May 19 2019 5th Sun of Easter

Sunday, May 19 2019:  5th Easter Year C “His Master’s Voice”

          Christ is Risen!  (He is risen indeed) We are continuing our unabashed celebration of Easter, the central tenant of the Christian faith that Jesus proved he was God’s son by sacrificially dying on a cross and defeating death by rising from the grave. This offensive claim to unbelievers is the calming balm of life to the faithful.  Our scriptures for today witness to the power and peace that comes by knowing Jesus Christ as our sacrificial savior and our Living Loving Risen Lord.

          Our first scripture reading from the book of Acts of the Apostle’s records the deeds of power Jesus’ followers were able to do in Jesus’ name following the resurrection.  Peter brings Dorcas, also known as Tabitha, a faithful follower of Christ, back to life.  In this case its not too bad to be a “dork!”  While unbelievers say this account is mere superstition or a big set up the fact remains that unfriendly historical sources that wanted to discredit Christianity confirm the claim that many people converted to Christianity due to acts of power the original disciples did in Jesus name.  These powerful acts included healing and bringing back to life, similar to our scripture account today.

          Unfortunately, today too many Christian congregations have lost sight of the power of God in Christ Jesus.  As “scientifically minded” as we are, we relegate the power of God’s spirit to those hyper emotional loosey goosey Christians with no sense of decorum.  You know the ones that are constantly throwing their hands up in the air and dancing in the aisles and singing about the “blood of Jesus.” 

Yet in the short time I’ve served here, soon to be six years in July, I’ve twice informally surveyed this worshipping community on a Sunday to see how many would raise their hands to say they’ve seen or experienced a miracle: a healing, freeing, lifegiving act of God where the best explanation of that event was not scientific but spiritual.  I’ve asked card carrying calm cool collected Lutherans to raise their hands if they’d testify to that in their lives.  Better than 75% of you said yes!  Yes, I’ve seen God do miracles.  In fact, I’d say 75% of you wouldn’t be sitting in these pews today if it weren’t for those powerful acts of God that you experienced.

The same was true of the early church.  Experiencing the power of God in Christ Jesus through changed lives, healings, even restoring the dead to the living changed them from unbelievers to ardent believers, from perhaps interested onlookers to devoted proclaimers.  Why is that powerful change important to emphasize? Because it leads to the second part of today’s scripture equations.  God’s power gives lasting peace.

Our second lesson (found on page 3 of your bulletin) has wonderful words of hope and peace “God will wipe away every tear from their eye.”  That picture of heaven is beautiful, inspirational no hunger, thirst, pain crying.  But it comes at a cost…the cost of living out our faith, holding on to our faith in this world, in this mess of a world of sin and evil.  This picture is of the “white robed saints” in heaven…what does it mean to be a white robed saint in light, how do you get there?  You’ve got to back up a few verses: “These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the lamb.”

One needs to realize that these two portions of scripture- Peter displaying the power of God in Christ Jesus: to change lives for the better, to heal disease and to restore the dead and powerfully converting people to the faith is happening in the midst of persecution.  This is happening at the same time that folks in power are saying we’ve got to stamp this stupid fad out, or we can use these mamby pamby Christians as a scapegoat to focus our hatred and violence upon because they don’t fight back!  These two seemingly opposite events are happening at the same time- powerful conversions (people coming to Christ) and power against converts (Power doing violence to converts) are going on simultaneously. 

And folks that is happening today…in just a few short weeks we will hear from Teen Challenge about the power of God in these young men’s lives to free them from addiction.  I know many in our congregation have come to look forward to that uplifting inspiring powerful message they have to share.

Yet despite this powerful message of hope we’re also hearing from our outreach benevolence focus for last month with Voice of the Martyrs in general and now this month with our missionaries in China specifically how Christianity is being hounded and persecuted by those in power.  We saw in headlines on Easter Sunday how terrorists attacked, maimed and killed Christians gathering for worship.  The white robed martyrs exist today…and as you sit in this pew professing Christ you need to consider if your faith is strong enough to face an earthly test like that someday. Do you and I believe in the power of Christ Jesus fervently enough to survive an earthly ordeal to receive a heavenly reward?

