SPEAKING WITH AN ACCENT
Job 1: 1 & 2: 1-10
HEBREWS 1: 1-4& 2: 5-12
October 7, 2018
“In the past, God spoke through the prophets … to our ancestors in many times and many ways.” That’s what the very first verse from the book of Hebrews reminds us of … God speak; God teach: and God reach.
But, the second chapter of Hebrews gives us an even stronger lesson just as its author intended to provide to those First Century individuals who had discovered Jesus Christ and changed from practicing Judaism to becoming followers of the Son of God. “This is why it’s necessary for us to pay more attention to what we have heard or else we may drift away from it.”
So, what does God sound like? When God spoke to those prophets; when God’s voice reached out to Moses; when the voice of God called out from the heavens as John stood with Jesus in the midst of the river we call the Jordan … what exactly did God sound like? Did God have an accent? Was it the appropriate accent of individuals hearing God? Or, as some people I have attended church with in the past would have declared, God must have spoken with the authoritarian Shakespearean English voice from the King James Version of the Bible because after all that is the one God helped to write.
When you hear God’s voice calling out to you … you do sense God, right? As a believer, you have heard the lessons of faith … I frankly cannot recall all the voices that have taught me; preached to me; counseled me; and helped to attempt to be God’s helpers in my faith journey but there have been voices who have blessed me; there have been voices whom I failed to listen to even though they were spot on with what they have taught me.
Today, I hold this Bible, that usually is on my kitchen table, as a reminder of the man who placed it in my hands; the man who in his soft whispering voice weaker in this year due to Parkinson’s but still being heard by individuals who are homeless who also feel his arms wrapped around their bodies … Forever I will hear those softly spoken words and the voice of Bill Southrey then at the Atlantic City Rescue Mission from Paul’s letter to the Philippians as he brought me back to faith (READ Philippians 3: 12-16).
When Paul first went to visit Philippi, in what is now northern Greece, did he speak with a Greek accent? The accent of a Jewish leader from the Holy Land? What drew the Philippians in so that they listened to God’s Word as taught by this transformed man? What impressed them so much that they changed their lives? That they became believers in Jesus Christ?
Paul’s impact was obvious and in the letter from which I read Paul is writing to them from jail … from a dark dirty cell in Rome where Paul not only continued to see the light of Christ but his heart felt a need not to plead for himself but to teach people of faith such as those Philippians … and such as me. “Not that I have already obtained all this, or have been made perfect, but I press on to take home of that for which Christ Jesus took hold for me. I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But, one thing I do: straining toward what is ahead pressing on towards the goal to win the prize for which God as called us in Christ Jesus.” FRIENDS are you pressing on towards that goal? Are you accepting the love of God through Jesus Christ? Are you hearing the voices of those who have taught you? Are you hearing the Holy Spirit? Or are you allowing some voices to lead you elsewhere?
And, what voice are you speaking with when you speak with others? What message are you delivering to the world beyond these walls? Today, if you are serving chicken dinners to our visitors who will they see? What will they hear?
Several weeks ago, I attended the viewing for the brother of a friend of mine. I had only met the deceased a few times in my life mainly because another brother lived down the street from us and when they held family gatherings if we were walking the dog we’d be called over to say hi. I am not a social funeral home visitor and I tend to share my condolences before quickly heading out the door but on this occasion a man was standing up front and speaking. So, I settled into a chair for what I hoped would be a momentary inconvenience. The first thing I noticed was the man’s deep southern accent but then I realized he was a preacher because he was telling everyone if they just read words in a book that God had a path for them. He was a man of words but nothing that anyone could connect to something more but boy oh boy sitting in that southern New Jersey funeral parlor all I could think about was how many famous preachers had southern accents.
In fact, I shared with a few of you that I was thinking about going southern … (switch accents) because y’all know that when a preacher teaches with a southern accent it must be coming straight from God … so much more than an accent that some call Midwestern but I claim with pride as Buffalonian.
But that experience brought back memories to me. When I was a student at the University of Buffalo some of you know that I became a volunteer at our NPR radio station WBFO. WBFO’s alumni included Terry Gross whose FRESH AIR program recorded in Philadelphia at WHYY has become one of the most honored radio programs of all time. Another alumna of that station is CNN’s Wolf Blitzer and then there is me.
But that radio experience was truly special and led me to take courses in radio broadcasting one of which required each student to do an internship at a local commercial radio station. We had to reach into a bag to pick our stations and each of us was hoping that we would not get … well, I was number two and I dug deep and there it was WXRL and the class breathed a sigh of relief because Delaney got the dreaded country western station. No progressive rock for me … YUCK country.
So, I travelled out into the country … figured that the station was also furthest from the campus and walked in with a smile amidst my long flowing hair. I was introduced to the owner, Lou Schriver, better known as Rambling Lou. (The RL in the station call letters are from his nickname.). Hi I am Dave your new intern … Lou, who later was inducted into the Country Radio Broadcasters Hall of Fame, stared at me from under his ever present cowboy hate … he started and then he said (Adding accent), ‘Boy, when you come through the door of WXRL you talk country. I don’t ever want to hear that accent you greeted me with again.’ I tried to explain I was from Buffalo but he scowled and said ‘if you are part of this family boy you talk country beginning right now.’
And, so for a semester I talked country and I learned so much about the radio business from RAMBLIN LOU SCHRIVER. I never considered him a friend and I never came to like that old fashioned country music he loved and played on that station but what I did learn is that when you represent an organization you are either all in or just partially in.
So, this morning my friends … regardless of who has taught you about the Word of God. No matter how you have heard God speaking out to you as an individual. My question to you is there you are are all in … have you chosen to accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Master or as merely a figure head of an organization you want to belong to.
Are you just tuning into the Jesus station from time to time or have you crossed the threshold to work for Jesus with all the gifts and talents that God has given to you. Lou taught me to be part of a country station even if I was a long haired rock n roll loving college student I had to speak country so that anyone hearing me would feel a connection with country music and then that radio station.
No, I didn’t start wearing a white cowboy hat, polished white cowboy boots or a bolo tie like Lou but I will tell you something … every time I pulled into the parking lot out in Lancaster New York I started to feel I was part of country music and AH MADE SURE to say Hi Y’All every time I walked in.
But we are talking something much more important here … we are talking about changing lives for Jesus Christ in troubling times when hate and division is ever present … the challenge for you and me is to truly represent Jesus Christ and God when we walk out into the world; when we interact with all the others whom God has created in God’s image … that people need to hear our accent of love; they need to see how the peace of God has overcome any fears that others are attempting to create in our heads …. We are not people who fear but we are people who love because we have come to understand God’s love.
We heard this morning that Jesus isn’t ashamed to call others brothers and sisters and neither should we. We should be ready to praise God in the middle of the assembly of people whether it is just one other or many.
So, before you eat the bread and take the cup pause to think what accent the world you live in is hearing you speak. Is is the voice of Jesus that told us to be love all, forgive all, and bring the Word of God based in love and peace to all … if it isn’t perhaps your prayer before the table should be to ask God to help change your accent so that when others hear you they will think … here is a man or a woman who really believes in Jesus first.
Watch a video of today’s worship service: