Sermon: Looking for God’s Voice

May 5, 2019
Third Sunday of Easter

Acts 9:1-6, 7-20; John 21:1-19
RUMC, Pastor SeokCheol Shin

Looking for God’s Voice

God’s Voice
Have you ever heard God’s voice? There are times we are desperate for God’s voice or the sign of God’s love in our life. We really believe there is God and God loves us, but we can’t hear God’s voice as we can hear our families’ or friends’ voices any time.

The common key word from our Scripture readings is a “voice” from God. In Acts, Saul heard the Lord calling his name from heaven. In John’s Gospel, Jesus’ disciples heard the voice of the risen Lord from the beach. Those mysterious voices had changed their lives forever.

Like those people in the Bible, we as God’s people of today also want to hear God’s voice, so that we know God is in control and we can feel much more confident on our faith journey. So where can we hear God’s voice? Where can we see God’s vision for our lives? This is the question we will talk about this morning.

God’s Voice Through Supernatural Ways
In the first Scripture reading from Acts, we read the story of Saul’s conversion. On his mission trip to arrest Christians, ironically, he was arrested, impeded, by a strange voice from heaven: “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me… I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting” (v. 4-5). It was the voice of Jesus, whom he had persecuted. As he heard this voice from heaven, his life was changed forever; Saul the persecutor of Christ became Paul the Apostle of Christ.

You may argue that this kind of mysterious event is only found in the Bible but never happens to our actual life; “I also have a passion for God, but God has never called my name or spoken to me as God did to his servants in the Bible.” In today’s world, if we are told that someone heard God’s voice or saw God’s angels, we would rather suspect that that person must have a mental problem. Nowadays folks don’t even expect to hear God’s voice from heaven.

I wonder why we can’t hear God’s voice anymore or why God just stops speaking directly from heaven. As far as the Bible is concerned, God is the same yesterday and today and forever. Then, God should still speak to us from heaven as God used to do it in the ancient time.

Yes, God does. He has spoken to us all the time, but maybe we just don’t notice it. Why? One of the reasons is because of our preconception that hearing Gods’ voice must be something supernatural; we tend to believe that God will speak to us or meet with us in flashes of light or loud thundering sound from heaven. Because these supernatural things are not seen this day, we suspect that God no longer speaks to us in the ways He used to communicate with his servants in the Bible.

But maybe God’s voices and visions are still right in front of us, but we just don’t notice them. Let us carefully examine how the risen Christ spoke to his disciples in John’s Gospel and figure out whether it was really something supernatural.

God’s Voice in Our Ordinary Lives
In the Gospel, Peter and his fellows encountered the risen Lord when they were fishing at the Sea of Tiberius. Jesus’ voiced to them gentle advice to cast the net to the right side of the boat, so that they could catch more fish (v. 6); it was a simple request to share the fish they caught (v. 10); it was an invitation to them, “Come and have breakfast” (v. 12). It was an ordinary conversation.

What a scene it is! The Savior of the world was now sitting on the beach, making breakfast for the fishermen. There was no flashy light or thundering sound around them when the Lord spoke to them. This conversation between the risen Christ and his disciples is what we ordinary people usually can experience in our everyday life. Indeed, we need to work; we need to eat; we need to take care of our daily obligations.

I want to see this Gospel lesson in light of the Incarnation. The Messiah, whom the Jewish people had long waited for, appeared where they would never expect it. It started with Jesus’ birth in the smelly manger in a barn. It continued with his friendship with ordinary people like us. Even at his transfiguration on a mountaintop, he gave up his glory and came back down to the villages to take care of the common people. After his resurrection, he could have entered the Jerusalem Temple in glory with his angles. He could have easily amazed the crowds as he showed his resurrection to the world. But he didn’t. Instead, he kept entering into a small house where his disciples were hiding.

