May 6

May 6
by Pastor Jim

“And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?”
Esther 4:14

The book of Esther brings us a story filled with drama and tension and more than a little irony and humor.  It’s also notorious for being one of only two books in the Bible that never mention God.  (Extra credit question: can you tell me the other one?)  Yet that may not be entirely true, as one of my seminary students in Tanzania pointed out.  More on that in a moment.

You may know that, around six hundred years before Jesus, the people of Israel were taken into captivity in Babylon and the Temple destroyed. Seventy years later, after Babylon was conquered by the Medes and Persians and the people freed, they were back in Israel and had rebuilt the Temple.  But what you may not know is that the majority of the people actually remained behind by choice because, by then, life had become fairly good for them.

The book of Esther tells us a story from that later period and locale. It’s a fascinating read, and I’ll let you do that.  What brings me to it today is the situation in which Esther eventually finds herself: starting off as a humble Jewish girl in a foreigh land, she has ended up queen to a very volatile and despotic king.  The king tends to execute anyone who comes before him unbidden — unless the person finds favor in his eyes and has his scepter extended to them.

Esther therefore keeps her distance — until her uncle Mordecai hears that a pogrom is planned against the Jeiwsh people.  He rushes to Esther, advising her to enter the throne room to plead the case of her people.  She demurs, pointing out the penalty for an unbidden approach to the king.  That’s the point at which Mordecai speaks the above words to her.  Actually, he puts it even a bit more strongly:

“Think not that in the king’s palace you will escape any more than all the other Jews.  For if you keep silence at such a time as this, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another quarter, but you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” 

Well … when you put it that way ….  So she takes courage in hand and goes in.  And I’ll let you read the rest of the story to hear how it all comes out.

But it’s that “who knows” question that brought this verse to mind as, today, I consider our situation as St Timothy’s Lutheran Church.  None of us could foresee the stressful year that was about to face us as we entered our congregational meeting at the end of January and elected our new Leadership Council.  No one could see it coming as, over time, our staff was assembled.  But I’ve had the privilege of watching this excellent assemblage of people up close over the past month or so and … who knows but that they have not “come to the kingdom for such a time as this”?

Last night, we had a Zoom Leadership meeting working on our revision of Constitution and Bylaws.  This morning we had a Staff meeting.  Tonight, Admin meets to look at matters of Preschool, budget and other matters.  In each case, I give thanks to God for the hours of dedication, energy and vision these good people are devoting to the work of St Timothy’s.  I hope you are giving thanks, too.  This is not something to be taken for granted.  Of each of these people — and their names are too many to list here — I find myself asking, “Who knows but that you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?”

Thanks be to God!  And we also give thanks for each and every member of the congregation that is, in many and various ways, supporting and making possible the ministry of St Timothy’s.

Oh, and then there are the “mopping up” details — the answers to the questions I raised as I began this devotional.  The other book of the Bible that doesn’t mention God?  Song of Solomon.

But let’s come back to Esther.  Indeed, the name of God never appears; yet as my Tanzanian student noted, surely God’s presence lurks behind Mordecai’s assurance that, if Esther fails to act, “deliverance will rise for the Jews from another quarter.”  Likewise, his pointed reference to “such a time as this” can only envision the hand of God being present and active.

Finally, why, if not in order to seek God’s aid, would Esther, in acquiescing to Mordecai’s demand, tell him to “Go, gather all the Jews to be found in Susa, and hold a fast on my behalf,…  Then I will go to the king.”

Yes, God is very much present in the book of Esther, if not overtly visible — just as he is today with you and with me and with St Timothy’s.  Indeed, who knows but what we have “come to the kingdom for such a time as this”?

Let’s pray together.
Father, it’s often said that, although we don’t know what the future holds, we know who holds the future.  Help us to see those ways in which, perhaps in spite of feelings of anxiety or helplessness or even fear, we can, like Esther, yet be a part of what you are doing in our homes, our congregation and our community.  For we pray in Jesus’ Name.  Amen.

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