June 12, 2022 John 16:12-15 Voices Three Paul L. Escamilla
Six times in four verses here in John 16, a part of what’s called Jesus’ Farewell Discourse, we hear the words say or speak or declare . . . And that this saying/speaking/declaring is to come from three sources: the Father, the Son, the Spirit.
Which from whom is not of particular interest to John here. The Bible is a sourcebook not a science book, and the Trinity is relational rather than regimented. In that regard, the mysteries remain.
What we see—or rather hear—in this text is that God comes to us in different expressions, different overlapping voices, as it were. Sometimes from beyond us—God the Creator; for such purposes we craft rooms such as these, with their majestic sense of space—to invite an experience of the grandeur of God.
Or we visit the Grand Canyon. Or, closer to home, study the elegant pattern in a simple sparrow’s wing. God from beyond us, summoning . . .
Sometimes the voice comes from beside us—our brother Jesus, teacher, story-teller, friend—speaking to us through another person, or from the sacred page.
I will always be grateful for the journeys through the Bible I shared with many of you in Disciple Bible Study . . . meeting Jesus together on the pages of the gospels, and sometimes in new and surprising ways for all of us, including for me, who by now am racking up close to twenty times in Disciple 1.
If I never graduate it’s okay, because Jesus always has a different face, a different feel, a different tone of voice—even a different message—depending on who is in the room listening together. God from beside us, summoning . . .
Sometimes the voice comes from within, the Spirit stirring the heart, leaving us yearning for something more; or stirring the mind, leaving us curious, inquiring, even perplexed; spiritual curiosity is itself a gift of the Spirit. God from within, summoning . . .
Which have been the ways you’ve heard God most clearly? From beyond in more of a majestic and epiphany-like way? From beside in a more routine, ordinary, day to day way? From beneath the skin—somewhere deep within in a more quiet, whispered way? Or perhaps, over time, in some overlaid or antiphonal blend of voices?
We’re all put together differently, with different ways of perceiving the world and interpreting experience; with different personalities, aptitudes, learning styles, Enneagram lenses; different ears for hearing in different ways the different tones of the divine voice,
depending on where we are in our lives and temperament and need. The Trinity is not only a theological concept; it is an expression of divine hospitality, conveying the divine nature and message in voices meant to reach the variety of hearers that we are.
I’ve told you before about the sign at a dude ranch in California that reads: Welcome to the ranch. In an effort to accommodate all our guests, we work hard to pair every guest with a horse that will be a perfect match. And so, for big people we have big horses; for little people we have little horses; for fast people we have fast horses; for slow people we have slow horses; for those who have ridden horses many times before, we have horses that have been ridden many times before. And for those who have never ridden a horse before, we have horses that have never been ridden before.
There may be some who feel as though that’s been their horse on their faith journey! It’s certainly the horse we’ve ridden collectively through a pandemic.
Different voices, or expressions of a single voice. The hospitality of God toward a world of humans that each hear, think, apprehend experience the divine in different ways.
What is the message of these voices three?
In John, it’s this: For God so loved the world . . . that Jesus loves me, this I know; that the Holy Ghost over the bent world broods with warm breast, and with ah bright wing. Love. The message is love.
By the time she was in her twenties Maya Angelou was cynical, skeptical, jaded; spiritually elusive and opaque. All of us are perfectly entitled to live as cynics, justified in being jaded for a living. The question is not are you entitled; but is it responsible to lock away the longing heart and live our lives in a tiny little house of woundedness and spite.
Maya Angelou certainly had reason to do so. As a child she was the victim of domestic abuse. For years beyond that trauma she occupied that tiny little house of hurt; she did not speak a single word. Five years mute by choice. By her mid-20’s she described herself as an acting agnostic, urbane and sophisticated and worldly and erudite. There was no place, no time, no relevance for God.
She was in a college class one day when her instructor asked her to read a fragment of a poem from Lessons in Truth. The fragment concluded with these words, “God loves me.” She ended the reading with those words, closed the book, and put it down.
Her professor said, “Maya, read it again.” She picked up the book, opened it, and stiffly, pointedly, sarcastically read it again, ending with those words, “God loves me,” closed the book, set it down. Her teacher said, “Again.”
Here’s how Maya recounts the experience in her memoir. By about the seventh repetition of that pointless little exercise, “I began to have a sense that those words on the page might after all be true. That there was a possibility that God loved me, Maya Angelou.
And right then and there I began to cry at the grandness of it all. Because I knew that if God loved me, I could do wonderful things, I could try great things. I could learn anything, achieve anything.”
As we know, she did. Maya Angelou went on to do wonderful things, try great things, learn, achieve, inspire, becoming one of the most well loved and highly acclaimed figures on the American literary and cultural landscape.
Partly because she heard a voice—either from beyond, besides, within—which was it? Was it the God of the cosmos, or a gentle Christlike figure at the front of the classroom that day, or the Holy Spirit stirring from a closed-off corner of her deeply wounded heart?”
Jesus in John would not be the least bit interested in trying to assign a category but would want to celebrate that the voice of love was heard, and had found its way into that ear, that mind and heart, that life, and there made a lasting home. It happens all the time.
Including in this room. Baptism. Grand channel of grace. Overhearing the divine voice: you are loved and named, called, and claimed, from before your time and forever.
How are the voices three heard in your ear? In our collective hearing today? What matters more than in what way that happens is that there is a way that happens, a way in which the summoning call of the Triune God, whose name is love, whose aim is love, reaches your ear.