Devotional for July 3, 2011 – Esther

Written by Courtney McHill, United Methodist Pastor

This summer, we are seeking to be inspired by counter-cultural prophets, who have sailed against the prevailing winds and charted a new course for the communities in which they serve.

Theme Background

Esther and her cousin Mordecai find themselves in a strange land in a strange time.  They have somehow made their way to fifth-century BCE Persia.  The setting is one of violence and chaos.  In the midst of the foreigners arrival, Queen Vashti has refused to do as the King tells her to.  She won’t come to his call and won’t show off as he has asked her to.

Well, that is the end of the Queen and the King is ready for a new queen.  He demands that all of the “young virgins” be brought to him so that he might choose Vashti’s replacement.  As luck would have it, he chooses Esther.  The courts love her and Mordecai (the cousin who raised her) is quite pleased. No one let’s the king know that the new Queen is Jewish.  Esther has won over everyone in her path so it seems like life would move along wonderfully.  Esther even gets to throw her own banquets and holidays.  Things seem pretty ok until a new promotion happens.

Haman becomes highest ranking official in the government. In fact, he is so high up that when he walks everyone bows to him except….Mordecai!
Why won’t he bow?  Mordecai reminds Haman that he is Jewish! Mordecai is part of God’s people! He won’t bow to just anyone.  This ticks off Haman. Big mistake.  In fact, Haman is SO angry that he doesn’t just want to eliminate Mordecai but all of the Jewish community.  This puts Queen Esther in a sticky spot.  What will she do in such a time as this?

If she advocates for her family and her people, she could be put to death as well.  From the beginning of this story, we know that queens come and go.  But if she doesn’t step into her calling to speak out for her people, her people will be eliminated.  If she stays silent, it will not end well for anybody but if she speaks out, what will happen to her?

Esther is no fool and she gets right to work.  She tells every Jew to fast with her for three days.  Then she declares that she will go to the King.  She is willing to die for life.  Three days later, Esther dresses in her robes and takes her position in the courts.  If the King extends his golden scepter he may grant her wish.  Thus starts the process of saving a people even with a risk so great as her life. It takes Esther a few pleasing meals to receive the response from the King.

We could learn quite the lesson from Esther.  She first spends time in discernment in fasting before jumping in full force.  She moves into the situation with brilliance and a willingness to risk all to fulfill a calling much greater on her life.  She doesn’t rule her life out of fear but out of community and courage.

In Matthew today, we also hear the call to live our lives according to speaking out truth with intelligence and action. When we live our lives in truth and care, we are blessed just as Esther receives the blessing of life.

Quotes for the Week

To dare is to lose one’s footing momentarily.  To not dare is to lose oneself. – Soren Kierkegaard

Why not go out on a limb? Isn’t that where the fruit is? – Frank Scully

When God is going to do something wonderful, He or She always starts with a hardship; when God is going to do something amazing, He or She always starts with an impossibility. – Anne Lamott

It takes two to speak the truth: one to speak, and another to hear. – Henry David Thoreau

However many holy words you read, however many you speak, what good will they do if you do not act upon them? -Buddha

Esther 3:13-14, 4:13-16 (Message)

Bulletins were sent out by couriers to all the king’s provinces with orders to massacre, kill, and eliminate all the Jews—youngsters and old men, women and babies—on a single day, the thirteenth day of the twelfth month, the month Adar, and to plunder their goods. Copies of the bulletin were to be posted in each province, publicly available to all peoples, to get them ready for that day.

When Hathach told Mordecai what Esther had said, Mordecai sent her this message: “Don’t think that just because you live in the king’s house you’re the one Jew who will get out of this alive. If you persist in staying silent at a time like this, help and deliverance will arrive for the Jews from someplace else; but you and your family will be wiped out. Who knows? Maybe you were made queen for just such a time as this.”

Esther sent back her answer to Mordecai: “Go and get all the Jews living in Susa together. Fast for me. Don’t eat or drink for three days, either day or night. I and my maids will fast with you. If you will do this, I’ll go to the king, even though it’s forbidden. If I die, I die.”

Matthew 5:1-12 (Message)

When Jesus saw his ministry drawing huge crowds, he climbed a hillside. Those who were apprenticed to him, the committed, climbed with him. Arriving at a quiet place, he sat down and taught his climbing companions. This is what he said:

“You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule.

You’re blessed when you feel you’ve lost what is most dear to you. Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you.

You’re blessed when you’re content with just who you are—no more, no less. That’s the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that can’t be bought.

You’re blessed when you’ve worked up a good appetite for God. He’s food and drink in the best meal you’ll ever eat.

You’re blessed when you care. At the moment of being ‘care-full,’ you find yourselves cared for.

You’re blessed when you get your inside world—your mind and heart—put right. Then you can see God in the outside world.

You’re blessed when you can show people how to cooperate instead of compete or fight. That’s when you discover who you really are, and your place in God’s family.

You’re blessed when your commitment to God provokes persecution. The persecution drives you even deeper into God’s kingdom.

Not only that—count yourselves blessed every time people put you down or throw you out or speak lies about you to discredit me. What it means is that the truth is too close for comfort and they are uncomfortable. You can be glad when that happens—give a cheer, even!—for though they don’t like it, I do! And all heaven applauds. And know that you are in good company. My prophets and witnesses have always gotten into this kind of
trouble.

Questions for the Week

When have you found yourself in a tough spot that demands a decision?

What helps in making risky decisions?

Do you tend to jump into situations?  Or do you observe before acting?

 

 

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About pastorcourt

Courtney McHill is the pastor at Rose City Park United Methodist Church in Northeast Portland where they love compassionately and inclusively!
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