Sermon: Little Voice by Rev. Dr. Lydia E. Muñoz

August 01, 2021

Esther 1: 12

 But Queen Vashti refused to come as the king had ordered through the eunuchs.

Proverbs 1: 20 - 22

Wisdom shouts in the street;
    in the public square she raises her voice.
 Above the noisy crowd, she calls out.
    At the entrances of the city gates, she has her say:
You should respond when I correct you.
    Look, I’ll pour out my spirit on you.
    I’ll reveal my words to you.

I wanted to be like men wanted me to be:

an attempt at life; a game of hide and seek with my being.

But I was made of nows,

and my feet level on the promissory earth

would not accept walking backwards

and went forward, forward,

mocking the ashes

to reach the kiss of new paths.


These are the words of Julia de Burgos García (February 17, 1914 – July 6, 1953)  a Puerto Rican poet and advocate of Puerto Rican independence. She was a civil rights activist for women and Afro-Caribbean.  For many of us Puerto Ricans, her poetry is the feeling that runs through our veins.


During a time when women were called to conform to the norms of marriage and child bearing, Julia de Burgos seemed to follow her own heart and inner voice making her own pathways that sometimes led her down some unpopular paths and even some mistakes; 3 of them specifically that ended in divorce-men who could not deal with her independent spirit.  But her heart also led her to down a path of creativity born out of a deep desire to see her beloved Island free and her people self-actualized, and she wanted that especially for its poor women.


I think the hardest thing to do in life is to learn to pay attention to when our bodies speak to us. When that thing, that special sense, when the inklings of our heart speak to us.  Its hard because so many of us do not trust ourselves, because so many of us do not think we are enough.


Brene Brown says,

“I believe that finding (and speaking with) your authentic voice is essential to being fully alive, connected, and creative. Revealing whom we truly are, what we believe and value, what and whom we love, as well as what keeps us up at night and what gets us up early can be very scary business. Allowing ourselves to be fully seen risks rejection, ridicule, and shame.”

Stepping fully into our voice, therefore, requires complete vulnerability.

I wonder if Vashti knew this?

I wonder if she understood the consequences of following her own inner voice that somehow had enough courage to recognize a bully when she saw one.

Let me tell you about the bully I’m talking about here…

The opening line of the Book of Esther kind of gives us a clue.  It tells us that these events took place when Ahasuerus, (an easier pronunciation is his other name Xerxes) who conquest was as vast from India to Cush – 127 provinces in all.

Xerxes was hosting a party to show off all his conquered territories.  This is the same king who insisted on conquering Greece – who wanted to complete the work that his father, Darius the Great could never complete and so plunged his entire energy and kingdom into a series of wars and conquests.

War means people are killed

war means that people are taxed,


war means that usually the most disadvantaged have to give up everything to make it happen

 – and in the scripture reading there is also a hint of this because this particular party that Xerxes throws is about showing off his riches and beautiful treasurers and how great he was.


This party lasted six months to be exact! Can you imagine? One particular part of the party lasted seven days and was basically a non-stop drinking binge.  Xerxes had ordered his servants for everyone to drink as much as they could.

At the same time that this drinking competition was happening, Queen Vashti was holding a feast for the women in the palace.  I think there is something between the lines here – maybe Vashti knew what happens when men hungry of war begin to drink like this.  Maybe Vashti herself knew who are the true victims of war in the first place.

15 years ago, the United Nations launched a global study on a security council resolution 1325 which recognized the critical importance of women’s participation in peacemaking and peacebuilding.  They did this because they recognized the unique impact that conflict, increased militarization and violent extremism has on their communities, their families and most importantly, their own bodies.

This hunger for war coupled with alcohol can be even more devastating.  I’m sure even in this moment now that we are together there are siblings among us who have been impacted directly by the effects of alcohol abuse.  Was Vashti included in that number? Was she protecting the women in the palace by hosting her own feast? 

Well, we don’t have to wait too long for that answer, on the seventh day, when the king was in high spirits or rather when he was thoroughly trashed, he calls for Vashti to come to him in her complete royal attire and crown.

