Whose Voice Do We Hear?

Texts for the First Sunday After Epiphany (Jan. 10): the Baptism of Jesus.

Genesis 1:1-5
Psalm 29
Acts 19:1-7
Mark 1:4-11

The voice of the Lord is over the waters;
the God of glory thunders, the Lord, over mighty waters.
The voice of the Lord is powerful;
the voice of the Lord is full of majesty.
The voice of the Lord breaks the cedars;
the Lord breaks the cedars of Lebanon.
He makes Lebanon skip like a calf, and Sirion like a young wild ox.
The voice of the Lord flashes forth flames of fire.
The voice of the Lord shakes the wilderness;
the Lord shakes the wilderness of Kadesh.
The voice of the Lord causes the oaks to whirl, and strips the forest bare;
and in his temple all say, “Glory!”

Psalm 29:3-9

All this week I’ve been reminding myself to come here and write a reflection and prayer based on scripture.

And all week I’ve balked, because I’ve been angry. Not at God. (Okay, a little bit at God.) But mostly at the ways we have seen the words of God, and the very Word of God, used as weapons. Any hint of Christian-ese has provoked an immediate reaction in me: I want to back off. I don’t want anything to do with it. I don’t want to seem—or feel—associated with it.

I wanted to back off when I looked at this week’s scriptures, especially Psalm 29. The thundering voice of God is what some people are sure they are hearing. Some even think they are the conduit for God’s thunder, God’s voice.

It’s a “leveled up” version of playing The God Card. You know those times when someone says, “God told me to do this,” or (my favorite) “God told me to tell you”—that’s the God Card. The thing about the God Card is when someone plays it, the conversation is automatically over. When someone believes God is leading them, speaking to them, speaking through them… it’s Game Over. Never mind discernment. Never mind testing. Never mind squaring it with what we know of God (and definitely never mind questioning what we think we know).

Never mind, in some cases, truth.

Being convinced of God’s ordaining is more motivating than… (wait for it)… God’s actual ordaining, especially when, conveniently, God tells you to do exactly what you wanted to do all along.

To be fair, we’re all guilty of this. The church tradition that raised me put plenty of emphasis on God’s call, listening to God, doing what God would have you do. And no emphasis at all that I can recall on How Do You Know. Plenty of obedience, not much critical thinking.

And we wonder how we got to this point.

So I’m back this morning, on the last day of the week, wrestling again with Psalm 29, and wondering: how do we know whose voice we’re hearing?

We hear voices, God.

We hear thunder, and fire, and the world around us breaking apart,
and in it all we hear
invoking terror, invoking power, invoking

Just because it is thunderous, it is not You.
Just because it claims power, it is not You.
Just because it breaks us, breaks our foundations and our hearts,
it is not You.

Quiet the voices that clamor for attention—
those on our screens and those in our heads.
Teach us to hear the difference between Your voice
and those that claim to be Yours.

Teach us to hear the difference between Your voice
and our own.


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