Use Your Inside Voice

Wesley Chapel Episcopal Church, Wesley Chapel, FL
Preacher: The Rev. Adrienne R. Hymes
Proper 12/Year A ● July 26, 2020
Gospel: Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43

Celebrant and Preacher: The Rev. Adrienne R. HymesSermon: "Use Your Inside Voice" (Gospel Matthew 13:31-33, 44-52)Crucifer/Candles: Mr. Pete Soto Gospel Book/Bells: Mrs. Sharon Soto Readers: Mr. LeGrand Jones (First Lesson), Ms. Sharon Soto (Epistle) Intercessor: Mr. Pete Soto; Altar Guild/Flowers: Ms. Christine O’Donnell; Visibility: Mr. LeGrand Jones (video); Music: Ms. Gina Spano (Keyboard); Choir: Ms. Katherine Knippel Greeters/Ushers: Ms. Karen Bauer, Ms. Christine O’Donnell Counters: Ms. Christine O’Donnell, Ms. Karen Bauer

Posted by Adrienne Hymes on Sunday, July 26, 2020

Use Your Inside Voice

Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable to you, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer—Amen. 

Most people are familiar with the concept, “inside voice.” It is intended to refer to the awareness of the loudness of one’s voice as the contexts in which they move change. As children we are taught that there are places—like the library or church—where, the inside voice is not only preferable, but socially expected. This high-energy kid heard, “Shhh…use your inside voice,” in church as a mantra. The inside voice, sometimes as quiet as a whisper, is a powerful form of communication that necessarily requires the listeners to lean in and pay close attention to what is being spoken.

In today’s Gospel, we find Jesus, still in the boat, using his outside voice, as he continued to address the crowds on the beach with his parables.  As we learned last week, Jesus’ publicly-shared parables were used to keep those who had not been given the secrets of heaven in the dark. But to his disciples, Jesus spoke privately, and used his inside voice with them, making it necessary for them to lean in and actively listen in order to deepen their understanding of the eternal truths hidden within the parables.

Jesus told the crowds that the Kingdom of Heaven is like the tiny mustard seed that, once sowed, grows into the greatest of shrubs and eventually a tree in which birds make nests in its branches, and that the kingdom of heaven was like yeast. Now, in scripture, yeast is generally a symbol for corruption, but here, its actual use for leavening bread is intended—that hidden within about 50 lbs. of flour, the yeast resulted in bread for about 150 people.  Such is the Kingdom of Heaven—a place that, like a tree, calls all of God’s creation home and like the abundance of bread, feeds all with God’s ever-expanding love. Even so, those gathered outside, listening to Jesus’ voice, had been predetermined to never have understanding.

And, so, I am drawn to the context in which Jesus taught his parables.  That Jesus taught in parables is important. But attention to where and how he taught them is valuable as we apply scripture to our daily lives in Christ. The first verse, all the way back to the beginning of this chapter, was a statement about Jesus’ location. Jesus went out of the house, where he had been with his disciples, and sat beside the sea where crowds of people came to him (Mt 13:1-2). At the start of our text today, Jesus was still in public, speaking to the crowd from the boat.

Because of the way today’s passage is presented, once again, we have omitted text, in verse 36, which indicates that Jesus left the crowds and went back into the house. So, we must be clear that the passage today takes place in two settings—one with Jesus publicly talking to the crowds from the boat (vv. 31-32) and the other with Jesus speaking privately with his disciples in the house (vv. 44-52).

When Jesus returned to the privacy of the house, the three remaining parables were told exclusively to the disciples. The parables of the hidden treasure and the valuable pearl emphasized objects of value which could cause one to risk everything they had just for the prospect of finding them.

Jesus’ disciples had indeed sacrificed everything to follow him living in the hope of the coming kingdom.

The parable of the fishing net would have resonated with the disciples who had previously been fishermen. The net’s purpose was to gather everything up, but only that which was acceptable to eat according to Jewish law (fish with fins and scales) would be saved.  The disciples were to understand that, like the fishing net, God’s coming judgment would sort out the righteous from the evil.  When Jesus was finished, using his inside voice, Jesus asked them, “Have you understood all this?” And, the disciples, who had been given the knowledge of the secrets of the Kingdom of Heaven, responded, “Yes.”

The scene change matters and it is significant because it represents a subtle, yet critical message for our corporate life in Christ (the public scene)—and our personal relationship with Christ (the private scene). Remember, the disciples were with Jesus and heard everything he spoke with his outside voice to the crowds, and they heard much more in private. It was only in private that Jesus imparted the secrets of the knowledge of the kingdom of Heaven to them.

The mission to which Jesus called his disciples, while he was with them, and after he would leave them, required that they not only recall his teachings and proclaim the good news; they were to remember his teachings; understand them; and live their lives based on that divine understanding, intimately-connected to Jesus. The same expectation applies to His followers today.

As Jesus’ followers we are to be present and active with Jesus and other believers—as his gathered body—the church, AND we are to have one-on-one, holy “inside-voice” conversations with God. This inner voice used in conversation with God is developed through the disciplines of praying and reading holy Scripture. It demands that we be quiet and simply be privately present with God. When the distractions of this temporal world intrude into that eternal space shared only with God and a person’s soul, where divine teaching is taking place, one must respond to the external world, using their outside voice, “Shhhh…my spirit is speaking.”

In his classic book, The Kingdom Within: The Inner Meaning of Jesus’ Sayings, Episcopal priest, John Sanford explored inner awareness through the lens of, and within the framework of, Jesus’ teachings.  He proposed that the kingdom of heaven is at once within ourselves and outside ourselves and among other people.  Sanford said, “There is an inner reality within each of us that is like a great treasure lying hidden in the field of our soul waiting to be discovered…someone who finds this inner treasure…will happily give up all other goals and ambitions in order to make it real in his or her life.”

My fellow 21st Century disciples—to you has been given the knowledge of the secrets of the Kingdom of Heaven. Use your inside voice, and invite Jesus into the depths of your soul. Imagine what great treasures of the kingdom are waiting to be discovered when you lean in and pay attention to that “gentle whisper” of God. In the strengthening of your relationship with Jesus, and in the deepening of knowledge of God’s kingdom, may you seek and find the Kingdom of Heaven within.

Amen.