When my son was younger he played on a soccer team. I recall sitting on the bleachers, and being often amazed at the experts that occupied the seats alongside me. They had no qualms about informing the referee that he or she needed glasses or shouting at the coach to do a better job of making their particular offspring shine as a star on the field.
I also noticed that the players who did best, had a healthy respect for the officials who could remove them from the game and took absolutely no notice of the advice from the bleachers, choosing instead to focus on the advice that their coach was offering to them. They also seemed to have a sense that the game wasn't just about them, but that they were part of a team.
Here at Mount Hebron Presbyterian Church we have been following a series of messages focusing on the “Call” of God that invites us to become disciples of Jesus Christ. Last week we were considering that to respond to that call takes a great deal of of commitment, that we may feel hesitant to embrace … and we were thinking about the experience of the prophet Jonah, who when he sensed a call from God, immediately headed in the opposite direction. (Sermon here: The Reluctant Preacher)
This week we will be thinking about the fact that the “Call” of God isn't the only voice out there that is seeking to direct our life. There are so many, many, many voices seeking our attention. It can be hard to discern which ones are in tune with the direction and dimensions of God's Kingdom.
Our New Testament passage will be from Mark 1:21-28, a passage in which Jesus is teaching in the synagogue and during the service deals with a majorly disruptive heckler whom the scripture describes as having an 'unclean spirit.'
The story begins with some of the members of the synagogue being impressed by the way Jesus teaches. He has an authority about Him that other teachers lacked. Then comes the confrontation with this heckler who cries out “I know who You are, You are the Holy One of God!” The guy with the problems seems to sense the authority of Jesus even more so then those who were impressed by His teaching!
Further down the line, some of the Pharisees and Teachers of the Law find out about the claims being made about Jesus, and they are not the least bit impressed. After all, they were the important ones in God's scheme of things. They didn't realize that there was a guy in town who was rewriting the rules of the game and would turn out to be both the best coach and the best referee that there ever could be.
There are always going to be folk around us telling us that their way is the best way. And in among them all is the voice of God. How do we tune in to God's voice?
I'd suggest that the traditional disciplines of prayer, reading scripture and worshiping in the company of others provide a way that helps us in our discernment. That is not a new idea or particularly radical suggestion. Sometimes the tried and true ways are the ones that bring the most long lasting results.
If we want to make Jesus our life coach then we have to ignore the voices from the bleachers and simply play our part as members of God's team. “Listen to Him!”
For some music a track from Twila Paris's 1998 album "Where I Stand"... a song about listening to God's voice. The comments on the YouTube page read; “We should always be attuned to the voice of God, perhaps subconsciously. But particularly after we pray. Many people make the mistake of praying but then missing the answer because they weren't paying attention. Others get impatient and give up on God and do things their own way. So, we need to have "patience to wait, when there is nothing clear", and when there is "nothing to see, still we believe".”
The Reverend Adrian J. Pratt B.D.