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A Letter from Pastor Anita: A Voice to be Heard

Have you ever wondered how Jesus was heard by a crowd of 5000 gathered on the hillside?  Matthew and Mark tell us that there were 5000 men there that day… and we know there were also women and children in attendance… so imagine Jesus preaching to a crowd of perhaps 10,000 people. How could he be heard?  At Lenape Valley we have developed a rather sophisticated sound system to capture the spoken and sung voices who lead our worship on Sunday mornings.  Four tech specialists hover in the back during worship, adjusting levels, monitoring the production with headphones, all to capture the sound of human voices for those who gathered in person and online.  Many of you have witnessed the moment when the mic has not worked… that uncomfortable moment when the person’s mouth is moving but you cannot hear well enough to know what is being said.  Without all that technology, much of our worship leadership would be lost into the vault of our ceiling at LVC.  Thus, the question: How could Jesus, unaided by modern technology, be heard by a large crowd?
I remember years ago speaking at a conference in Portland, Oregon.  The auditorium at the convention center was expected to hold 800 participants that day.  I arrived an hour early to do a sound check so that their sound technicians would accurately capture my voice for that crowd.  During the sound check, the technician and I bantered back and forth discovering that we shared a natural rivalry.  He was an Ohio State grad (as he stated the name- “THE Ohio State University”) and I was a proud Penn State grad.  The teasing was good natured, until I stood to address the crowd an hour later.  I was about three minutes into my presentation when I happened to mention my proud Penn State roots and suddenly my mic went dead.  It is amazing how much power a sound tech has with that “mute” button!
All this brings us back to the question of the day: How could Jesus, unaided by modern technology, be heard by a large crowd?  Biblical archeologists have explored this question in great depth because the Bible speaks of many times when Jesus taught large crowds.  Each of those events happened in the northern region called the Galilee.  The people loved Jesus in that region.  He was like a rock star among the common folks in the Galilee.  The people of that region discovered that they could gather without fear of Roman backlash. Rome had focused her power in Jerusalem, maintaining only small outposts in the northern region.  Thus, the people could gather, and did gather in large numbers to hear the rabbi Jesus tell his stories.  Imagine the ambient noise in those gatherings- men talking, children playing, babies crying, mothers comforting, people moving about.  Still they could hear the rabbi teach.  We all imagine that Jesus had a powerful speaking voice, but no human capacity could overwhelm such a large crowd gathering unaided.  This is where the work of the archeologists come in.  They have been able to document the natural sound system that God created in the region of Galilee.  Hills rise up from the shoreline of the Sea of Galilee providing the perfect natural setting to capture and amplify the sound of the speaker perched on a boat just offshore.   Sometimes Jesus would climb the hillside and speak from above.  From either position, that natural amphitheater allowed Jesus to teach the people about God’s grace and be heard by the 1000’s.
Yet, what catches my attention most about those moments is what happens next.  Matthew describes the moment after in chapter 8 of his gospel account.  After Jesus teaches the crowd, they follow Jesus and he stops to care for them one by one.  After speaking to the large crowd, he takes the time to listen to each individual person.  He hears them!  Think about the significance of that moment.  Jesus not only finds his own voice he helps the people to find theirs.  In that day, the poor were seen as a burden on society.  Their lives, their problems were insignificant to the Romans who ruled the country and the religious leaders who ruled their lives.  Yet, Jesus stops, listens, and responds to their concerns. Jesus gives the people a voice!
Today people are desperately striving to be heard.  The sounds are loud and often dissonant.  Have we ever wished the volume would be turned down and the signs put away?  How many times in the last few weeks have voices battled against one another in anger and misunderstanding?  The volume rises and the vehemence increases as people fear they are not being heard.   But in all that noise, the voices are swallowed up in anger and misunderstanding.  Perhaps you yearn with me for someone who can speak into that crowd about God’s grace; a voice who can be heard above the ruckus.  The answer is so simple- we need Jesus.  “Love your neighbor… Love your enemy… Pray for those who persecute you… Feed the hungry… Clothe the naked… Visit those who are in prison…”  The voice of Jesus rises up from the pages of God’s Word to speak into the chaos.  Are we listening?  Last night, I listened to the national news report and came away so angry.  I held onto that anger all evening until I lay in bed trying to sleep.  Then I heard the voice of Jesus… His is the voice we need… His voice teaches us to exchange our anger for intentional acts of love.  His voice challenges us to stop long enough to listen to those who are hurting, to give them a voice.  His voice invites us to find our voice in the midst.  You and I do not need an amphitheater, we just need to seize the moment to speak God’s grace into a hurting world.
Find your God-given voice today… use it for God’s glory and for the healing of our community.  May Jesus speak His love into our hurting world through us!
With you in the midst,
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