“My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one will snatch them out of my hand.”
Many years ago some school children in America learned to know the voice of Walter Damrosch. He taught thousands of children to know and love music over their school radio. At a certain time of the morning, the school radio was tuned into Walter’s music program. He began each lesson with “Good morning, my dear children.” What followed his greeting was a half hour of beautiful music for the children to participate in. Then he would tell them the meaning and the message in the music. Children loved their thirty minutes of music with Mr. Damrosch.
Walter was invited to visit one of the schools that always listened to his music lesson. He was asked by the school principal to address the whole school. Since the children had never met Mr. Damrosch they had no idea what he looked like. He sat on the stage before his audience of elementary children, who fidgeted in their seats as the old man in front of them was briefly introduced by the principal.
Mr. Damrosch stood up and smiled. The children were not excited to think they were going to be addressed by an old man, who would probably give a long boring talk. Then he spoke. He said, “Good morning, my dear children,” and immediately the whole auditorium of children stood to their feet clapping and cheering.
Mr. Damrosch said, “Why do you cheer? You do not know me.” The children replied, “Yes we do, we know your voice.”
That in essence is what Jesus was trying to explain to the Jews who were questioning him that day in the portico of the Temple. These men did not know his voice and would not believe him because their hearts had not been listening to Jesus speak of God’s love. Those who had been following him would recognize and follow his voice, but these who were not following him simply would not believe in him. They were not accustomed to listening to his voice.
One of the most interesting things about us humans is that most of the time we think that our belief shapes our behavior, thus our actions follow our convictions. But, truth turns out to be just the opposite. Get a person to start recycling and before you know it their commitment to the environment goes beyond just recycling. If we ask a person to help with a feeding program for the indigent, and they get involved in the work, they begin to feel the need of those who are suffering and see that what they are doing is an important part of following Jesus. They begin to hear the voice of Jesus in those they are feeding. It is by following Jesus and living the Christian life that we hear His voice and believe. Any good we do is God working through us as the Holy Spirit guides us as we listen to Jesus, which makes it really hard to be an armchair Christian.
Like the experience of those children with an unseen teacher helped them recognize Walter Damrosch’s voice when he visited their school, our experience of following Jesus in serving others is often where we hear and know his voice.
How reassuring that we can never be snatched out of his hand because He knows us.
Sue is NLS Spiritual Director, since 2019 and is a retired Lutheran Pastor (ELCA). Active in VdC since 1995, she has served two terms on the Board of the Texas VdC Secretariat, and also on the Texas Gulf Coast VdC Board as Spiritual Director since its start-up in 2017.