May 27, 2018: The Voice

Pastor Steve Mechem

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Psalm 29:3-11 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
The voice of the LORD is over the waters;
the God of glory thunders,
the LORD, over mighty waters.

The voice of the LORD is powerful;
the voice of the LORD is full of majesty.

The voice of the LORD breaks the cedars;
the LORD breaks the cedars of Lebanon.
He makes Lebanon skip like a calf,
and Sirion like a young wild ox.

The voice of the LORD flashes forth flames of fire.
The voice of the LORD shakes the wilderness;
the LORD shakes the wilderness of Kadesh.

The voice of the LORD causes the oaks to whirl,
and strips the forest bare;
and in his temple all say, “Glory!”

The LORD sits enthroned over the flood;
the LORD sits enthroned as king forever.
May the LORD give strength to his people!
May the LORD bless his people with peace!

Psalm 29 focuses on the Voice of God. The Psalmist is telling us that God is mighty and full of glory. So, of course God’s voice is mighty and full of glory. And God’s voice reverberates across Creation.

According to the Psalmist:

The voice of God thunders.

The voice of the Lord is powerful.

The voice of the Lord is full of majesty.

The voice of the Lord breaks the cedars.

The voice of the Lord flashes forth flames of fire.

The voice of the Lord shakes the wilderness.

Wow! God has a biggo voice!

Or does God?

In 1 Kings, Elijah is listening for the voice of God. He is listening for the biggo voice!

“A very strong wind tore through the mountains and broke apart the stones. But the Lord wasn’t in the wind. After the wind, there was an earthquake. But the Lord wasn’t in the earthquake. After the earthquake, there was a fire. But the Lord wasn’t in the fire. After the fire, there was a sound. Thin. Quiet. (The King James Version calls it a “still small voice.”)

The voice came to him and spoke.”

God has a biggo voice. And God has a teeny tiny voice. And God’s voice hits all the volumes in between.

Further, if, as we believe, God is everywhere and in everything, it only makes sense that God’s voice can be heard anywhere and in almost everything, be it big and booming or small and whispery.

God speaks through creation.
God speaks through circumstances.
God speaks through people.
God speaks in our spirit. The Psalmist tells us that “deep calls to deep.”

God speaks where truth is.

I have been thinking this week about the voices along my journey that have served as God’s voice in my life.

Of course, there are voices that are separate from God’s voice and it is easy to confuse the voice of God with our own wants,
or with a well phrased voice of a confidence person.

It is easy to confuse the inner voice of God with that anchovy, sausage and green pepper pizza you ate last night.

Still, it is possible, as we listen and discern, to hear the voice of God around us.

Often, it is only in retrospect that we realize that the voices we have heard in the past are indeed God’s voice speaking to us.

I share this personal introspection with you, who am I kidding, I share this personal stream-of-conciouness ramble with you hoping that it will prime your thought processes as you think about the voice of God in your life.

I think the first experience I had that I can now discern as the voice of God was in my mom’s voice as she was, and is, an encourager, even in the hardest of times as I was growing up.

I heard the voice of God in my Grandma Peachie, who along with her Rook obsession, lived out a personal relationship with Jesus every day I knew her.

I heard the voice of God in my grandpa Polly, who, despite being a Baptist deacon, would listen to my teenage blasphemous meanderings without judgement and encourage me to question and challenge and search.

The baseball coach for the Bettendorf Bank little league team called me one day after I had decided to quit baseball. His kind (and brusk) words encouraged me continue to play and more importantly, made me feel like I mattered. He was a voice of God in my life in that moment.

I distinctly, and life-changingly, heard the voice of God as I sat by myself in the back of the Theater in Frankfort, Indiana in January, 1974 during the movie Jesus Christ Superstar.

After my conversion on Friday, I went to church on Sunday and expressed my interest in joining. The Pastor, Darrel Parris, who became a lifelong friend, listened to me patiently as I expressed a desire to follow Jesus but wasn’t so excited about the religion thing. His words of encouragement challenged me to search and explore and to discover what following Jesus really meant. His voice was the voice of God to me then and many many other occasions.