In today’s text, the risen Christ came to the disciples’ working place to help them catch fish, make breakfast, and eat together. Isn’t it amazing that the Son of God always remained grounded in people’s daily life? It shows us that Jesus Christ is part of everything we do. Reflecting on God’s incarnation, then, why don’t we believe that God’s voice may be heard from our earth, our homes, our working places, and our friends and neighbors, not just from heaven?

After they ate together, Jesus put Peter to the test. Jesus asked Peter three times if he loved him. The third time he asked the same question, Peter was hurt. But he had denied his Master three times, and so he needed to make amends for his denial of Christ.

Peter had come a long way since his life as a fisherman. Through teaching and rebuking, Jesus had nurtured him to be a faithful disciple. Jesus even gave him a new name “Rock” on which the Church will be built (Matthew 16:18). Even so, he abandoned Jesus and denied him three times. Why did he fail? It was because he only expected a glory and power from heaven; he only appreciated something supernatural in Jesus Christ. Thus when Jesus was arrested and died on a cross, he came to lose his faith in Christ.

As Jesus hurt Peter by asking “Do you love me” three times, he was rooting Peter in his serving ministry: “Feed my lambs” (v. 15), “Tend my sheep” (v. 16), and “Follow me” (v. 19). Jesus’ ministry isn’t about glory; it is about people living on earth. It’s about feeding and caring for souls; it is about our daily life and about how to love and serve others in our world.

In other words, the way to love Jesus is the way we go on our life journey. Live a good life, and take care of all people with the love of God, as our Lord has loved us. This earthly life is the way we follow Jesus, hear God’s voice, see God’s vision, and live in God’s presence and grace.

God’s Presence in Our Lives
Life itself is a miracle because God is with us. All things we can see around us are divine gifts because God is present in all creations. If we truly recognize God dwells here in our very earthly lives, then we know where we can hear God’s voice. We don’t need to look up at heaven; it’s always among us and here in our communities. It’s here in front of people who are living around us.

Therefore, let us turn our attention to the world where we live with God. Let us look around to see who lives around us and try our best to welcome people, and serve and feed them. This loving and serving life is the Christian miracle that we can experience in our daily life and must carry out in the name of Jesus Christ who is risen from the dead and dwells in our world. Amen.

Sermon: The Voice of My Beloved

September 02, 2018
Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost

Song of Solomon 2:8-13; Mark 7:1-8, 20-23

The Voice of My Beloved

Vacation is Over
It is good to be back; I’m glad to see you all after my summer vacation during the last two weeks! I want to thank you all for helping me out and keeping me in your prayers, that my travels were safe.  I had lots of fun during my time out.

We love vacation. It gives us a chance to escape from our hectic lives and recharge our bodies and minds from our labors. During our vacation, we usually go away and see someone or something else that we haven’t seen for a while.  We want to see our families and old friends; we want to see beautiful ocean or mountains; or we want to go to see a baseball game or anything like that. I like to say that vacation is all about enjoying visual fun.

But the problem is whatever we see, we have to leave behind and return home when our vacation is over. We might be even tired from our long trip and feel empty and thirsty in our heart when we come back from vacation. That’s why we are never satisfied with our temporary vacation. Therefore, it’s better to find our satisfaction not from what is seen, but from what is unseen and always present in our lives. What is it? It is not seeing, but hearing the voice of God.

When I meditated on today’s Scripture from the Song of Solomon, I was intrigued by the invitational whisper of the words from the verse 10: “My beloved spoke and said to me, ‘Arise, my darling, my beautiful one, and come away with me’” (v. 10). From this sweet voice of God, I felt I am not left alone but always in love with my eternal company. I had lots of fun during my vacation, but I really can say that it is God’s voice that has recharged my spiritual battery.

God’s Word Calling Us
Basically, this Scripture is about a love story between a man and a woman. This love song was written by Solomon who fell in love with a Shulammite woman; Solomon was a king and the woman was a peasant’s daughter working in the garden. If they only looked at each other, seeing their appearances and social status, they wouldn’t be in love. According to verse 8, their love story begins with “The voice of my beloved (v. 8).”  It was their voices that united them in love.

