Father Chuck’s Final Sermon

Donna Taylor found a sermon in Fr. Chuck’s office that he was going to preach on April 17. She has offered to share it with everyone.

A man decided his wife was getting hard of hearing. So he called her doctor to make an appointment to have her hearing checked. The doctor said he could see her in two weeks, but meanwhile there was a simple, informal test the husband could do to give the doctor some idea of the dimensions of the problem.

“Here’s what you do,” he said. “Stand about 40 feet away from her and speak in a normal conversational tone and see if she hears you. If not, go to 30 feet, then 20 feet, and so on until you get a response.” That evening his wife is in the kitchen cooking dinner, and he’s in the living room, and he says to himself, “I’m about 40 feet away, let’s see what happens.” “Honey, what’s for supper?” No response. So he moves to the other end of the room, about 30 feet away. “Honey, what’s for supper?” No response. So he moves into the dining room, about 20 feet away. “Honey, what’s for supper?” No. response. On to the kitchen door, only 10 feet away. Honey, what’s for supper?” No response. So he walks right up behind her and says, “Honey, what’s for supper?” She turns around and says, “For the FIFTH time, CHICKEN!”

Isn’t that the way it is sometimes in our lives? We are either deaf to what really is going on, failing to perceive reality, or, we think it is the other person’s problem when really it is our own.

Sometimes we have selective hearing – we hear what we only want to hear. Or, we act as if we are listening, but really our attention is elsewhere. You’ve had that feeling, haven’t you, when someone is giving you eye attention, but you know they are not listening, not hearing you at all? It is infuriating, and I know I do it myself, so I hereby ask for blanket forgiveness from you for the times I’ve done it.

Today’s passage is all about listening and hearing – following the voice of Jesus – and it really stirs me up. Picture the scene. A small group comes close to Jesus, kind of like the husband in my story. They are walking with him, right next to him actually, and asking him to tell them plainly if he is the Messiah – “don’t keep us in suspense.” And Jesus says, “What do you mean? What more do I need to say? In fact, I don’t have to say anything because my works speak for themselves.”

Sometimes I wonder if we are hard of hearing and hard of seeing when it comes to Jesus. Are we listening to his voice and hearing what he says and then doing what he tells us to do? Or, do we try to keep our emotional, intellectual, political distance? Every day you and I hear a lot of diverse voices. How do we discern what voice to listen to, which voice to follow? There are a lot of voices out there telling you who you are, what you should want, who you should be. What voice, whose voice are you listening to? Do you listen to the voices on Fox News or MSNBC? Which describes reality? Who is telling the truth: John Kasich, Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, Hilary Clinton, Bernie Sanders? And of course the essential question of faith is “Whose voice are you listening to, what voice do you trust, what voice do you hear?” The faith task is to hone in, lean towards the source, the authentic Divine voice, listen intently, and then to act out on what you are hearing.

An infant knows its mother’s voice. In a room with so much stimulation of color and motion, this is overwhelming reality and I have seen it. The baby’s head turns to the source of the mother’s voice, recognizing the voice even before it has the language to call out “Mama!” Even before we know, we perceive.

Do you hear the voice of love even if you don’t know the speaker? Does not your heart know, doesn’t your gut move towards that voice? Are we not called to follow that voice into the world? We are not in the dog-eat-dog arena of competition. We are walking through the valley of shadows with the words of love in our ear and the banner of love wrapped around our shoulders.

What voice do you hear? Whose voice are you following? Do you hear a voice of hospitality – that you are welcome here? You don’t have to have your theological stuff together. I don’t even care if you believe half of Christian doctrine. You will get there in time if that is where you need to go. Even if you don’t recognize the source, are you listening and then following – being hospitable?

What voice do you hear? Whose voice are you following? Do you hear the voice of generosity? That you have been given the wonderful gift of life. The very stuff of creative order has been shared with you. You are alive, you are gifted – just because you are. Even if you do not yet know the Creator, are you listening and following and being generous, not only with your money (you all have already shown such generosity, quite unbelievable) but with your time and your talent, with your joy and laughter and truth?

What voice do you hear? Whose voice are you following? Do you hear the voice of justice and compassion? That it is good to “treat others as you would have them treat you?” Are you listening to make sure that children have food and families have homes, and the sick can be cared for, and the uninsured don’t have to be scared? That justice doesn’t mean punishment; the voice of justice means celebration and restoration. You don’t have to acknowledge Jesus; you may in time, maybe not, don’t worry so much about it.

What voice do you hear? Whose voice are you following? It seems to me that you all listen very intently and follow very closely the voice of hospitality and grace, of joy and hope, of liberation and restoration So…keep doing what you are doing! I am telling you the truth. This is one thing I know for sure. If you are listening to the voice of love, hospitality, generosity, justice and compassion, creation and hope, NOTHING in this whole world will be able to snatch you away – nothing will be able to knock you down, tear you up, turn you around – it simply can’t be done – because nothing can separate you from the grace and love of God through Jesus Christ our Lord. I call on the name of Jesus because it makes sense to me now, it is how I view the world. Don’t worry if you can’t do it just yet…Listen and follow that voice anyway.

In today’s passage, we read that the setting for this story was the festival of Dedication. Today I want this to be a day of dedication for us, of rededication for you to listen, to hear and to follow. Don’t take my word for it, listen for yourselves – the voice of love that is for you, which I believe is the voice of Jesus. What voice do you hear? Whose voice are you following?

Father’s Chucks’s Sermon April 17, 2016

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