When I was 20 years old, I applied for my first youth ministry position at the First Baptist Church in Erwin, Tennessee. I interviewed for the position and when I was told I was not the chosen one, my heart was broken. It was so hard. I felt like I had failed.

That evening, using a pay phone in the Pardee Dorm hallway, I called Judi, saddened, despairing, questioning my calling. I was so dramatic. She was amazing as she walked me through my disappointment and left me feeling like this one lost opportunity was not the end of the world, but was simply part of the process.

A voice of God I needed in that moment.

I have heard the voice of God at music festivals from Wilmore Kentucky to Bushnell Illinois to Rapid City South Dakota.

I hear the voice of God in the hymns and praise songs in church. I hear the voice of God in organs, and pianos, and guitars, and violins and flutes. I hear the voice of God in preachers and teachers and facilitators and professors.

I heard the voice of God in a Sociologist named Anthony Campolo who, back, before he was the icon he would become spoke at my college and admonished to let “our hearts break for the things that break the heart of God.”

I heard the voice of God as a new believer when I picked up C.S. Lewis’ Mere Christianity and was challenge to seek truth over pat answers.

I heard the voice of God in Dr. King when, as a teenager, I first read Strength to Love and Why We Cant Wait.

I hear the voice of God in pages written by Brian McLaren, and Anne Lamott, and Thich Nhat Hanh, and Amish writers with names like Yoder, Kraybill and Nolt, and Shusaku Endo and Dr. Seuss.

I hear the voice of God in the Scripture.

I have been confronted by the voice of God in my children…

As they refused to listen to safe churchy answers but always, from the time they were itty-bits, pushed me to authenticity.

As Luke came out to us as teenager and helped me to see my own blindness and the damage the institutional church was doing to LBGTQ kids.

As Luke, in his valedictorian speech in a very conservative southern Indiana town eschewed the “hopes and dreams speeches” the other speakers made, but instead used his 5 minutes to speak of injustice, and human rights, and the environment, and corporate greed, and the plight of Afghani women, and a dozen other things that made the people sitting around me squirm and mutter. I sat in the hot school gymnasium, 1) wondering what the fallout of his speech my mean for me since many from my congregation were present, and 2) being so proud of his courage to speak up and out.

As Caleb met with a group of other students one afternoon each week to protest against the War in Iraq in front of the Jefferson County Courthouse - again in a ultra conservative small Indiana town in which I was a community leader pastoring one of the largest churches in town.

But, as a believer that social protest is one of our nation’s greatest strengths, I was so proud of his decision to be heard.

God’s voice still speaks through my kids to remind me of the radical, non-compromising faith I once claimed for myself.

The voice of God speaks in truth, even in the voices that shake.

After I decided to attend a small Christian Liberal Arts College 500 miles away from home in the northeast corner of Tennessee, where I knew no one, I would be asked, “why are you choosing to go to Milligan College?” My answer never waivered, “I want to be in the mountains.”

Eighteen years of living between Eastern Iowa and Central Indiana left me yearning for new terrain.

And Milligan College is smack in the middle of the Appalachian Mountains.

There is a range on the edge of Johnson City named Buffalo. Within days of arriving on campus, I was hiking an old horse trail up to the top of Buffalo Mountain. At the peak of Buffalo is an outcropping of stone. After a couple hours of hiking, from that outcropping, I gazed upon layer upon layer of mountain ridges that are a part of the Smokies. It was, and is, a magical, magnificent view. When I looked out over that view, I heard the voice of God.

I heard that same voice hiking up Bear Butte, a Native American sacred spot that juts upward out of the plains of western South Dakota.

I hear that same voice every time I walk up the trail to the Peace Pagoda in Leverett, Massachusetts.

I heard that same voice as I walked through our sanctuary for the Maundy Thursday Journey of Reflection this year.

I recognize the same voice staring into a fire in the fireplace, or seeing a shooting star, or watching the sunset beyond the Pacific Ocean or gazing out at a baseball field from the stands above and behind home plate.

God speaks everywhere, in everything, in everybody!

Where do you hear the voice of God? You don’t have to go far to find it.

Listen up. God may be speaking to you in ways you can’t even imagine.