Ours can be such an intellectual faith. Especially for those of us who grew up in the church, we know all the answers and the fancy words and the stories. We have our shelf of commentaries and study guides and supplemental teachings. We are good, moral, nice citizens that use swear words only when it is THAT important.
It scares me to death that this is the faith I would pass on to my kids.
We talk about wanting our kids to go deeper in their faith and then we fill up their brains in effort to get them there. But our brain is not where Jesus is, not according to my conservative evangelical childhood theology: Jesus is in my heart; that is where I invited him.
I like brains, I really do, and I am not opposed to some good, old-fashioned thinking and systematic theology. But maybe this is the dessert of my faith, not the essence of it.
My kids and I are making a new effort at lectio divina, a Bible-reading method that is designed to help us connect with God as we read. And this morning we talked about how what we are reading is designed to help us listen to Jesus. It’s designed to teach us his voice.
Jesus told us he is our shepherd and we are the sheep. Sheep don’t take a “Basic Shepherd” class to know who their shepherd is. Sheep know who their shepherd is by seeing and hearing the actual shepherd, have real life experiences with him, not just once in a while but all the time. Jesus calls his sheep by name and he leads them, they follow him because they know his voice.
That voice — the voice of Jesus — is where it’s at.
That voice is what draws us.
That voice is what changes us.
That voice is the only evidence we need that Jesus is who he says he is.
That voice is all the convincing we need that he is what we want.
When people encounter the voice of Jesus in the gospels, everything changes. The gospels are full of stories of people who hear the voice of Jesus and when they do, they say things like:
“No one ever spoke like this man!”
“Who is this? He teaches with authority.”
“He told me all that I ever did.”
“Who else can we go to? You have the words of eternal life.”
“Lord, I believe.”
How do you find the voice?
Probably about the same way that these people did: going to the well to draw water, looking for a spiritual leader to follow, heading out for a day of work, following him, even going out to attack him.
We hear Jesus wherever he meets us. Sometimes we are looking, sometimes we aren’t. Usually it’s just about being available, paying attention, listening, responding.
Sheep are dumb animals and I have wasted too much time trying to be smart. I thought I could figure out who the shepherd was with systems and formulas. I tried to take my own path sometimes. I refused to listen. And once in a while, I obeyed, even when it didn’t seem to make sense.
I don’t know the secret of knowing how we know it is Jesus, I just know Jesus said “my sheep know my voice.” Twenty years later, I am learning to recognize the voice. I feel like I know it pretty well now. Sometimes the voice speaks from a Bible passage. Sometimes it is a desire. Sometimes it is a word of truth that comes to mind, or a direction to follow. Sometimes it is a book and sometimes it is a flower.
I don’t know how I know, I don’t know how you’ll know. I just know we’ll know the voice, the voice that changes everything.