This passage, “The voice of my beloved,” hints to us how we can make a loving relationship with God, who is unseen and whom we don’t deserve. That is, our relationship with God starts with hearing the voice of God who invites us to his fellowship.

If we read the Old Testament carefully, we realize that the history of Israel had been formed by the voice of God. For example, God seeks out Abraham by calling his name; God also seeks out Moses by calling his name. It was God’s voice that called the people of Israel as his chosen people.

Our Christian history is also rooted in the Word of God. According to the Gospel of John in the New Testament, the incarnate Christ was originally the Word in the beginning, which was God himself. Therefore, to accept Christ is the same as to accept the Word of God. To love Jesus is the same as to love the Word of God. Thus, we realize that our intimate relationship with God is based on hearing and obeying God’s word: “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ” (Rom. 10:17).

Of course, God doesn’t speak to us, like we can speak to each other. But God certainly speaks to his people through numerous ways. He can speak to us through our worship service; he can speak to us through people; he can speak to us through our circumstances.

Yet, I am sure that the surest way we can hear God’s voice is to read the Bible. We believe that the Bible is the holy book containing the living Word of God. We can always meet God and hear his voice when we read the Scripture. If we love someone, we always want to stay with him or her and hear his or her voice all the time. Likewise, if we really love God, we will be eager to hear God’s voice through the Bible.

God’s Word Purifying the Heart and Empowering Our Social Life
In Mark’s Gospel, the Jews struggle to understand what makes people clean and what makes people unclean. Jesus reminds the crowds that the hand-washing rituals have nothing to do with the condition of human hearts. According to him, evils don’t enter from outside but come from within one’s own heart (v. 20).

Jesus insists that our moral attitude should spring from our pure and good heart. In this regard, we can say that our Christianity is the religion of heart, not the religion of laws or rituals. Then how can we make our hearts clean and pure enough, so that the Spirit of God dwells within us?

It is God’s word that has the power to clean our hearts. If we have God’s presence sincerely in our hearts, how can we keep evil in our hearts? Also, God’s word, which is known as the sword of the Spirit, will drive away all kinds of evil thoughts out of our mind: “How can a young man keep his way pure? By living according to God’s word” (Ps. 119:9).

The Word of God not only purifies our individual lives but also empowers our social life. Let us listen again to the text from the Song of Solomon: “Arise, my darling, my beautiful one, and come away with me” (v. 10). This passage is God’s promise that God will accompany us for our life’s journey if we come and rely on God’s Word.

God calls us to arise and come away because he wants to have loving fellowship with us. If we have this Spirit of fellowship within our hearts, we will then desire to reach out to share our fellowship with others as well. We will become the voice of God to others, “Arise, my friends, and come away to God’s grace.”

In Genesis, God’s voice says to Abraham: “I will bless you, that you may be a blessing to others” (Gen. 12:2). It is so impressive that God’s voice combines the act of our being blessed and the act of our blessing others. Abraham’s calling is actually what Jesus Christ has done to us. Jesus calls us to heal us and then sends us out to heal others. He calls us to forgive us and then sends us out to forgive others. God’s voice, God’s calling, God’s Word is the source of our being blessed and of our blessing others.

Hearing God’s Voice
Friends, now we all have come back from our long summer vacation. It’s time to return and meet all the challenges in our daily lives. Are we still tired and so not ready to take up our works? Or are we disappointed at being alone as we are separated from our beloveds? If so, I want to encourage you to hear God’s voice from today’s text, “Arise, my darling, my beautiful one, and come away with me.” This lovely whisper is an unnerving invitation to intimacy with our loving God. The highest King, God our Lord, calls us his darling and promises us that he will accompany us for our life’s journey. Then, what shall we fear and what shall we worry about?

Once again, God is calling us this morning, saying, “Arise, my darling, my beautiful one, and come away with me.” Therefore, let us rejoice in God’s voice, return from wherever we are, come before the Lord, and set out on our life’s journey along with our loving God. Amen.