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Have you ever heard of Cocktail Party Syndrome? It seems wrong to me to call it a syndrome, but that is the name psychologists give to the human ability (and perhaps other animals, as far as I know) to filter out and follow one conversation or pattern of sound from a surrounding cacophony. Like the ability to pay attention to one conversation at a cocktail party rather than follow all the surrounding conversations.
Whose voice are you following?
It occurs to me that you and I constantly have to have similar filters in place, at just about every minute of every day. We are asked to follow a number of voices, voices that tell us we need to have that car, that TV, we need to live only for ourselves.
We are asked to follow voices that tell us we need to be right, we need to be angry at people, we need to feel sorry for our pasts.
Usually more quietly, there are voices that tell us we need to help other people, we need to feed the hungry, clothe the naked.
There are voices that tell us we need to have hope, we need to give up anger and grudges.
The options are staggering.
Enter Jesus and his sheep (John 10:1-10).
You and I may resent the comparison to sheep, as sheep are equated with mindless following, but when Jesus speaks of sheep and shepherding, he is really talking about the role of shepherd. It's not meant to be a shot at us. Sheep are friendly and peaceful animals, and the comparison of people to sheep was actually meant to be complimentary.
But shepherding was a much different game is Jesus' time. Unlike the industrial farms of today where food and water are trucked and piped to where the livestock are, a shepherd had to lead his sheep throughout the countryside to find forage for them.
A shepherd used to lead his sheep by voice. Shepherds would sing, call out, recite scripture or speak gibberish, and as long as the sheep could hear his voice, they would follow.
The shepherd was the person who brought the sheep to food and water. The shepherd protected the sheep. If the sheep followed any other voice, they would be rustled, and this was obviously not good for the sheep or the shepherd.
The lesson is pretty simple: follow the good voices, steer away from the bad.
Follow the voices that end up helping the world, steer away from the voices that serve you alone. Follow the voices that say you can make a difference, steer away from the voices that say you are not good enough. Follow the voices that keep you on the path of goodness, steer away from the voices that lead you down the paths of evil.
Whose voice will you follow today?