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The Only Voice that Matters 
By Dr. Todd B. Jones
01/09/11

Isaiah 42:1-9
Matthew 3:13-17



If you haven't seen it yet, may I suggest you consider it. I am referring to The King's Speech, the recent movie that dramatizes the story of Albert, the Duke of York's struggle with a serious speech impediment. Like all good stories, it is a story of human suffering, of redemption and of friendship. The movie opens in Wembley Stadium in 1925 when the young prince is supposed to open the Empire Exhibition by speaking into a microphone that is also a radio transmitter. He stammers and can hardly speak a word, and you see the discomfort of everyone over his inability to speak. The crux of the movie is about Albert's relationship with a commoner, an Australian named Lionel Logue, a failed actor who, with no formal training, makes his living as a speech therapist. Logue makes it clear to the Prince that no one is born or starts with a stammer, but that rather stuttering develops at some point after a child has learned to speak. Yet the Prince and his wife Elizabeth are loathe to enter into any therapeutic relationship, especially with a commoner. Still, over time, as the friendship begins to develop, we learn that the Prince has lived in utter fear of his stern, demanding father, King George V. We also learn that he was a natural left hander forced to use his right, a common occurrence among those who stutter. Albert also reveals that he wore braces for three years as a child to correct being knock kneed, and had a nanny who so preferred his older, more confident brother David, and that she withheld food from him without his parents ever knowing.

David, of course, becomes King Edward VIII in 1936 when King George V dies, and soon Great Britain is in crisis because of his romantic attachment to Wallis Simpson, a married woman seeking her second divorce, and an American at that. In a very telling scene, Bertie tries to speak with his big brother the king, and David mocks him by using once again his childhood name for him, B-B-Bertie. It renders Albert speechless.

Edward VIII finally abdicates, and now Albert must become king of the British Empire while the former king is still very much alive, and as war threatens all of Europe. This is the story of how a king must find his voice, and the relationship between the king and Lionel Logue, who insists on calling him Bertie, is complex and beautiful. All his life Bertie has been told he cannot do it and his voice is paralyzed by his fears. Now he finds a friend who is trying to tell him that he can do it, and King George VI struggles over who to believe. As George prepares to give the radio address of his life as king in 1939, announcing that Britain is declaring war on Germany, Lionel looks at him as he is alone in a room with him facing the microphone, and says, "Speak as if you are talking to a friend."

We all struggle in some sense to find our voices, don't we? And finding your voice is always dependent upon the voices you hear and what they tell you. But all of us struggle to find our voice and it often turns on the question, "Who tells you who you are?"

Leo Tolstoy once said, "Certain questions are put to us not so much that we should answer them but that we should spend a lifetime wrestling with them." Here is one such question: "Who tells you who you are?" We all spend our lives wrestling with this huge, important question. And we all have our Davids who ridicule us, and our nannies who withhold nourishment and starve us of what we most need to hear.

We have seen our own public drama in Nashville unfold painfully over the last five years with Titan's quarterback Vince Young. In college, his coach Mack Brown believed in him. He told Vince at a key moment in his sophomore year, "Just be yourself. Be Vince Young and have fun playing the game." Vince did, and in the biggest game of his life, he played his heart out, and beat two Heisman Trophy winners to win in the Rose Bowl the National Championship. But alas, where Mack Brown believed in Vince Young, Jeff Fisher apparently never could or would. Vince said as much this week. "He never believed in me." And the question of who Vince Young is remains a painfully open question. Is he a spoiled brat, a permanent child, or is he a great quarterback, a winner? Only time will tell. But I will tell you this: Vince Young will never become a great quarterback unless he finds a coach who believes he can be one.

Who tells you who you are? And just as important, what do they tell you?

That was the central issue at stake in Jesus' baptism. Matthew, Mark and Luke all tell us of Jesus' baptism in the river by John. In all three Gospels, the event is decisive and has what theologians call eschatological import in the way it is told. That is, though it marks the beginning of Jesus' public ministry, it speaks from the very beginning of the end. That is what the Greek word eschaton means; the end, or the last and final things. Three things happen in the baptism of Jesus that announce this end.

First, the heavens open. Mark tells us that they are "ripped open," suggesting an answer to Israel's century old prayer in Isaiah 64:1, "O, that you would tear open the heavens and come down." Secondly, the Spirit of God descends like a dove and alights upon Jesus, just as Jesus comes up out of the water. And third, and most importantly, the voice from heaven speaks. "This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased." Only Matthew uses the word, "this," suggesting a public address from God to the world. In Luke and Mark, Jesus is addressed by the voice of heaven more personally. "You are my beloved Son…," they both say, preferring the second person of intimate address of the Father to the Son.

The key here is that Jesus' identity is settled in His baptism. Jesus hears the voice, and the voice of the Father tells Jesus who He is: "My Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased." Fred Craddock says this is as at Creation, when God looked upon the face of the waters, and beheld those who emerged, and called them all "very good." Only the Father could finally and fully tell Jesus who He was to be. And Jesus must have sensed this even as a boy of twelve. Remember what He says to His parents in the Temple, when they finally find Him there? "Do you not know that I must be about my Father's business?"

Here at the beginning of His three-year public ministry Jesus lets the voice of the Father tell Him who He is. This is the power of Jesus' baptism, but it is also the power of baptism for us all. Who tells you who you are? For many young people, it is the academy. Kids grow up fearing, "I am my grades," or "I am my SAT's," or "I am the school I get into." Adults fear, "I am my career," or "I am my net worth," or "I am my family," or "I am my social standing." Lots of voices speak to us, and it is so easy to be defined by the voice of fear, or the voices of those unhappy enough with themselves that they want for you to feel just as bad over who you are.

As we come to this table, I want to remind you again what you already know. There is only one voice that really matters in any full and final way. There is only one voice that is true enough, loving enough, knowing enough, deep powerful enough to tell you who you are. It is the voice of the Father that tells you in baptism what He told His only Begotten Son, by the power of the Holy Spirit: "You are my beloved son/You are my beloved daughter. With you, I am well pleased." Do not let anyone else, or anyone less ever tell you who you are.

AMEN.
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