Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time – February 27, 2011 – Faith in Your Own Voice
Isaiah 49:14-15, Psalm 62:2-3, 6-7, 8-9, 1Cor 4:1-5, Matthew 6:24-34
I learned a long time ago that what the arts know best is the human spirit. While not every movie, painting, poem, ballet or song will stir our souls, some do. There does not even have to be a religious word in the title for a work of art to give us a spiritual message.
So, which film do you think deserves an Academy Award tonight?
In The King’s Speech, Bertie, who becomes King George VI, is encouraged to have faith in his own voice. There are many ways to interpret this film. Some focus on the King’s speech impediment and his fear of public speaking. Others find that, deep inside, Bertie suffers from a lack of identity, a poor self image, that began with unhappy childhood experiences. 
Thanks to the discovery of correspondence between the King and his therapist Lionel Logue, we learn something else about these two characters. The monarch and the commoner became very good friends. Their relationship which was tense in the beginning is exactly what gave the King courage when it came time to give the speech of his life, leading his country at the outset of World War II.
How many of us find ourselves in a similar situation; not being able to find our own voice when trying to express ourselves, talk about our troubles, describe our dreams, share our needs and expectations with someone else, anyone else?
Many people are prohibited from doing so. As we watched the revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt we saw how previously suppressed voices took to the streets and squares to topple powerful dictators. The rippling effect is now apparent in other Middle East countries and on a global level. Close to home we hear the protests in Wisconsin, Ohio, Indiana and on the front steps of our own capitol.
Uprisings in distant lands and the King’s stammering remind us that finding courage to speak our own voice can be a painful process. It begins with believing in ourselves; having a good self image. Finding our identity is helped when others accept us for who we are, unconditionally, at home, in school or at work. It means parents affirm their children, employers respect their workers, teachers help students build up confidence.
The Israelites in exile felt their voices were not being heard. Believing they were abandoned by God they began to seek alternative protection. The prophet Isaiah urged them not to be so faithless.  He told them God does love them like a mother who would not forget to nurse her children. What a wonderful image of God who listens to our cries and cares for us.
Psalm 62 imagines God to be a fortress that protects people from all harm. We find a similar narrative in Matthew’s gospel. While this speech from the sermon on the mount specifically addresses material possessions, it suggests there is little to worry about in life if we have faith in and a good relationship with a nurturing God. Our relationships on earth begin with God. That nurturing God sustains us and gives us an identity. Seek first the kin-dom of God and everything else will be all right.
Here I dialogue with the assembly:
Me: Do you believe that? That if you believe in God everything be will be OK?
Assembly faintly: Yes
Me: Again, do you believe that?
Assembly much louder: Yes!
Me, as if puzzled by the answer: Really?
Me: Let me see if I understand. So if you have faith in God everything is going to be all right. Pause. Ah, hah.
However, it’s one thing to say the birds in the air and flowers in the fields have nothing to worry about. It is another thing when people have no food, no shelter, suffer discrimination and injustice and are shot in the streets of their own homes.
So, this gospel can be a difficult one to grasp even for those with abundant faith. Belief in a good God alone does not immediately erase the problems in the world. The Israelites were on a long arduous odyssey searching for the Promised Land. Many generations later, we are still not there. Where is that land of milk and honey? Do we become cynical? Doubtful? No. Like our ancestors we do not give up. We continue the journey of the Jewish Jesus to make life peaceful and just for all. Is it safe to presume, then, that is why we are here this morning. We are here not just to hear beautiful music, not just to hear a decent sermon, not just to take communion, but to find ways to advance God’s kin-dom.
In the face of unrelenting odds we are called to a life framed by determination, a stubborn desire to be courageous, to make our voices heard, to stand up for our rights. We are also commissioned by our baptism to help those who have no voice, those who have been put down in society.
King George VI came to trust and befriend an unorthodox therapist who believed in the King. That sustenance gave the monarch the courage and strength to speak. Our constitutional right to freedom of speech is also a biblical right that needs to be respected and protected in our Church, by our Church. EVeryone of us has a right to speak up in church and state. Our relationship, our friendship with God is what gives us an identity. It is a self image that flourishes whenever you and I help each other to have faith in our own voices.
2 Reginald H. Fuller and Daniel Westberg. Preaching the Lectionary: The Word of God for the Church Today. Liturgical Press. 2006 (Third Edition), pp. 134-136