears,” craving the “latest thing.” Earth-bound messaging is so pervasive that no one is immune from developing itching ears, even (or maybe especially) busy preachers who need to make important decisions each day yet fail to spend time in God’s Word each day.

Respond: Thank You, God, for this reminder from Jesus today. Luther is right in saying that, “We need to hear the Gospel every day, because we forget it every day.”

I know that this is true for me. It’s too easy for me to fall for following my own reasoning (Proverbs 14:12)  or my own heart (“The heart is deceitful above all things…” Jeremiah 17:19) Both are blind alleys!

And if pastors aren’t engaged in daily, vital relationships with you, we become “blind guides,” relying on our own schtick or the “wisdom” of the world rather than on You, Who alone remains true (“...Let God be true, and every human being a liar…” Romans 3:4)

Today, Lord, I have met You in Your Word and been richly blessed. Let me, like the sheep in Jesus’ vivid images of John 10, be one of Your sheep Who “come in and go out, and find pasture” (John 10:9) as I listen to Your voice each day.

In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen

[By the grace of God, I'm the pastor of Living Water Lutheran Church in Centerville, Ohio.]

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