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Carrie Underwood Sings
How Great Thou Art
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(The Rev. Dr. Winfred B. Vergara, St. Michael & All Angels Episcopal Church, Seaford, New York)

“The sheep that belong to me listen to My voice” Jesus said in John 10:27. We are the sheep of Jesus but how do we know His voice? There are many voices in the world and in the church. How do we know what is the voice of Jesus?

In the days before fax machines, emails, and cell phone texting, people transmitted long distance written messages by way of the telegraph. Electrical telegraphy was patented by Samuel F.B. Morse in the United States in 1839 and it was carried by Western Union until 1990. A story is told of seven people waiting for job interview in telegraphy. They had been waiting for the interviewer to come out of the room and invite them in but he did not do so. Instead, there was funny “tick tack” sound inside the room. One person, after listening intently, dared to open the door and went inside. He was the one accepted---because what the interviewer was looking for was a telegraph operator who can understand Morse code. The funny sound was actually saying “Anyone who wants the job, open the door and come in.”

1. The inner voice

The voice of Jesus is the inner voice; it is the voice of our conscience. It is the voice of our conviction. It is the voice in our spirit. Jesus said in John 14:16 John 14:16 “I will ask the Father and He will give you a Counselor, the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you.” John 16:13 added, “When the Spirit of truth comes, He will guide you into all truth.”

You have heard that it was said, “Vox populi, vox Dei,” meaning, the voice of the people is the voice of God. That saying is true only to the point that the people are speaking from their inner voice. But often, it is not true. For it is fact in history that people can and always will be manipulated. People can be deceived and influenced the wrong way. Look at the people who consented to the inquisition of Galileo. Galileo espoused the Copernican theory that the world is round but the people were manipulated by the medieval Roman Catholic Church to believe that the world was flat. Look at the people of Jerusalem who first welcomed Jesus with shouts of “Hosanna!.” They were the very same people, who would later be manipulated by the Jewish authorities to shout “Crucify Him!”

So the voice of the people is not always the voice of God. The voice of God is in the inner sanctuary of our souls. That is why prayer is our soul’s conversation with God. Amid the haste and the noise of this world, we must find time to listen to the inner stirring in our souls so that ours will commune with the Spirit of God. The voice of Jesus is found within you.

2. The voice of revelation

The second guiding voice that tells us of the authentic voice of Jesus is the voice of revelation. It is the biblical voice, the Word of God. It is the voice we hear when we listen to the Gospel read. By listening to the scriptures, we gain understanding of our relationship with God and with our fellow human beings. Famous evangelist Billy Graham once said that his daily meditation “consists of reading two psalms and one proverb.” The Book of Psalms gives us prayers of how we should relate to God; the Book of Proverbs gives us nuggets of wisdom on how we should relate to our neighbors. David’s prayer and Solomon’s wisdom.

The most famous psalm that teaches us about our relationship with God is Psalm 23. In this psalm, King David, compared God to the good Shepherd and God’s people to the sheep. David speaks from heart language when he prayed, “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. He leads me beside still waters, he restores my soul. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I shall fear no evil, for the Lord is with me; thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me.” When we hear God’s voice, we shall obey because He only wants the best for us.

As a preacher, I am particularly interested on how my words affect people. Often, I have a weakness of not saying the right words. Often, my words hurt others even it is not my intention to do so. I wanted my lips to speak peace, to speak comfort, hope and inspiration. But sometimes, they fall short of my expectation. So here are some proverbs that I must listen in my relationship with others:

Proverbs 11:12 “A man who lacks judgment derides his neighbor but a man of understanding holds his tongue.” Proverbs 12:18 “Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.” Proverbs 13:3 “He who guards his lips guards his life.” Proverbs 18:13 “He who answers before listening, that is his folly and his shame.” And here’s the proverb I like best because of its imagery. Proverb 25:11 “Words aptly spoken are like apples of gold in settings of silver.” How I wish my words are always apt!

As human beings, we communicate with words, whether in speaking or writing. And many of us constantly fall short. Hatred, misunderstanding, distrust, quarrels, resentment, anger are often stirred up because of careless words spoken or written. You heard it said, “Sticks and stones may hurt me but words will not hurt me.” It is not true. The truth is, our words can hurt people. Our words can destroy people. Our words can kill people. “The tongue is like a fire; it is a restless evil, full of deadly poison” (James 3:6, 8). We may say, “I’m sorry; please forgive me” but often, the damage has been done.

While words can kill, they can also bring life. They can bring hope; they can bring peace; they can bring healing. Years ago, as a college student, I ran for political office in school. My opponents spread lies and false accusations. While I agreed in my heart that politics is dirty, I was deeply troubled because I could not imagine that some people would stoop to that level. I felt so discouraged until a friend put his hand on my shoulders and said, “Fred, don’t worry. Nobody can put down a good man.” Truly I was vindicated. Today, whenever I speak to people, I always pray that I speak life instead of death.

3. The Voice of faith

Finally the third indicator of the voice of Jesus is the voice of faith. It is the faith that despite every wrong that happens in this world, it will all come to pass. The faith that when God guides, God provides. The faith that despite life's ups and downs, twists and turns---everything will work for the good of those who love Jesus.

The writer, Kent Keith, wrote the essay Anyway: The Paradoxical Commandments, a copy of which appears in one of Mother Teresa’s orphanages in Calcutta, India. The essay reads:

“People are illogical, unreasonable, and self-centered. Love them anyway. If you do good, people will accuse you of selfish ulterior motives. Do good anyway. If you are successful, you will win false friends and true enemies. Succeed anyway. The good you do today will be forgotten tomorrow. Do good anyway. Honesty and frankness make you vulnerable. Be honest and frank anyway. The biggest men and women with the biggest ideas can be shot down by the smallest men and women with the smallest minds. Think big anyway. People favor underdogs but follow only top dogs. Fight for a few underdogs anyway. What you spend years building may be destroyed overnight. Build anyway. People really need help but may attack you if you do help them. Help people anyway. Give the world the best you have and you'll get kicked in the teeth. Give the world the best you have anyway. “
© Copyright Kent M. Keith 1968, renewed 2001

The voice of Jesus is the faith that everything we do will have eternal significance. We are the sheep of God’s pasture. We are God’s handiworks and we are God’s concerns. Every relationship that we create, every love that we shared, has eternal significance. And our relationship with God is God’s most ultimate concern.

In an ancient legend, an old man was digging in the earth, preparing to plant some fruit trees. The man was at least a hundred years old. A passerby began taunting the old man, “You might as well dig the earth for your grave. Surely, you don’t expect to live and eat the fruit of the trees you are planting.” The old man replied “I do not expect to live to eat the fruit of these trees. I only pray that these trees I planted would ultimately bear good fruits.”

“The sheep that belongs to Me listen to My voice,” Jesus said. Let us listen to Jesus, so that by listening, we may sow the seeds and plant the trees that will ultimately bear good fruits. Amen.

(The Rev. Canon Dr. Winfred B. Vergara is Missioner for Asiamerica Ministry in the Episcopal Church Center based in New York City and is The Priest-in-Charge at St. Michael & All Angels. He can be contacted at

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