If someone says they’ve been hearing voices we most likely look at them strangely.
We’d probably think they were a bit mad.
And yet if we think about it for a moment don’t we all hear voices.
That little voice that says “Go on have another biscuit.”
That says “I should go and help that old lady cross the road.”
That says “That was a cruel thing to say” and so on and so on.
And then there are those voices we hear when we dream. Those vivid moments in our sleeping when our unconscious mind comes to the forefront.
So perhaps we do hear voices and with that in mind hear again words from the Gospel this morning ‘the sheep hear his voice.’ Jesus was likely recalling the 23rd psalm that begins ‘The Lord is my shepherd’ a psalm I reflected a bit on in the midweek musing last week.
He is of course using it as a metaphor, as he does when he also talks of the narrow gate. This image connects this Gospel with the first reading in which we get a glimpse of the shared life of the first Christians.
Together they were becoming a new community as they sought to hear the voice of the risen Jesus in their life together, in their ‘teaching and fellowship’ and in the ‘breaking of bread and the prayers.’
Their discovering of who they were to be was made, something we perhaps forget whilst they were being persecuted. So, for them to follow Jesus was quite literally to walk through a narrow gate.
I imagine that as they were drawn together, they shared their stories.
Of how they came to hear about Jesus.
Perhaps how they first heard him speak or met him.
They shared stories of life with him and the cost of following him and of how they couldn’t ignore his call on their life and passed through their own narrow gate.
Leaving behind work and family because they had. Because they had seen in him a vision both of who they could be as an individual, and as a community.
Indeed, they were so captivated by this vision that they sold all that they had, held everything in common and lived with ‘glad and generous hearts’. Caring too for those in need.
It seems to me that this is the kind of community where we all want to live.
It’s deeply attractive I think and it had been fashioned by their experience of life, by the narrow gates they had been through.
Thankfully we do not live, at least in this country in a time of persecution.
And yet the image of the narrow gate does, together with the experience of the first followers of Jesus find echoes in our time.
Life has narrowed for us. And yet out of this trauma perhaps a new community is emerging.
Our community here at St. Mary’s is I believe one of welcome and love but we can go deeper in our life together.
And though we are separated perhaps that is what is happening now. And just like the first followers of Jesus perhaps that means for us letting go of some of those things we once thought important.
Content to be thankful for the simple things and investing in any way we can large and small in the kind of community we want to build both as the church and more widely in society as a whole.
One thing the last few weeks have revealed is how fragmented we had become. And yet a longing for community remains deep in human hearts just step outside at 8pm on Thursday nights to hear it.
And we are made for communion as that first reading reminds us.
Every year the reading from Acts comes round in these days of Easter.
Perhaps we dismiss it as socialist fantasy and yet we need the ideal.
We need the vision.
For this radical community, of a life lived together is where Jesus invites us to live.
And each week we hear the story of Jesus told in the Gospel.
We hear the voice of the one who speaks to the longings of our hearts, who speaks both ‘the peace we long to hear’ as one hymnwriter put it, and who challenges us – often leading us into a new place of understanding.
We hear the voice of Jesus, spoken into our present moment.
And this is the voice that can find an echo in our own voice as we grow as disciples and together become that beautiful community first seen in locked rooms and in secret gatherings.
A community where all are welcome, where all matter and where the rich pasture of his abundant life is glimpsed and shared.
What this looks like is I think going to change but it’s still the kind of community in which I want to live, how about you?
Today we reflect on the narrow gate of this moment and hold close to our hearts the voice of Jesus who says “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.”