Turn Your Radio On
Dr. Jon Burnham preached this sermon from John 14:8-17, 25-27
at Batesville Presbyterian Church on May 27, 2007
Roy Acuff may have been referring to our gospel reading when he sang: "Get in touch with God; turn your radio on." Two things are required in order to turn the radio on. First, we must be able to see the radio in order to turn to the power radio on. Second, we've got to be able to hear the radio in order to listen to the Master's radio. Jesus addresses spiritual hearing and seeing in our text today.
First, he talks about spiritual sight. Although we tend to taken our vision for granted, there are 174 million visually impaired people in the world accounting for approximately 2.6 percent of the population, with around 0.6% being completely blind. From what I have heard from people who are visually impaired, the worst aspect of blindness is not being able to read. To solve that problem, Ray Kurzweil recently invented a digital camera that can take a photograph of a book or any object such as a list of ingredients in a can of soup. The camera searches for words in the photo, organizes them, then reads them aloud. This camera/scanner/talking device, called the Kurzweil National Federation of the Blind Reader, is helping the blind to better function in the world. Ray Kurzweil wants to help cure people who are physically blind. I'm sure Jesus is applauding for Ray Kurzweil's reader. In fact, Jesus' healing interest encompasses both physical and spiritual blindness.
It would be helpful if someone would develop a tool to assist with spiritual blindness, for spiritual vision helps us to see reality and our place in the world. Philip seems to sense this truth, when he says to Jesus, "Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied." Jesus responds: "Look at me and you are looking at the Father." The best way to get a clear picture of what God is like by looking at Jesus Christ. This truth is embedded in the spiritual song whose lyrics invite us to: "Turn your eyes upon Jesus. Look full in his wonderful face. And the things of the world will grow strangely dim, in the light of his glory and grace." Jesus is the splitting image of his Father, but some folks cannot see Jesus' resemblance to the Father. They are spiritually blind. Jesus wants to cure people who are spiritually blind. That is what Jesus meant when he said his mission was to restore sight to the blind. We see God best when we look at the person of Jesus Christ.
Similarly, we hear God best when we hear Jesus Christ. Hearing is the second aspect of discipleship Jesus addresses in our text. Jesus says to Philip: "Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do, and, in fact, will do greater works than these..." (John 14:12) Jesus tells us that our belief in him opens to door to miracles in our lives and in the life of the world. He tells us we will do greater works than these. The secret to spiritual power is listening to what Jesus says. Basil Penington describes human beings as "a certain listening." We are a certain listening and in order to develop as human beings we must develop our spiritual hearing apparatus.
Bill Moyers Journal presented an illuminating interview with Maxine Hong Kingston, acclaimed author of many books including the her latest book Veterans of War, Veterans of Peace. For the past 15 years, Kingston has been working with veterans — more than 500 soldiers from World War II, from Vietnam, and now, from Iraq — as well as other survivors of war to convert the horrors they experienced into the words and stories that Kingston believes will help them cope and survive. The routine at Ms. Kingston's retreats invites veterans to write their stories in the morning and share them, if they are able, in the afternoon. Some veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress syndrome, after 30 years of silence, were finally able to share their war stories. Some experienced a tremendous liberation and freedom from sharing their stories and being heard. Healing comes when we share our stories, when we listen to one another.
Hearing impaired persons may depend on both hearing-aids and lip-reading. They admit to it being important to see the speaker's face in conversation. Jesus alludes to the connection between seeing and hearing when he tells Philip: "Look at me and you are seeing God." Jesus then speaks to Philip and invites him to believe that Jesus does the very things God does. Jesus says, "Look at me and watch what I do and you will see God and discover what God does. Listen to me and you will hear God speak to you."
Hearing and seeing are both vital aspects of Christian discipleship. God's birthday gift to the church on Pentecost, and to each of us during our baptism, is a spiritual radio receiver called Holy Spirit. Our challenge as Christians is to see and hear God's radio. We see God's radio in the person of Jesus Christ. We hear God's radio when we hear the Holy Spirit speaking to us in nature, other people, or even a song on the radio.
We know we are tuned in to God's radio when w are receiving Christ's peace. The Mater's radio leads us in the way of peace. Over time, when we keep our hearts tuned to the Spirit's frequency of peace, we come to embody peace and express peace in the world. Jesus referred to his peace as the "peace that passes understanding." This peace is the primary gift Jesus gives us. As he says in our gospel reading this morning, "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give as the world gives." Christ does not give peace and then take it away. Christ's peace is an abiding peace. So he says, "Do not let you hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid." There is nothing to fear.
Let's look to Christ and listen for Holy Spirit. And while we're at it, let's follow Roy Acuff's advice: "Turn the lights down low and listen to the Master's radio. Get in touch with God. Turn your radio on!"