Heritage Series: The Voice
A momentous event took place before the beginning of the baseball season in 2017. Vin Scully, THE VOICE of the Dodgers, stepped into retirement. The Hall of Fame broadcaster’s career with the Dodgers began as the understudy to another Hall of Famer, Red Barber. This was back in the days of the pre-Jackie Robinson Brooklyn Dodgers. For over 70 years, Vin Scully, universally acknowledged as the best of the best brought to life on the radio and TV, the ebb and flow of the game together with the richness and personality of Dodger baseball. Any Dodgers fan will recognize The Voice. The New York Yankees are legendary because of Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio and other players. It is said by many, the most valuable player in making the Dodgers one of the premier and most popular baseball organizations in the country, is not a player. That distinction belongs to Vin Scully. I grew up listening to Vin Scully. Much of my love for the Dodgers can be attributed to him. If you come to my study, Vinny’s photo hangs proudly on my wall along side Robinson, Koufax and Drysdale. Like so many baseball fans across the nation I would know that voice anywhere.
We welcomed back Pastor Jody Bowser this weekend. We were so blessed to have him with us for a handful of years as Pastor of Youth including junior high, high school and college. In the eyes of many, he is the “gold standard” for youth pastors. He has since become a vibrant senior pastor. He began his presentation by reminding us that the definition of heritage includes something transmitted by or acquired from a predecessor: a legacy, a tradition. What stands out in his recall of times spent in Visalia are the people; the relationships. Yes, as an organization or institution, First Baptist/GateWay Church left its mark on him but it was the impact of people that endures in his mind. And likewise for us, Jody’s impact is felt deeply as he had transmitted the Spirit of God that continues in the hearts of many today.
Pastor Jody delivered an excellent, stirring and multi-faceted message of Jesus Christ as the good shepherd. As my lead-in portends, I focus today on one metaphor – the voice. The sheep know the voice of their own shepherd and follow him. Jody painted a memorable picture with a story written by a visitor to the Holy Land back in the early 1900’s. The author observed a large number of individual shepherds pitching their tents for the night in a large circular pattern with each of their flocks of sheep enclosed and intermingled within that tent circle. The next morning he wondered how these men would separate the thoroughly co-mingled sheep and lead them on their respective paths. To writer’s delight, each shepherd called with his distinctive voice and each animal moved towards the sound automatically. They separated themselves and then followed their own “good” shepherd to the still waters and green pasture of the day. John 10:4-5 states: the sheep follow him because they know his voice. And a stranger they simply will not follow, but will flee from him, because they do not know the voice of strangers. John Chapter 10 makes it clear Jesus is our good shepherd and comes to bring life abundantly. The pretenders come to steal, kill and destroy.
We all want the good life. This doesn’t mean we all desire uncountable economic riches and wealth but we do desire the place where we can peacefully and freely enjoy all of our most precious relationships. This would be one version of abundant life. When it comes to abundant life and living there are seemingly many options and paths out there for us to select. Certainly there are infinite voices in the world that beckon and tempt us. The ultimate question and answer is whose voice do you follow? I submit for your consideration we should follow the voice that leads us to the life that provides peace and joy amidst the inevitable uncertainty and chaos of this world. I asked last week if you had The Peace of the Rock. The answer and voice we should seek and hear is the voice of the good shepherd, Jesus Christ.
As Christ-followers how do we recognize the voice of the good shepherd? It happens as we grow in our familiarity with Him. We can do this by reading the Bible, connecting in study groups, hearing good sermons, listening to podcasts by excellent Bible teachers, reading good Christian books and by praying. Worshipping, encouraging and serving together in a solid church go a long way. GateWay has existed for 150 years because its people sought and heard the voice of God.
I recognize the voice of Vin Scully because of years of listening. I remember lying in my bed at night as a youngster listening to my transistor radio when I should have been sleeping. Vin’s play-by-play account interspersed with great stories and tidbits filled me with delight and love for Dodger baseball and baseball in general. In later years when TV came into its own and was the medium to view important games, especially the World Series, I would turn on the set but turn off the sound then turn on my radio shunning the voice of the network announcers in favor of the voice I trusted, Vin Scully. Our world culture calls out with many voices speaking of peace and abundant life but like the pretenders in John 10, they seek to steal, kill and destroy your spirit. Listen for the voice of the good shepherd. He comes to give you life and life abundantly.