God’s Beloved

    It was the feast of Hanukah, the Feast of Lights.
    Jesus was walking in the Temple.
    Some Jews approached him saying:
    If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly.

    Jesus answered:
    I did tell you, but you do not believe.
    I did miracles, but you do not believe.
    You are not my sheep.

    My sheep hear my voice.
    I know them and they follow me
    I give them eternal life
    They will never perish
    No one will snatch them out of my hand.” (Paraphrase of John 10:22-28)

The setting for this gospel message is Hanukkah, the Feast of Lights.
Light … Illumination … Revelation.
Yet, at this Feast of Lights, we see a group of questioners who are still in the metaphorical darkness questioning Jesus, but, ironically as Jesus points out, maintaining their self-imposed darkness.

A darkness imposed by asking, while not really wanting to hear.
A darkness imposed by seeking, while not looking to find.
A darkness imposed by knocking, while leaning against the door to prevent its opening.
A darkness imposed by allowing the shouting voices of the world to drown out the voice of the Shepherd.

Jesus the Messiah is speaking, but they are not hearing.
Jesus the Messiah is standing in front of them, but they are not seeing.
Jesus the Messiah is knocking in love on the doors of their hearts, but alas, they have hardened their hearts.

Jesus responds to their questioning and reminds them:
“I have told you, but you do not believe.
I have done miracles, but you do not believe.
You are not my sheep.”

These are hard words … … hard words indeed!

In contrast to the questioners that we meet in this gospel passage, Jesus tells us about his sheep, reminding us that, unlike the questioners, “my sheep hear my voice”.

These words connote a hope.
Hope in the form of a message being spoken to our hearts.
Hope in the form of a light or voice being shined in the darkness.
Yes, the voice of the Shepherd is speaking to his sheep.
Speaking a message that runs counter to the messages and voices of the world.
Speaking a message that touches the core of who we are and transforms us.
Speaking a simple message that embraces us while simultaneously sending us out.

Speaking a message that runs counter to the messages that the world SHOUTS at us:

    You are what you do or how much you do.
    You are what you earn or what you own.
    You are no good.
    You are how you look, what you wear, or even what toothpaste you use.
    You are nobody.

And on, and on, and on,   … ad infinitum.

The world shouts messages that beat us down spiritually, messages that leave us in spiritual darkness.

I have a job in technical sales. On the last day of this past fiscal year, I managed to close a large – no, make that an extra large, order. We got the final word from our legal department around 9 am that morning that the final revision of the contract was acceptable to them and we could proceed to book the order. My boss called to congratulate me, and said, “You are my hero.”

I felt great – a hero even! … …

Later that same day one of my colleagues closed an order that was some 25% greater than the one I had closed that morning. (You can probably see where this is going!)

Shortly thereafter, my boss called to touch-base with me on another order. “Where does this order stand? How soon can you close it? What are you doing to insure that it closes soon – real soon?”

Gone, completely, was any reference to my earlier hero status. I was just another account manager who needed to book the next order. I had been replaced by the next ‘hero’.

My HERO status had lasted about 4 hours, if that long!

… … …

Ah, yes, the voice of the world is certainly fleeting and lacking in nourishment for our souls.

The voice of the world leaves us empty, confused, fractured, frustrated, and alone.

Thankfully, however, we are sheep,
And, thankfully, as sheep, it is our nature to listen to the voice of the Shepherd.
The voice of the Shepherd is calling to us, bringing us the hope, healing, patience and love that we so desperately long for.

What is the message that Jesus, the Good Shepherd, is speaking to us?

You are my beloved, my favor rests on you.

Being beloved reveals the most intimate truth about all human beings.
Being beloved expresses the core truth of our existence.
Being beloved means our failings will not turn aside God’s faithful promises – God’s love knows no limit.

What keeps us from hearing Jesus’ voice?
… … … ..It is the voice of the world that distracts us.

The messages that the world SHOUTS at us can drown out the soft, gentle voice of Jesus the Good Shepherd speaking to us.

Dissonance occurs – the voice of the Shepherd can become so enmeshed with the clamoring chorus of the world that it becomes indistinguishable if we let it.

I invite you to close your eyes and quiet your spirit.

Take a couple of long, slow breaths, drop your shoulders, and relax.

Listen for that voice

    that soft, gentle voice of the Shepherd speaking to your heart, mind and spirit…
    Listen with great inner attentiveness

Listen at your core:

    [I am the good Shepherd.] I have called you by name from the very beginning. You are mine and I am yours. You are my Beloved, on you my favor rests. I have molded you in the depths of the earth and knitted you together in your mother’s womb. I have carved you in the palms of my hands and hidden you in the shadow of my embrace. I look at you with infinite tenderness and care for you with a care more intimate than that of a mother for her child. I have counted every hair on your head and guided you at every step. Wherever you go, I go with you, and wherever you rest, I keep watch. I will give you food that will satisfy all your hunger and drink that will quench all your thirst. [I will wipe every tear from your eyes.] I will not hide my face from you. You know me as your own as I know you as my own. You belong to me. I am your father, your mother, your brother, your sister, your lover, and your spouse, yes, even your child, wherever you are I will be. Nothing will ever separate us. We are one.” (from Henri Nouwen’s Life of the Beloved: Spiritual Living in a Secular World)

Practice listening for the voice of the Shepherd.

And don’t be afraid to claim your belovedness – claiming your own belovedness leads to a deep desire to bless others.

Amen and amen.

Speak Your Mind