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The Story, Chapter 20: “The Queen of Beauty and Courage”

June 11, 2017

The Story, Chapter 20: “The Queen of Beauty and Courage”

Esther 4:1-17

 

Children’s Sermon: Show the video that recaps the story of Esther.  

 

What a story! This story from history is still practiced by Jewish people today.  It is called the feast of Purim (poo-REEM) and it is the most fun of all the Jewish festivals.  Here are some facts about it

Significance: Remembers the defeat of a plot to exterminate the Jews

Observances: Public reading of the book of Esther while "blotting out" the villain's name

Length: 1 day, usually in March

Customs: Costume parties; drinking; eating fruit-filled triangular cookies

 

Another interesting fact is that since the time of Esther there have been other rescues of the Jewish people on the day of Purim.  Joseph Stalin, the persecutor of the Jews in Russia, died on Purim.  In 1991 when Saddam Hussien was attacking Israel, American soldiers entered the war and prevented missiles being dropped on Israel on Purim. Coincidence?

 

Even though God is not mentioned by name in the book of Esther, his presence and care for his people is evident throughout it.

 

We have heard the whole story in our opening video. We have met the four main characters of the story:  King Xerxes, Haman (the Persians) and Mordecai and Esther, the Jews.  Each played a part in God’s plan whether they knew it or not.  One thing about King Xerxes and Haman, when you see people in power who do evil or are compliant with evil, know that God can still work out their actions for His good.  The king was influenced to make a decree against the Jews without understanding the whole story.  He trusted his advisor and did as he suggested.  How often do you think that happens in today’s politics? On both sides of the fence?  But the King loved Esther and when she spoke truth he believed her and took direct action. Might this be a good prayer for us to pray for our leaders?  That they would seek truth, hear truth and act justly? 

 

Now let’s turn our attention to Mordecai and Esther, our heroes.  Remember that the Jewish people were exiles in Persia.  They were in a place they did not want to be.  They were living their lives the best they could, seeking to be faithful to God in this foreign land. And then the king has a beauty pageant to find a new queen and Esther wins, and God directs her path, even though it may have been the furthest path from what she would have chosen.  I bet there are some here who could relate to this situation.  Being where you do not want to be due to illness, job, job loss, relationships, finances.  And it is likely that all of us will be in such a place at some time in our lives.  So what can we learn from Mordecai and Esther.

 

I would suggest that from Mordecai we learn faithfulness to God and from Esther we learn obedience to God’s purpose at any cost.  Let’s look at a brief passage from the story we’ve already heard recapped this morning.  

 

I’ll be reading the part of the story in which Mordecai communicates with Esther about Haman’s plot to murder the Jews.  And Mordecai has instructed Esther to approach the king about the matter but she sends the message that she is frightened to go to the king because if he doesn’t want to see her, he could kill her.  This is what happens next.  READ

 

Both Mordecai and Esther give us examples to look at here.  Let’s start with Mordecai.

Mordecai had given his life to bring up Esther and be “father” to her. He had taught her the ways of God, the ways of the Jewish people.  He had garnered her respect and trust.  Mordecai has been faithful to God throughout the exile.  He refuses to bow down and worship anyone other than God and this draws attention to himself.  

 

How often have you kept silent about your faith because you didn’t want to draw negative attention to yourself?  You didn’t want to get labeled as a do-gooder so you went along with the joke or the negativity and complaining. I can think of a few times.  What are we afraid of in those instances?  Mordecai faced real persecution.  In fact his actions brought the wrath of Haman not just upon himself but the whole race of people he was part of.  But Mordecai was not going to waver from truth and doing what was right.  And he wasn’t going to let Esther off the hook either.

 

Mordecai serves as an example of what it means to be faithful to God.  In our nation, in our community there is room for us to grow in this area.  I had the opportunity to participate in two baccalaureate services this week and Barry had one too.  NEB had the best attendance percentage wise and I think number wise. I was talking to a high school counselor who used to run the event for their school and get most of the class to participate until a board member thought it was inappropriate for them to do so.  As it was turned over to clergy and is making an effort to come back, attendance has been poor and the counselor went on to make this observation: “Kids aren’t religious anymore.  When they come to me with problems that are spiritual in nature I ask if there is a pastor they can talk to and they look at me like I have three heads.”  There is a generation among us who doesn’t know what the church has to offer.  I suspect that somewhere along the road, there was a lack of faithfulness to God that has brought us to this place.  If you are here today, would you thank God for those who nurtured your love for God?

 

Faithfulness to God is not just something that impacts the individual but touches and shapes a whole community.  What impact does your faithfulness to God have?

 

Now what can we learn from Esther.

 

Heroes are not necessarily always brave, but when it is time to act they choose to do the right thing.  At first, Esther resisted doing what Mordecai asked her to do.  It could be a death sentence.  But in the passage we read, Mordecai gives a pretty convincing argument ending with this sentence: “And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?”

 

Mordecai had perspective on Esther’s honor as queen. God could use this to save His people.  So he spoke truth to Esther - hard truth. And even though there was an element of fear and of danger, Esther did what was asked of her, but pay attention to the fact that she prepared for doing the hard thing.  Let’s listen again to verse 16: Esther says “Go, gather together all the Jews who are in Susa, and fast for me. Do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my attendants will fast as you do. When this is done, I will go to the king, even though it is against the law. And if I perish, I perish.”

 

Note that Esther does not go this hard road alone.  She seeks community.  She asks those who want the same thing to fast with her. Usually with fasting there is prayer so we can assume that is happening as well.  She has made her peace with the situation and her role in it.  She cannot sit by while evil seeks to destroy her people.  She will take the risk and approach the king and try to set things right, even if it costs her life.

 

How often do we seek help in the midst of a truly difficult situation?  We are rather an independent lot.  We manage things on our own, are slow to ask for someone to partner with us, especially when it comes to prayer.  We present ourselves to the world and to one another in this building as if we had everything under control.  Some of you right now are thinking, “Oh, if you only knew.” But guess what! We don’t know if you don’t share!  We are meant to carry one another’s burdens.  We are meant to be in on one another’s lives.  We are not meant to be cut off, shut away from one another.  We are a community of faith intended to build each other up, pray for one another, walk through hard times with each other.  Often this doesn’t happen not because people aren’t willing to walk with us but because we are not willing to articulate what we need.

 

Esther was vulnerable and she was honest.  She was willing to do the hard thing but she was afraid and so she asked her community to join her in seeking courage from God.  What might happen among us if we adopted this same attitude? What obstacles might we be able to overcome individually and corporately. 

 

Obedience in the face of fear.  This is what we learn from Esther.  

Faithfulness in the face of persecution.  This is what we learn from Mordecai.

 

In what area of your life do you need to apply either of these lessons today?

 

Amen.