“How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly!”
A man was worried about his aging wife’s hearing. He had noticed a significant decline in her hearing as they aged and so he called up his wife’s doctor to arrange an appointment. The doctor couldn’t see them immediately and so he suggested a homemade hearing test. The doctor advised, “Speak at a normal volume at 40 feet and see if she is able to hear you. If not, move in closer until she can respond, and if she can only hear you at a close distance, you’ll know you really need an examination.”
So one evening when the man’s wife was in the kitchen he stood against the far wall of the living room, about 40 feet away, and said, “honey, what’s for dinner?” No response. He moved closer. “Honey, what’s for dinner?” Still nothing. He tried again at 20 feet to the same effect and then tried again at 10 feet, but she still didn’t respond. Somewhat shocked by his wife’s terrible hearing, he stood a few feet away and asked, “Honey, what’s for dinner?” His wife looked up at him exasperated, “For the 5th time, Chicken!”
Andy opened his sermon with this clever little anecdote about the human tendency to project our problems onto others. In this week’s text from John (10:22-30) the Jews are asking Jesus to be clear about who he is. Jesus has told them. He has both verbally told the people who he is and his actions have spoken volumes. Still, the crowds want Jesus to say certain things in certain ways. They project their own expectations onto Jesus and it stops them from seeing who he really is.
This is the case for us as well. Our expectations of how God works and what his voice sounds like color our ability to actually hear Him speak. We interpret God’s silence as His absence. Or we expect God’s voice through scripture to give us the answers rather than the proper questions. Or perhaps you expect God’s voice to be a harsh one of judgment rather than the gentle voice of a shepherd leading you to cool quiet waters.
This week’s homily reminded me of the well-known quote, “God has made us in his image, and we have returned the favor.” Each of us has an image of God in our own minds that is tainted by past experiences, our own anxieties and fears. Sometimes our expectations of who Jesus is or who he ought to be, stop us from experiencing his presence or hearing his voice. We ask for what seems like the 100th time, “What’s wrong with me? Where are you? Why won’t you speak to me?”
“For the 100th time, nothing’s wrong with you. I’m right here.”