Voices and Choices

As I was reading our texts for this week, primarily those from Genesis and the Gospel of Mark, the re-occurring theme for me was “voices and choices”. This might seem an odd theme, but a song continued playing in my mind by a favorite artist (not Garth Brooks), Chris Young. The song is “Voices”:

You could say I’m a little bit crazy
You could call me insane
walkin’ ’round with all these whispers
runnin’ ’round here in my brain
I just can’t help by hear ’em
man, I can’t avoid it
I hear voices, I hear voices like

My dad sayin’,
“Work that job but don’t work your life away”
And mama tellin’ me to
drop some cash in the offerin’ plate on Sunday
nd granddad sayin’
“You can have a few but don’t ever cross that line”
Yeah, I hear voices all the time

Turns out I’m pretty dang lucky for all that good advice
those hard-to-find words of wisdom hold up here in my mind
and just when I’ve lost my way or I’ve got too many choices
I hear voices, I hear voices like

My dad sayin’
“quit that team and you’d be a quitter for the rest of your life”
and mama tellin’ me to
say a prayer every time I lay down at night
and grandma sayin’
“if you find the one you better treat her right”
yeah I hear voices all the time

Sometimes I try to ignore ’em but I thank God for ’em
’cause they made me who I am

My dad sayin’
“work that job but don’t work your life away”
and mama tellin’ me to
drop some cash in the offerin’ plate on Sunday
and granddad sayin’
“you can have a few but don’t ever cross that line”

Yeah, I hear voices all the time
Yeah, I hear voices all the time
all the time

We  all hear voices all the time, but hopefully it is not the voices that earn us a white jacket that makes us ‘hug’ ourselves.

We all hear voices. We all have influences that help us make choices.

In our Genesis text, it is the serpent in the garden with Adam and Eve. The serpent convinces Adam and Eve to eat the fruit from the forbidden tree. This is when we witness sin enter into our world.

There has (and continues) to be debate about ‘what is original sin’ and ‘how is it transmitted from one individual (generation) to the next’. Honestly, original sin is not sex, although that had been the teaching for centuries. Original sin is disobedience, it is listening to the wrong voice(s) in our ears, and Luther would later define sin as ‘being curved in on the self’. That is sin.

There are many voices in our world that can convince us to not listen to God through the Holy Spirit and living our in accordance with God’s pan and will, not just for ourselves but also for our community and world.

You may or may not know, but Martin Luther was an Old Testament scholar and professor. I decided to explore Luther’s text on Genesis.

We should remember that Adam and Eve lived very intimately with God, to the point that God is walking through Eden and Adam and Eve hear it. We, Christians, envision Eden as a pristine garden, a paradise. We hold to this moment as ‘paradise lost’, but what if the paradise was the intimate relationship with God, not Eden.

So, here is a quote from Luther’s commentary on Genesis (Luther’s Works, vol. 1, p. 165):

“Therefore the perfect natural endowments in man were the knowledge of God, faith, fear, etc. These Satan has corrupted through sin {again, curved in on the self}; just as leprosy poisons the flesh, so the will and reason have become depraved through sin, and man not only does not love God any longer but flees from Him, hates Him, and desires to be and live without Him.”

Now, I know what you are thinking: “If we desired such, why would we be at church?”.

The truth is that every time we listen to those voices that curve us into ourselves or causes us to not love and serve our neighbors, or not to act with compassion and mercy, or to not seek justice… that is SIN. That is corruption. It is easier to give into those voices than it is to flee from them.

BUT, there is another reason.
When we know we have done wrong and are confronted about it… how do we react?

Often, we will react one of two ways:

  1. We vehemently attack our accuser.
    “So, you {insert}. See, so I am not so bad… I am better than you”
  2.  We play the Blame Game.
    “Yes, I ate from the tree but it is the fault of the woman you gave me,
    because she is the one that gave it to me to eat.”

Am I right?
These are the two reactions when confronted with our own wrong-doing (sin) rather than accepting responsibility for our own actions and choices.

On Facebook, there is a common quote shared that I LOVE and it reads:

You have the freedom to choose,
but you are not freed from the consequences of your choice.  

We want to be freed from the consequences of our wrong-doing, our sin.

This brings us to our Gospel.
I find it highly interesting that Jesus is being accused of being possessed by a demon. Jesus’ defense is that a house divided against itself cannot stand, therefore Jesus is not possessed by a demon/Satan because why would he cast out his fellow beings from others. Further, Jesus essentially states he is possessed not by a demon but by the Holy Spirit.

What does it mean to be possessed by the Holy Spirit?
If we were possessed by the Holy Spirit, we would be in full accord with God. We would not flee from God but would actively run to God. We would not hate God but we would love God.

That is the task of the Holy Spirit.
I have shared that the Holy Spirit is the motor, like in a car, that takes us from where we are to where we are going. On Pentecost, however, I did not share that we are holding onto the steering wheel and are actively trying to make a U-Turn to travel our own way (curved in on the self).

As I pondered this concept and exposure to the news coverage of Robert Kennedy’s assassination anniversary, a quote from his brother, John F. Kennedy, kept coming to mind:

“Let us not see the Republican answer or the Democratic answer, but the right answer.
Let us not seek to fix the blame for the past.
Let us accept our own responsibility for the future.”

We consistently hear voices in our heads from those closest to us, the media, and the world but we have to choose which voices we will listen to:

  • will we listen to the serpent?
  • will we listen to greed? anger? hate?
  • will we listen for and to the voice(s) of God?
  • will we listen to the Holy Spirit, who is continually working in, among, through and even despite us to bring about God’s kingdom which is here, and near, and not yet fulfilled?

The more we listen to the voice(s) of the serpent in our world, the harder it becomes to hear truth, love, hope, and God.

Last week, I quoted from the Romantica song “Harder to Hear”.
It will be our offering video this morning and I encourage you to listen to the words.

May we all listen to the voice(s) of God, working through the Holy Spirit in our lives in the smallest and biggest means. We may need to listen a little harder for those voices, but thankfully we have the choice and for that… Thanks be to God. Amen.

Scriptures were Genesis 3: 8-15 and Mark 3: 20-35
Originally preached on Sunday June 10, 2018 at Trinity Lutheran (Union City, IN).


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