Here it is, here is the moment when we discover who Vashti is listening to.  “But Queen Vashti refused to come as the king ordered…” (verse 12)

How did this happen? Where did this courage come from? How did she summon the strength to let the voice inside her be her guide? 

Look, I know the rest of the Book of Esther is remarkable.  The story of Esther’s own courage and the saving of her people is one that I celebrate with my Jewish siblings come Purim.  I mean really, who doesn’t love another day when you get to dress up like a queen, am I right?

But Esther’s courage doesn’t start in chapter 4 of the Book of Esther, it starts right here with the courage of Vashti.

Vashti’s refusal to be treated as an object to be displayed like the spoils of war, given that she might have been Babylonia herself, one of the conquered provinces, might have much to do with her refusal to come to the King when he ordered.

But I think there might be more. 

Something for you and I to consider about the role of our inner voice and wisdom.  Wisdom that cries out in the streets, Proverbs says.  She beckons us to listen intently and to pay attention to the things inside of our bodies that communicate to us in so many ways. 

We carry trauma in our bodies. 

We carry memories in our bodies. 

We carry racism, sexism and oppression in our bodies and maybe you’ve tried to ignore it lately but I guarantee you that this past year of pandemic and social unrest, our bodies have been screaming out to us like wisdom on the street corners.

One of the best things I learned how to do as I entered into ministry was learning how to seek out help and to solicit the services of a good therapist and spiritual director.

I’m not afraid to say that I’ve had many therapists and spiritual directors over the years because friends, that is part of listening to that little voice.

My current therapist is a petite, soft spoken Irish nun who is part of the Franciscan Spirituality Center near Philadelphia.  Her accent is delightful, but her intense eyes tell me that she has experienced the world of the living with all its joys and sorrows.  Her specialty is focused prayer and meditation. She asks me all the time “Lydia, show me where it hurts”.

The first time I heard her ask me this I wasn’t quite sure what she was talking about. She said to me in her beautiful Irish lilt, “I’m not asking you to tell me what you think is happening, I’m asking you to hear your body tell you where it hurts and let that pain inform you.”  A felt sense is not a mental experience but a physical one.  Eugene Gendlin one of the founders of Focusing as a therapeutic tool.  He continues to say, “There is an internal aura that encompasses everything you feel and know about a given subject at a given time—encompasses it and communicates to you...”[1]

Basically, its that voice, not the negative one that tells you that you are not worthy or that you can’t do this or that.  That’s not a voice friends, that’s fear and perfect love cast out all fear. 

In the center of that perfect love, what Wesley might have called “the spark of the divine” in that center, that’s where this voice lives. It reminds you that you are worthy of respect, dignity and love.  It’s the one that comes out every once in a while, when we let her, to tell us “you deserve more than the way you are being treated” or “you know this is a lie.” We’ve all experienced it, and we all know the consequences of ignoring it.

Vashti doesn’t ignore it – rather she listened to it even at the cost of her own crown, position, safety and even her life. Her choice was so powerful that the king’s men feared how it would impact other women and even their own wives.

What is that little voice saying to you today, friend? What have you been ignoring for a while?

Maybe that little voice is doing everything to grab your attention these days, helping you understand that you can take that first move, or you can do that job, or this relationship is not what you think it is, or the hardest one yet for us to hear that little voice tell us, “You are not being your truest self!”

The good thing is that listening to that little voice inside is a muscle like courage is a muscle that continually needs to be exercised. Wesley called it “moving on to perfection” but that always sound ominous to me. 

Rather, I want to encourage you to everyday find a place or a time to check in with your body.  To ask yourself the question where does it hurt? And/or to let someone ask you “how is it with your soul?” To let your body show you where that little voice is found and let her come to life and speak.  Let her voice wash over your fears and open up the courage to be vulnerable and real.

May Vashti’s choice cast a long shadow over our lives as we consider all our days.

I wanted to be like men wanted me to be:

an attempt at life; a game of hide and seek with my being.

But I was made of nows,

and my feet level on the promissory earth

would not accept walking backwards

and went forward, forward,

mocking the ashes

to reach the kiss of new paths.

Julia de Burgos – Yo Misma Fui Mi Ruta/I Was My Own Path

Thank God for little voices…