This brings me to our third scripture for today, our gospel reading where Jesus is questioned by his adversaries, “Why don’t you just tell us you’re the Messiah.”  Jesus’ answer is basically “Because it doesn’t matter what I say you’re not going to hear me.”  But the folks who want to hear me, do hear my voice, know my voice and you won’t be able to snatch them away.

When RCA Victrola came out with long playing records, it advertising campaign was “His master’s voice.” Meaning that what had been such distorted scratchy recordings up to that point were so clear that it could fool a dog who has such superior hearing into thinking it was his master’s voice. Jesus says its important for us as followers to hear his voice, to listen to the master’s voice.

My hearing stinks- I have punctured ear drums, holes in the ear canal, I don’t even have any bones inside my inner ear on the right side- no hammer, anvil, stirrup.  All of these various problems cause constant ringing in my ears which is like trying to hold a conversation while a microphone in the distance is doing that high-pitched feedback.  I get asked how can you hear anything?

I look at whose talking, I don’t have the luxury of looking away.  If I can concentrate on their lips I can fill in the blanks of lost consonants, vowels.  But even more so I look at their eyes, the expression tips me off to the emotion and the importance of what they are saying.  Another way I hear is to take advantage of the opportunities my other senses afford me.  Primarily I use visual clues.  There’s a great feature on TV’s today it is called “closed captioning” where you can read the script of what is being said in the program. 

Christian’s have the same opportunities to listen to Jesus, to hear the master’s voice.  Two simple ways to hear the master’s voice:  Number 1- Look to Jesus! It sounds simple but it is so hard!  We are so distracted… I have literally seen a driver (unfortunately female) talking on the phone with foot on the dashboard putting on toenail polish while driving.  Guys don’t think you’re any better.  We live in a distracted multitasking world and Jesus is telling us only one thing is needful…keeping our eyes on him.  “Turn your eyes upon Jesus look full into his wonderful face and the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of his glory and grace.”

Looking to Jesus happens when we carve out time in our day for devotions, when we carve out time in our week for worship, when we carve out time for prayer and thanksgiving.  We look into Jesus’ eyes when we look into the poor, the orphan, widow.  Jesus told us “as surely as you’ve done it for the least of these you’ve done it for me.”  That’s where we find Jesus’ heart and emotions, that’s where we find what’s important to Jesus.

If the first way to hear Jesus voice is to look to Jesus.  The second item is:  pay attention to the closed captioning.  You want closed captioning on your life and how Jesus intends you to live it?  What’s the script?  You’ll find it in your bible.  Basic instructions Before Leaving Earth.

One word of caution, I have a difficult time making out what people are saying when there’s a lot of ambient noise, restaurants and such.  But that’s not when my hearing is at its worst.  My hearing is at its worst when I, with all my listening skills of filling in vowels, looking for consonants, etc I’ve already concluded what they are going to say.  That’s when I really misunderstand or don’t even comprehend what they’re saying.  I’m off in my own conversation and really don’t have a clue what the discussion is about.

The pharisee’s Jesus talked to in our gospel reading were like that.  They’d already concluded what the conversation was, Jesus couldn’t add anything to it, no matter what he said.  Don’t allow preconceived notions to prevent you from hearing God’s Word in your life. If you find you can’t hear Jesus it may just be because you have an overwhelming urge to put words in his mouth that just aren’t there!  You may just need to create silence in your over stimulated, scheduled world to hear God’s still small voice.

Listening to the master’s voice will provide you with power and peace.  It may not bring you a cushy life, it didn’t for those early disciples, but it will bring a powerful purpose for your life.  It may not bring you a comfortable safe life, it doesn’t for many Christians around the globe, but it will bring an overwhelming peace for your soul.  “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.  I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish no one will snatch them out of my hand.”  Listen to the Master’s voice.  Amen.